living well

Forty-three is a good age for a blue rinse

52 Comments 14 March 2013

partial hair panel

And one day it will all be blue! Or purple (you know, ‘when I am old…’).

Ever since I worked in a charity and a pretty girl with a dark brown bob and a magenta streak in her hair came to work with us for a day I have wanted to have hair like hers. But I have fretted.

I told someone at the time that I wanted to do it and received a grimace and a derisive ‘why?‘ So I pocketed that idea for later. That was about 17 years ago.

These things stay with you.

I told someone a few months ago that I wanted to do it. She’s a bit of an alternative person, so I thought I’d get approval. She looked at me like I had gone mad, but didn’t say anything. I frowned, confused.

I wasn’t going to tell anyone I decided, I would just get it done then come home and surprise everyone. Like getting a kitten–everyone will love it once it’s a fait accompli, right? But I let slip to yet another friend. She is a similarly middle class, nearing middle aged, middle of the road, Middle Earth (we’re both short) person. She looked at me as if I made a joke, saw that I hadn’t, grimaced (the faces people pull when you bring this subject up) and said ‘Oh‘. The distaste on her face gave me a little frisson of daring, a thrill of rebellion. I know, believe me I know how low on the scale of rebellion this is. All things are relative:  I am is the girl who got detention once in high school, and that was for writing on her locker. Wild days.

Then I went to the Netmums blog conference and loved Caitlin Moran’s talk and loved the white streak in her hair and her daring to wear denim shorts, tights and DMs long past the appropriate age for Such Things. I pondered whether or not I would get away with it, bemoaned the day I gave away my DMs because I thought I would never wear them again, and finally decided I couldn’t dress like Caitlin Moran for a variety of reasons (including that I didn’t actually want to, I just wanted the attitude that would allow me to), but I still liked her hair.

I was alone in the lifts at the end of that day and I turned and looked at myself in the mirror surface of the back wall. That morning I had thought I would look like a writer (a cliche writer, but never mind) if I wore my black turtleneck. Truth is, I desperately needed to boost my wardrobe and the only thing I had that was edgy enough for London was the black turtleneck. But my reflection that evening told a different story: Not edgy at all. I had only managed to look like Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give with Jack Nicolson (‘What’s with the turtlenecks?‘).

I almost fell over in shock and despair. I went home feeling annoyed. While I love Diane Keaton, I wasn’t ready to look like the character she portrayed in that movie: sans edgy in every way.

Finally I thought: What’s the big deal anyway?!

And so. At 43 I did it. In December I had Corvette Red (a sort of raspberry red) put in. My hair stylist, Allison, was immensely cool about it. I sat in the chair and she sat next to me, flounced my hair a bit and said ‘so what are we having today?‘ I said ‘the usual‘ like I always say.

Tidy the layers, longish fringe (that’s ‘bangs’ to you Americans)…oh and can we talk about colour?’

Sure,’ she said and went into a very educational lecture about highlights and something that isn’t highlights but works the same and how it’s better at my age because I don’t have many grey hairs (hardly any, I might add…) and will grow with me or whatever and I listened politely.

What about COLOUR though? Like…(I admit it, I hesitated a moment) blue or pink or… do you do that?’

Without missing a beat Allison said yes, and left to get the colours they had in stock and we then talked about kelly greens and bright pinks and deep purples and she managed to have the whole conversation without grimacing once. Very professional. Actually, I love Allison and I wouldn’t have anyone else cut my hair because I trust her to just understand me, so I secretly knew she wouldn’t grimace.

And there it began.

I wonder how many middle aged crises Allison has seen come through her salon.

So what looks did I get when I got home? My daughter was the most thrilled. For real. And she’s at the easily embarrassed age. She hates it if I sing in public. I don’t have an amazing voice so of course I don’t sing in public unless it’s to embarrass her. Anyway, my hair doesn’t embarrass her.

Husband…well. I didn’t tell him. We went on a date that night and sitting opposite me he was mid convo and suddenly stopped: ‘YOU’VE DYED YOUR HAIR!’ He said it in the same tone and voice he might have said ‘YOU HAVE A GREMLIN SITTING ON YOUR SHOULDER!’ Sort of a half warning (watch out!) and total surprise that gremlins actually exist.

He loves me though and allowed the colour to grow on him.

He knew I was going to get more colour this time but he still managed to look surprised again when he walked through the door the other evening to see the blue streak.

‘Your style is normally so classic; why do you want to do this?’ He was genuinely curious. I thought about it. He’s right, my style is classic when I make effort (e.g. for him or when meeting up with friends), but when no one’s looking it’s a bit more prunge, as I said to Jody Brettkelly on one of her posts recently–preppy/grunge (stained boyfriend jeans with twinset, when I’m at home writing–and if it’s cold, I throw on my husband’s flannel shirt from Minnesota. Yep, classic in a parallel universe, perhaps).

I’ve realised that the reason I like the panel of colour in my hair is that I want to show people that yes, you can have a classic style (more or less) and still have a strip of bright in your hair. Anyway, it’s not that radical, it’s just like an accessory. Some women wear big earrings or statement necklaces, I like the bright hair. Classic with a twist.

