Happier Grey Podcast

Episode 7 - With Moira Barnes

May 03, 2024 Helen Johnson Season 1 Episode 7
Episode 7 - With Moira Barnes
Happier Grey Podcast
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Happier Grey Podcast
Episode 7 - With Moira Barnes
May 03, 2024 Season 1 Episode 7
Helen Johnson

This week I'm chatting with Moira Barnes who, like me, choose to go grey during lockdown. 

I loved hearing how Moira's at a place where she's starting to find the real Moira again.

Show Notes Transcript

This week I'm chatting with Moira Barnes who, like me, choose to go grey during lockdown. 

I loved hearing how Moira's at a place where she's starting to find the real Moira again.

Happier Grey Podcast - Moira Barnes

Helen: Hello and thanks for joining me, Helen Johnson, for the Happier Grey podcast. I'm pro-ageing and love my grey hair, but I know it can be quite intimidating to take the plunge, so each week I'll be chatting to other women who've chosen to embrace the grey in the hope of inspiring and supporting you, whether you already have silver hair, in the process of going grey, or just considering ditching the dye.

Today, I'm joined by Moira Barnes. She's a 51-year-old mother of two, who's happily married and runs her own successful sales training business. In 2020, during lockdown, she decided to stop dyeing her hair and embrace her natural grey. Now, four years later, she's learning to be comfortable with her appearance and age as gracefully as possible. Hello Moira, thanks for joining me. 

Moira: You're welcome, it's a pleasure. 

Helen: Cool. Well, your intro is quite intriguing for me. 

Moira: Okay. 

Helen: Um, first of all why did you decide to stop dyeing your hair?

Moira: Um, in my teenage years and twenties, it was dyeing it to be cool and funky and lots of different colours and whatever. And then it became, dyeing it because I wanted to be blonde, because I was blonde when I was a toddler and wanted to go back to that. And then it became a necessity dyeing it because of the grey roots that would show through.

I can remember my daughter being, so she's a teenager now, but being a toddler herself and saying to me, Mummy, it's time for you to get your hair done because I can see you're white. I'm very white here and so that would be the first place that it would be very obvious that I needed to get my hair done.

So, it was very much something I'd contemplated because sitting in the hairdressers is, you know, I don't love sitting in the hairdressers the best times but when you're getting your hair-dyed you're there for hours and it’s just

Helen: uh huh. 

Moira: having to do every six weeks or whatever I think it became every five weeks.

So, it was an opportunity, we weren't able to go to the hairdresser, so the roots got bigger and bigger and, in the end, I just thought, oh, do you know what? I'll just go with this.

Helen: Okay. So how many years would you say you had dyed blonde hair for then? 

Moira: Probably about 25 years. Yeah, about that.

Helen: And do you think that became like a real part of your identity? 

Moira: Yeah, definitely, because it, when I think back when I first started getting highlights and that the old, horrible, almost barbaric plastic school cap that you used to have to wear and then they'd have the, almost like the crochet hook and they'd pull your hair through and, oh my God, the torture that women go through.  It's crazy, isn't it? So, from that to then, you know, the foils and I've, you know, had organic colours put on. So gone through different processes over the years. But yeah, it was always a regular thing that you have to do. And it's quite nice not having to do that anymore.

And I have been growing my hair long. I've just had my hair chopped into a bob again, because again, that was still having to go back to the hairdresser every few weeks because my hair grows really fast and it's very thick. I was literally just talking to the hairdresser about it and just saying, I don't want to have to think about my hair. And so, I was just ending up, I was just tying it back all the time. And I was like, actually, do you know what? I really liked it when I had it bobbed. So, I'll go back to that. I don't mind that's an hour in the hairdresser's chair, an hour I can do.

Helen: Do you think you still want to look professional, which is why you've kind of got a really neat hairstyle? Mm hmm. 

Moira: It’s um, it’s more about erm, re, this all sounds really highfalutin, but I feel over the last, 18 months, I'd say I've started to rediscover me. I came to motherhood quite late, so I was 38, I think when I had my first child, um, second child, I was in my forties and, you go through that certain loss of identity when you become a mother.

