“What first attracted you to Dad?” we’d ask Mum, knowing the answer, but wanting to hear her say it again.
“Oh,” she’d sigh, remembering. “It was his lovely dark, curly hair.”
And we – wicked ungrateful disrespectful children – would shriek with laughter.
You see, by the time we had memories of our father he was greying and balding. Poor Dad lost his crowning glory early, starting to go grey in his 20s, and then – apparently unusually in his family – starting to lose his hair in his 30s.
My hair was never black like Dad’s, but it was dark brown, thick and soft and wavy, quite curly too at a young age. It wasn’t the only physical feature I inherited from my father, but it was probably the best. Of course, human nature being what it is, I always envied my sisters having straight hair, as it was a constant battle to control my contrary Irish hair, that would curl where I didn’t want it to, and not curl where it should have. My mother could never understand this, and often bemoaned the fact that I either a) cut off all my curls, or b) used a hair straightener to tame them.
But it was when I was the tender age of 27 that I realised I’d inherited more from my father than my soft, thick, and wavy hair. I was at work one day, when a colleague – a woman just a year older than I was, someone who never seemed happy unless she was one-upping someone else – stood behind me and loudly declared to anyone who would listen that (Mali) “HAD A GREY HAIR.”
I often hear women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or even 70s scoff at women who colour their hair. But premature greying doesn’t aid women in their careers or social standing, and certainly not in the way that it has a male friend of mine. A grey man in his 50s is distinguished and experienced, but a grey-haired woman in her 50s is often invisible.* So I colour my hair, happily at the moment. But I can also picture myself in my 70s with lovely soft white hair, just like I remember Dad’s hair. Though I expect I’ll have rather more than he had.
* That’s another post.