I suppose that’s the same idea Church’s shoes had when they added green to their classic ankle boots. Church’s is a very traditional British shoe brand (ok, so I think Prada own it now, which may explain the thinking-outside-the-box, but anyway). I love Church’s shoes and in fact bought these ankle boots last year–partly sold on the vaguely subversive nature of the bright green on an otherwise traditional classic.

Churchs ankle boots

I suppose it was inevitable that I would move on to do the same thing with my hair. Except not green. Not yet, anyway.

Helen Mirren recognised the power of subtle hair colour as an accessory when she briefly went pink (after I went Corvette Red in December, I might add).

The other reason? It’s fun. Life is much more enjoyable when you find ways to just have fun.

This week when it was time to get my hair done again I was kind of thinking blue, but then thought it would be fun to ask social media what colour they suggested. Most people said blue as well. And blue it is!

partial colour panel blue

BLUE! Officially the top one is Midnight Blue and the bottom one is Lagoon Blue.


What do you think I should get next time?

And what have you longed to do but haven’t yet dared?
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Your Comments

52 Comments so far

  1. Mammasaurus says:

    Ooo it looks very cool! I love it! I always wated to have blue hair – I did try dying one weekend but it ended up khaki! You had the right idea getting it done professionally!

  2. Oh yes you’ve described me – for the past 15 years since a girl in my office had dip dyed hair I’ve wanted the same. Too much of a coward, too ‘normal’ to do it. Maybe in 3 years time so…
    (Love it btw :))

    • LOL! It’s a funny thing, I know what you mean about ‘normal’ but now it seems so normal for me that I almost feel a bit embarrassed making a big deal about it in a blog post! Looking forward to your blog post in a few years… 😉

  3. Trish says:

    You look fabulous – the blue looks classy and edgy all at the same time.

  4. Way to go. And i told you to get magenta, so next time maybe.
    It looks fab

  5. Emma says:

    Michelle it looks great! You have lovely hair it always looks so naturally shiny . XXX

  6. I think it looks great! I liked your comment about not wanting to look like Moran but wanting to have that attitude of feeling free enough to dress how you like. And especially at our age, it really is an attitude thing – you only need to look at my hair to know that that’s how I roll :)

    So major props to you – our age is a weird age because if you’re anything like me, you’re pretty conscious that we are now deemed ‘a certain age.’ But I say we are at an age when we should do exactly what we want! We can carry it off with confidence and style and quite frankly, as I have a friend who has blue hair, you could totes work ‘that’ look too!


    • Actually, your hair was on my mind when I wrote this post! Our age is weird and you said it exactly–we should do what we want and do it with confidence and style. No apologies! Thanks for that x

  7. Gina says:

    It looks great! I know exactly what you mean. I have always wanted to do it too – maybe someday. I have a girlfriend of mine who did a rainbow of colors in exactly the same location you have yours. It was beautiful and I loved it. She eventually covered it with purple which was nice as well. I have always longed for a bit of “edgy” too. I love it when I see other women going for it and doing what they love style wise and not caring. It is so cool and now you are one of those women! Cool!

    • Well then it’s your turn soon…! What’s stopping you?! 😉 What I love about my colour is that it’s just underneath so people don’t immediately see it then ‘whoah!’ But also that it washes out over a few weeks–only semi-permanent so not really much of a risk 😉

  8. Anastasia says:

    It looks great! Cheers to doing what makes you happy!

  9. Leslie says:

    I love it! And I love the description of the inner-battle…I know it well. Only, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I feel like looking like Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give would be a huge step up for me. I’ll be 43 next week and I was tempted to take a picture of Martha Stewart with me to my last hair appointment and decided against it at the last minute because I thought “Surely I’m not old enough to want to look like HER! (even though she does have GREAT hair.)”

  10. I love it! Really gorgeous and shows individuality. I’d recommend red or pink next!
    Mind you, I’ve no idea what my real colour is and have recently gone ‘natural’ – as in dyed a ‘normal colour’ – for the first time in years. It feels odd and not me at all. (Yes, that picture of me is old!)
    For what it’s worth, I’m quite a bit older than you 😉

  11. Love it!!! And thanks for the linky love! Between the midnight and the lagoon you will be on vacation all your life, M! I have had a hankering for a tattoo lately – just because I live in the East Bay and everyone has them – but my slippage lines and the ink will not mix. The blue is a pretty way to be edgy! Mind you I have enough trouble keeping my hair blonde, though they will take the peroxide bottle from my cold clutching hands – will not give up!

  12. Expat Mum says:

    Lovely. The ex-Queenager got some red put in her dark blonde hair yesterday. She was a little too cautious though and it’s hard to really see it. Perhaps I should show her your photo!

  13. Russell says:

    If that ain’t edgy, I don’t know what is. Love it, Michelle. You look great!

  14. Nickie says:

    Ooohhh I love it.
    I also love Caitlin Moran – her, her style, her balls, everything!

    i want to either be her or Yvette Fielding when I grow up.

