Jenny with Philippe, Maud and Gaby (Philippe Xavier Hairdressers) on November 16, 2017. Photo: Anna Farr.

After 40 years of colouring my hair and 12 years of wearing it long and straight, I decided it was time for a change. And so in 2017, I stopped colouring my hair, got it cut short, and let my true colour shine through.

My hair has been growing grey since my 20th year, and because that particular colour wasn’t in vogue for young women my age back then, I opted to conceal the inevitable for as long as possible.

Over the next almost two decades, with Philippe Xavier at Philippe Xavier Hairdressers in Sydney (Australia) expertly aiding in my deception, the colour explored several shades in the darker palette, and the short styling varied, depending on my whim.

What I really wanted was long, straight hair, but when my efforts to achieve that only yielded frizzy, steely wool, hard-to-manage locks, I reluctantly accepted the status quo … until Terry Lakusta at Vain Hair Studio in Winnipeg (Canada) suggested I try a new semi-permanent hair straightening system. And voila! In just a couple of hours, I had straight, silky smooth hair ready to grow as long as I wanted. I loved it, bought a straightening iron to maintain the look myself, and swore I’d never go back to short hair.

But over the last few years, I tired of the ongoing cost and drama of regular colouring and the increasing amount of work involved in continuing the facade, and began to toy with the idea of embracing reality.

Did I mention the cost? Driving home after what turned out to be the last ever colour in July, I did the math, and realised 13 appointments a year multiplied by the cost of colour, styling, maintenance and product was equivalent to a return trip to Australia — something I’d much rather do every year.

And just like that, the decision was made. No more colour. No more long hair.

In case you’re wondering, the long hair had to go because I wasn’t prepared to wait a year or more for the colour to completely grow out.

To make sure I saw my decision through to the end, I booked a long-overdue six-week trip to Australia in November and December to visit my family and friends and celebrate my third niece Nicola’s 21st birthday. I also made an appointment with my friend Philippe because I figured that by then, my hair would have grown out enough to reveal its true colour, and allow for a fairly decent haircut without having to shave it all off.

Right up until I left, I continued to maintain the facade with a fabulous product called AGEbeautiful Root Touch-up Spray Temporary Hair Colour. But as the grey – or rather the white – continued to grow through, the task of concealment became more difficult, and I started having second thoughts. Fortunately, the few close friends who knew what I was going to do – Miriam, Shelagh, Judy and Leon – quickly and enthusiastically squashed those thoughts and encouraged me all the way.

By the time I set foot on Australian soil, there was no turning back. Or was there?

On the day of the appointment, I took the train into the city with my grown-out roots on public display. Stark was the contrast between my white roots and remaining dyed hair, and there were a few stares and curious looks – or was that envy and admiration I was seeing? In any case, despite starting the day excited beyond anything, by the time I reached the Rufus Dawes Pylon on the south side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as the wind blew my lovely long hair every which way, I again began to question the wisdom of my decision.

“It’s only hair,” I reassured myself. “It’s not who I am, and it doesn’t define me, no matter where the road takes me next.”

Yes, even on the doorstep of my 60th year, I am still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up, but that’s another story for another time. One thing was certain – good or bad, this decision, this reveal, this change, would be one heck of a souvenir.

When I arrived at the salon, I showed Philippe photos of styles I thought might work – Judy Dench, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kristin Lehman, Morena Baccarin, and me when I was young – but he took one look and said he knew exactly what to do.

And he did, don’t you think?

I loved it, put away my straightening iron, and swore I’d never go back to long, dyed hair.

Sitting in my office in Canada at the start of a new year with my new do, I can say with all certainty that “grey” is merely a state of mind, and whatever the colour, it’s the cut that really matters.

Which brings me to a few thank yous:

  • To Philippe, Maud and Gaby (Xavier) and Terry and Danielle (Vain) for your great advice, hard work and friendship over the years.
  • To my dear friend Anna for witnessing the big reveal, and introducing me to Philippe way back when … or was it me who introduced you to Philippe?
  • To those who didn’t recognise me the first time they saw me with the new do.
  • To my family and friends and everyone who shared encouraging and complimentary messages before and after the big reveal.

By the way, I do look younger (thanks for saying so, Sam), it was a little bit brave (thanks for saying so, Maud), and turns out my hair now is exactly like my mum’s … which is perfectly fine with me!

And now that’s done, let’s see if I can finally figure out what I want to do when I grow up.