I never normally consider myself frail and incapable, but the other day, I had an experience that forced me to take serious stock of the situation.
Here’s the thing. I’m a young-ish looking sixty-three, with white hair gelled into spikes. My neck is no longer what it was, so it’s obvious I’m not a spring chicken. But I work out, I lift weights, and I have quite well defined arms and shoulders. I love nice clothes, well applied make-up (but not too much of it) and slightly funky accessories. So I think I look pretty good. For my age. And in general. Anyway, that’s what I keep being told.
Well, the other day, I was in the London Underground, and all the seats were taken, so I was leaning comfortably against one of the partitions by the door. Sitting in the seat next to the door – yes, in that one: the one that’s reserved for people carrying heavy weights or who have difficulty standing – was a really nice looking young man. He was very nice looking indeed, actually, and I was idly (but not obviously) admiring him. And then he got up and offered me his seat.
To say I was taken aback is the understatement of the year. I was utterly horrified. And I didn’t know what to do: either gracefully accept, thus confirming his perception of me as an elderly female person incapable of standing up on her own, or churlishly decline, thereby hurting the feelings of a nice, polite, well brought up, kind young man.
I should say at this point that all the best bits of me (like my well defined arms and shoulders) that might have told my prince charming that I was fit – in every sense of the term – (as well as my neck, which would have told him the opposite) happened to be covered that day because, although it was June, it was not flaming. In fact, it was 52 degrees Fahrenheit, so I was warmly dressed for April.
But never mind how I was dressed! What was it that told this lovely young man that I was frail and incapable and in need of a ruddy seat? My white hair, that’s what!
And since when has white hair automatically meant that a woman is frail and incapable? Since forever! And white hair automatically means other things, too. White hair prompts people to regard you with pity and call you ‘Dear’. White hair means people assume you don’t work. White hair means they imagine you can’t find your way in a busy metropolis because you’re so frail and incapable, you must be bewildered, too. White hair means people assume you’re a-sexual. And white hair means shop assistants in some of my favourite clothes stores make disapproving faces when I try on up-to-date stuff, even though it looks great (and even though I certainly know the difference between mutton and lamb).
So let me tell you: White Hair is Power! Furthermore, the letter D stands, not for ‘Dear’, but for Director of my own business. And if a good looking young man should dare offer me his seat in the Underground again, I’ll do what I did this time. Smile broadly and thank him profusely. Even though I’m seething inside!
What does white hair mean to you?