Why superstar broadcasters Fi Glover & Jane Garvey say they’re not going grey
First the award-winning podcast, now the hilarious book. Fi Glover and Jane Garvey are two experienced, broadcast journalists in their 50s who feel like old friends to me (and millions of other middle-aged women). I properly tuned in to their Fortunately podcast over lockdown when I could no longer face the daily flood of Covid news, and found their brilliant, honest, meandering chat a much-needed tonic. The pair of BBC Radio 4 presenters call it ‘the chuff of life’ but the conversation covers everything that affects women in their 50s – caring for others, parenting, health, work, feminism and sexism – and is laugh-out-loud funny. No surprise it’s been downloaded more than 4.5 million times.
Like most of us, Fi and Jane are figuring stuff out as they go along. Here they talk about why they’re not going grey:
Fi Glover: Good Hair Days
It’s taken 52-years of follicle adventure to get here. Nothing about my hair is natural any more… I should be about to reveal to you the sheer relief and pleasure in finally being able to just go grey and to put all of this nonsense and expense and time, not to mention the chemicals and the plastic, behind me. But I am going to disappoint you. I’m going rogue on your sense of sensibility. I know what I should now be doing with my hair at the age of 52. I should be chopping off the age-inappropriate length. I should go for a more ‘manageable’ style. I should ditch all of the silicone-based frizz-easing products. For heaven’s sake, I work in radio. Ours is, thankfully, not an industry where appearances matter. Added to that, I work at Radio 4 – which, as well as being the home of the nation’s brainpower, is also the home of bad hair. I love and admire many of my colleagues but, in a line-up, you could identify a Radio 4 native based on their unkempt barnet. Everyone has ‘intellectual’ hair. Or maybe my colleagues just don’t have combs.
So this is not how my story ends. This hair story ends in an absurd determination to just keep going with the fakery. I’d love to be an old woman with absurdly obvious dyed hair. I reserve my right to be the daftest brush in the cupboard, rocking in my chair in the warm conservatory of the BBC Retirement Home for the Impartial and Infirm with a pelt of sleek and glossy brown hair, which couldn’t possibly be mine. I don’t want to go grey. I don’t want to stop ‘doing’ my hair. Since the demise of my short-lived crafting period (2006 to 2007, I blame the hormones of childbirth) I think it is the closest thing I have to a hobby.
I’m going to bung in the caveat that I do know we should strike out against this mega-industry of vanity, the one that plays on our sense of what youth and beauty is. But if I find a tiny bit of fun in the playground of shampoo and set then I’m going to enjoy every second of that, if you don’t mind. Do I understand that there is more to life than having nice hair? Yes, I do. If I was down in the dumps, would I genuinely be made happier by the purchase of another hair serum that promised, using only the power of terrible chemicals, to transform the brittle twigs of my hair into sleek, God-like curls? Oh yes, baby, baby I most certainly would.
I am proud to say that hair makes me happy – the vacuous exploration of it, the sheer appointment I have with it every day. Finding a surprising sense of contentment in my fifth decade might actually have as much to do with landing on a hairstyle and colour that I like as it is to do with the settling of hormones, of family life and the thankful passing of the low-rise jean as a thing. Oh yes, there are hidden shallows to my depths.
Jane Garvey: Shaders & Toners
I should say that I have heard Fi’s hair crack. It has interrupted podcast recordings in the past. I did try to ignore it, as you do with a maiden aunt who’s just had a flatulent disturbance when rising to her tiny feet, but even I have some professional standards. Not many, I grant you. Hair-wise I am currently a full-blooded, 57-year-old conker with subtle hints of Sheeran and the merest suggestion of grey at the roots. It’s thick, and it’s wiry. My Pandemic Head has been erased, after a wonderful reunion with the long-suffering staff at ‘my’ salon. I know it was probably my feminist duty to use the closure of hairdressers to go elegantly grey, and I thought about it. But not for very long. I fell right back into the salon’s arms, though obviously not literally, as I’ve been an enthusiastic social distancer most of my life, long before it was The Law. The whole thing was utter bliss.
I was well into my forties before I learned to properly enjoy my quality time at the hairdresser’s, sinking into this comfortable world of shared confidences after a sneaky peek at a reality TV star’s granite kitchen island, laid bare in the pages of Hello! I used to dread the hairdresser’s when I was a teenager because I had NO appropriate chat. None of what we now know to be ‘banter’. Nothing to offer. Zilch. The poor stylist would try to coax me into some sort of opinion about the style, but I genuinely didn’t have one. As a diminutive brunette intellectual I was certainly an enthusiastic Shader and Toner. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still hints of warm amber in my tresses to this day. We’ll get Forensics on to it, guv.
This is an extract from Did I Say That Out Loud? by Fi Glover & Jane Garvey; published by Trapeze.