When award winning high profile national television anchor Lisa LaFlamme posted a video last week describing how she had been dumped by her network after 30 years, Canadians collectively gasped. And then stories started circulating this week that part of the firing may have been due to the fact that after years of dyeing her hair brunette, Lisa had decided to let her fabulous grey hair fly. Grey hair? On an anchor? Oh sure it’s fine if your first name is Lloyd, or Peter, or Knowlton, but not, apparently, when it’s Lisa. Women everywhere collectively gasped. And, for the record, Lisa is 58, a decade or two younger than those guys when they chose their own retirement.
Like many women during the heavy stages of lockdown, our “Covid Hair” took on looks we hadn’t seen in a while. Longer, looser, greyer…we all had to embrace a new way of managing our hair or succumb to our teenagers having a good hack at it, and maybe depending on drugstore dye boxes. I was lucky that my hi-light lo-light dyed blonde hair didn’t show the growing grey streak very much, but I had many friends who had dyed darker hair who were vexed by what to do with the growing skunk stripe. A lot of women started embracing their natural grey and white hair. It was a bit of a revolution and a revelation. And I saluted them for it. I didn’t join them, but I saluted them. As soon as the salons were open, I got my hair dyed blonde again. I like it. No judgement for those who stopped dyeing, and I hope no judgement for those of us who carried on.
I did have many friends tell me to let my grey grow in, particularly as I work in the grandma market (I host a radio show and podcast called Go-To Grandma). But I just didn’t want to. And I’ll tell you why. I think it makes me look older. At the ripe young age of 59, I simply didn’t want to look 69. My hair, my choice.
This same week that the LaFlamme story caught fire, coincidentally, I interviewed Dr. Kerry Byrne, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, and a researcher in aging, care and connection. We had connected originally over her website, the Long Distance Grandparent, which helps grandparents stay in touch with their grandchildren who don’t live close. But on this occasion, I was talking to Kerry about ageism. Specifically ageism and grandparenting, and how grandparents impact their grandchildren’s impression of older people, as they are typically the first experience their grandkids have with this demographic.
Kerry shared some interesting statistics with me about ageism, which we mostly hear about in reference to a workplace environment. But it’s everywhere. What was most interesting to me was what Kerry termed “self-directed ageism”. This is, simply, the fact that we inflict ageist views upon ourselves. How many times do we say, “I’m too old for that”, or “I’m having a senior moment.”? She quoted a recent study out of Belgium which showed that self-directed ageism and self-directed ageist thoughts could take as much as seven and a half years off of your life. Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecies.
The average age a Canadian becomes a grandparent is 51 for women and 54 for men. I was 56 when I became a grandma for the first time, and I felt it was on the young side. Yet, I still made remarks about my “old” age.
It made me wonder…how can we accuse others of ageism when we say it to ourselves, about ourselves?
I started thinking about my role as a grandparent and whether dyeing my hair was a form of self-directed ageism that I might passively be passing on to my young grandkids.
I’m not an overthinker. And so I quickly decided I don’t think it is.
As a person in media, my “look” or my “brand” is important, not only to me, but to the outlets and the sponsors who hire me. I was once offered a campaign with an injectable (Botox competitor), but I declined it, as part of the campaign was not only promoting it, but doing it. I’ve never done an injectable. I just don’t want to. It’s not part of who I am. Blonde hair dye? Yep. Make up? Yep. Facials, anti-aging creams, eyebrow waxes, upper lip waxes and maybe the occasional photo filter? Yep. That’s me. That’s my brand. Just me. You? In the wise words of my Millennial kids, You Do You. But be comfortable with it. Feel good about yourself.
As PSY and Suga say, “Do what you wanna. That that I like that.” It should have nothing to do with age.
I’m sorry that Lisa has been treated so unfairly in such an overt misogynistic and ageist way.
I’m also sorry that one of my first thoughts was “I knew she shouldn’t have let her hair go grey.”
I have work to do. We all have work to do. It starts here, and it starts with us.
You can catch my full conversation with Dr. Kerry Byrne on Episode #55 of Go-To Grandma, airing on Zoomer Radio at 7:30am on August 27th, or on the podcast from August 30th.