There is an ad for hair colourant (dye) which boasts “ … and NO greys !” As if the most terrible thing in the world was to have white or grey hair, a sign of age, a sign of worry. While women familiar and unknown are wont to say to me about greying hair – “Yours has worked – but mine is (or would look) terrible.” And heaven knows, there are shades of grey hair that don’t do much for the owner, man or woman.
It is fascinating, the number of men and women in public life with every kind of aesthetic assistance who look like hell because their hair colour has nothing to do with anything below the ear, or the skin tone. Indeed, there is one well known BBC presenter who seemed to fill a bowl with mahogany tint which he clopped on his head for 20 minutes, to remove it and wear it with the white-ish grey sideburn trim, the Bruce Forsyth special, until it began to fade.
Years ago a friend remarked that once you began to colour your hair, you’d probably have to continue down that route and of course we are so apparently convinced that the cosmetic furniture of youth will convince of youth itself. A good example of ambivalence is the injecting of lips which young women seem to regard as becoming while young men can pick them out 25 yards away and sadly avoid them.
Grey is one of my favourite colours. A bad grey – flat or yellowy, without depth or tone – is killing to wear and good grey is classy, a colour of power and distinction. However this is an age frequently seen through the prism of all sorts of lenses and artificial light, and grey is difficult to light. Still and all, if we can spend I don’t want to think about how much on unwanted rail links, power stations or third runways not to mention unnecessary prescriptions, you’d think somebody would devote time to lighting grey better.
My favourite story about Fifty Shades of Grey was from a worldly woman friend who’d love a man of her own and bought the book at an airport. “I read the first 15 pages” she told me “and thought, this is hooey … I’m not that desperate !” dumping it forthwith in a handy bin. Grey suggests temporising, something in the middle, neither black nor white – another reason why it attracts me, trapped as we are in the middle of extremes, black and white of every kind of human experience, contradictions and mixed messages a go go.
It is long established that this side of the pond and especially Britain often inherits US social trends – for example, gang violence, rising divorce rates, the use, abuse and exploitation of those substances we lump together under the heading “drugs”. I hoped that the US epidemic of opioid addiction would be avoided here. But no. Here it comes, gathering momentum, prescriptions many more in the north of England, more deaths there too from these frighteningly powerful and highly addictive substances – and the overburdened struggling much maligned unsupported NHS is expected to try and help.
Adding a US style opioid epidemic on top of half the population over the age of 65 with extended life expectancy if attendant complications, obesity leading to diabetes (the treatment of which is expensive and time consuming for anyone not personally motivated to change), more and more of every kind of young needing psychological help, and no help for those with the Cinderella predicaments of rare, or complicated, or multifaceted ill health – and you will crucially demotivate the caring professions. People will die, bemoaned in sentimentally shocking newspaper headlines and soft centre news items. But dead is dead.
Is the apparently willing ingestion of substances that may kill the only way we can reduce the number of people on the planet ? Is it some form of obscene and distressing birth control – less thoughtful than the past effort of India in handing out condoms or China’s one child policy ? Is the relatively rich west so sure that it can handle this ? It may be. I am not. It would turn me grey if I weren’t grey already.