Which is kind of fine, I was quite happy with it. It didn't bother me for the most, but I really feel like I've started to find my own way again, find my own personality again in the last 18 months and been on a little bit of a personal journey. 

A million years ago, I did fashion design and art at college, which I loved. I had a very deep love of fashion and I kind of feel like, and style, and so I worked in retail for many years. I worked for Laura Ashley and I loved helping customers in the changing rooms find a style that suited them and, recommending if there wasn't a product in the shop, then, you know, a shop down the road, they could get a belt or a pair of shoes or a hat, whatever it was.

And I love that. And I've started doing that for myself again now and, I'm enjoying that, so the hair is part of that. 

Helen: Okay. 

Moira: Long winded answer.

Helen: And you're wearing a pink top today as you talk to me and it really suits you. I have to say, you're looking good. 

Moira: Dusky Pink is one of my colours. And that's something I had done, which I thought again, gosh, how long ago was that now? That was maybe about five or six years ago. And that felt like such an extravagance to have my colours done for me. So, I was still very much in that, I am a mother and, forgetting that I am a Moira. 

And so that felt very extravagant, but I really enjoyed that. That was a really enjoyable getting my colours done and, you know, holding up the different colours. And I'd always been drawn to the kind of earthy summer. I'm an autumn. I think I'm now a soft muted autumn because my hair's gone grey.

But I've always been drawn to those colours, but then I have been drawn to big, crazy prints and colours. I think that's my art background, which I don't wear as much as I used to do. I'm much more, calmer, muted.

Helen: Okay. And you think that's linked to the colour that your hair is now? Or?

Moira: Yeah, I think so. It's not, I can't wear that. It's just if I wear it, I look in the mirror and I go, no, that's not quite right. 

Helen: It's not me. 

Moira: Yeah, it's not me. Yeah. Whereas I've always known red, so red is one of my business colours and, and that is something I've always been very drawn to red myself and I've always, worn red lipstick.

 I say when I'm doing my training that I'll very often put on red lipstick, even when I'm gonna make a phone call, a difficult phone call. 'cause it's about that internal confidence in it. I feel like it empowers me a little bit more. So, Red's always been a colour of mine. Which is not muted and soft, but

Helen: that's interesting. I've interviewed Corrine. 

Moira: Oh, yes.

Helen: Yeah.

And obviously, she's big on the red lippy as well, but she said the same thing. It's kind of put that on and you just feel more confident. 

Moira: Yeah.

Helen: so that's kind of touches on one of the other topics that often people say, if you let your hair go grey, you're giving up on life and giving up on yourself.

And I think. That's not really a theme that I'm finding as I'm chatting to people. 

Moira: No, no, I do remember, a teacher at my school, my junior school, Mrs. Fields, and she had, so it was back in the 80s, so she, I don't know if it was natural, but it was like, you know, big poodly type of perm, hair, and it was, she was white, grey, white. And I can remember her telling us a story about somebody really talking down to her, because they thought she was an old woman just because she had grey hair and, she was a very feisty teacher. And I think she gave them, as good as they gave to her. And that, that always is something I always remember. And so now I don't see it as that at all.

For me, it was more of a, I'm sick of spending three hours every six weeks in the hairdressers to just dye my hair and let's see what it looks like natural. And the comments I get from people and from hairdressers, you know, if I go to different hairdressers, people always say it's such a lovely natural colour.

I still see there's still some blonde and brownie bits at the back of it. And I see, but no, I really like it.

Helen: You're quite similar to me in that your face is framed with the white and then it's still darker at the back. 

Moira: Yeah. Salt and pepper. 

Helen: And I get the same, same sorts of comments really. Although my hair's obviously a lot longer than yours. 

Moira: Yeah.

Helen: It’s in a plait at the minute, so it’s definitely long. Um, so, at the time that you decided to go grey, did you make any other lifestyle choices at the same time in terms of health or anything else? 