  15. Carole says:

    I love it! Especially where she has positioned the colour. Good for you Michelle :)
    ME, I’m rather frumpy on the outside, but there is a wild chick within, screaming to be released. Once I’ve lost weight and I buy lots of new clothes, they will certainly be a different style to the ones I ahve now. Rather than buying clothes because they just happen to fit…I can dress more boho. As for colour in my hair…I made the mistake of having highlights, Never again, but a piglet pink streak exactly where you have positioned yours will be great. But I wont tell anyone until its done!

    • Yes, that position was her idea because I had no idea where it should go. A piglet pink streak sounds perfect–all about branding you know (in which case I should probably find a way to have a red/white/blue panel soon…!).

  16. I used to be the nonconformist, I was the 16 year old with the pink tips on her hair and a longer bit at the back which went from green, top blue to red.

    Now I am the lady who is refusing to dye the grey and again non conforming.

    You look fab

  17. Cool! My hair is short and I’m older than you. Suppose I could still do it? When it comes to rebellion, I guess I decided to leave the country, go to Africa, marry an American. So far so good, but maybe a little turquoise around my ear would look, well, different.

    • Ha! You are much more rebellious than I with that list 😉 And yes, a little turquoise around the ear would look quite stylish I think–an interesting new accessory!

  18. Love it.
    Caitlin Moran has been my hero since I was 16, she’s awesome – precisely because she doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks (and is horribly intelligent).
    All through my 20’s I had mad hair: fake dreadlocks, wool, plastic, a glow-in-the-dark, uv mohawk… then I shaved it all off and “grew up.” and I still miss it – not least because, when you have fake hair, you don’t have to wash it. Or brush it. Or go to the hairdresser. Or *care* for months at a time.
    Your hair is amazing; your age has nothing to do with it except that you are clearly more awesome than most other people your age who are probably all secretly jealous of you.

    • Yes yes yes to all of that about CM! WOW–listen to you with all that fake hair, that sounds… fun. No other word. I love it. I’ll bet you do miss it. So… why’s it gone? Bring it back! Have fun.

  19. Judith says:

    Fantastic! How about bright orange next? I have been sneakily experimenting with transfer tattoos. I don’t think I would ever actually get a tattoo – like hair dye they fade, but unlike hair dye they are with you forever. But it is fun to pretend and it does look quite good…

    • I had bright orange for a day before the Corvette Red… it didn’t look right. But maybe in October!!

      Transfer tattoos sound fun. Have you ever had a henna tattoo?

  20. Kim P says:

    I absolutely love your hair.
    Not just the color part (the blue was a good choice) but the shape and style.
    I’ve been trying to find a new look for myself. I hope you don’t mind that I printed out your picture to take to my hairdresser as inspiration/guidance because it’s just so hard to explain what you want.

    • LOL! Not at all. But I warn you–it only ever looks that perfectly done post hairdresser 😉 I have really thick hair and there’s a lot of blow drying involved to get it like that!

  21. It looks fabulous! I bet you are the coolest mum at school now.

  22. Love the colour, love the boots, love the attitude. Let’s face it, you won’t look back on your deathbed and say, “well at least I never got that blue colour in my hair!”

  23. Love the colour, love the boots, LOVE YOU!! :) xx

  24. MrsB says:

    Very cool! My hair is annoyingly wavy / frizzy so I won’t get adventurous there but I did get my first tattoo just a few months ago :)

  25. Molly says:

    I went through a stage of having a bright purple streak in my hair and loved it. That was 5 years ago. Might try it out again, you’ve inspired me!

  26. I love the colour, knew you were classy and I love the rebellion! Wouldn’t matching boots be ace?

  27. Kim from KY, but living in RI says:

    I agree that magenta would be cool – with matching boots! My 16 y/o does NOT think I’m cool when my 48 y/o self wears graffiti-laden Converse tennis shoes. For one, they’re not Vans, two . . . I’m 48. Kinda fun mortifying your 16 y/o. I’m keeping my grays too and I have long, 98% dark brown hair. It’s nice to be older and not care that you’re older, looking geeky to your 16 y/o. Glad to read that there are so many other light-hearted females out there! Rock it Michelle!

  28. Kathie says:

    Your husband and mine…brothers? LOL That’s how MY hubs looked (looks) at me, too. I have a lovely silver stripe at my temple, with many assorted silver strands strewn elsewhere. That silver just CALLS for some COLOR…so, right now, I have deep purple. It’s been bright purple, pink, turquoise. I do it because it’s FUN. It makes me CHEERFUL. My girls, who would be embarrassed if I sang in public, too, LOVE the hair color. Maybe WE are sisters…!

  29. Agi says:

    You are so cool!!
    I also have lagoon-blue and alpine-green hair (the whole head) and I know about how people react! But I’m from Europe, 22 years old and a student, so it’s much easier for me. Props to you for daring this, really really cool!

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An American writer in the UK for over 20 years. Lives in Essex. A pretend extrovert.

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