Moira: Well, I didn't make the choice, perimenopause made the choice. In lockdown, didn't realize it at the time that I was, perimenopausal when it started, but we were walking every day. We were eating better because we had the time to cook and make meals.

We did meal planning, because we'd order our food online and, all that kind of thing, which we now do, we meal plan anyway these days, which is something we never did. We just literally fly by the seat of our pants. And so, I was eating really well and I'd stopped drinking, which a lot of people did more drinking in lockdown.

I actually stopped drinking, not completely, but just really cut down on drinking. Just again, perimenopause made that decision, in that if I have a drink, sometimes I'm fine, but sometimes I'll go very flushed and very red and feel very uncomfortable. So, it's obviously to do with kind of changing hormones and things like that.

But I put on about a stone, and I was furious. I think I've put on about two stone, kind of if you look back four years ago, and it all felt like it happened very suddenly, and all in a very certain place, which was very frustrating. And no matter what I tried fitness levels, the diet, everything, you know, anything just, it just kept, you know, weigh myself and I'd be like, Oh God.

And I felt uncomfortable. And then about, 18 months ago, I actually had like a regular blood tests check-up and I was pre diabetic. 

Helen: Okay. 

Moira: A huge shock, and from that I then started a new lifestyle plan. It wasn't a diet, it was a lifestyle plan and I followed that religiously and I lost a stone and a half.

And it wasn't hard, I wasn't dieting, I wasn't, what's the word? Denying. That's it. I wasn't denying myself treats. It's all about cutting down on ultra-processed foods. And so that has made a massive difference. And again, I think that's added to the finding myself again, because I'm seeing myself differently and I feel different and I feel stronger.

So, I've been working out, again, nothing major. I've been doing kitchen workouts. So, when the kettle is boiling, just do some, wall push-ups to use that body strength. Cause again, you know, woman of my age, I need to improve my, inner strength. 

And also, my mum's 90 and she had, some health issues a couple of years ago and I had to go and look after her for a bit. And I just thought, I'm kind of a similar age my mum was when she had me. So that means that my children, when they're my age, are going to be having to potentially look after me.

If I'm in here that older age. And I want to try and negate that now, as much as I can by getting stronger and fitter and I need to get my flexibility back. My flexibility that declined very rapidly as well during lockdown. Perimenopause is a lot to answer for really. So yeah, so the choices weren't mine.

The choices were perimenopause and it's kind of pushed me in that direction.

Helen: But overall, it's probably going to make you healthier. So, you're looking after yourself better. 

Moira: Yeah. 

Helen: Now that you're grey, not as a consequence of being grey, but as a consequence of all the things that have happened. 

Moira: And that kind of ageing gracefully, in my intro is that kind of, you know, realizing that doing balancing exercises are really important because I've seen my mum fall over and break bones and I don't want to be like that, so kind of just trying to do the maintenance now so that in the long run.

I'll be able to be more active. And hopefully we don't have a lockdown, you know, that had a negative effect on my mum because we were so paranoid she'd get ill that we were like, don't go out, stay in. But as a consequence, after lockdown, she barely goes out now. So, she's aged more than she probably wants to do.

She's always been quite a young woman, 

Helen: Uh huh. 

Moira: probably because of having young kids. I'm hoping that happens with me as well. And yeah, and I think she's 90, but gets very frustrated with how immobile she is. But I think she's doing amazing for a 90-year-old, but I think lockdown had a lot to answer for.

Obviously overall, it was a very awful, negative thing. And all the deaths that happened is absolutely dreadful. The positives of it for me was, going grey, not worrying about going grey. A lot of other people went grey at the same time. 

Helen: Yeah. 

Moira: And then afterwards, realizing that I need to look after my health.

I've educated myself about all those changes in my hormones and what they do to me and what I need to do to replace them. 

Helen: Yeah. Okay, so just the actual growing out process itself, how did you feel when you were actually growing your hair?

Moira: Again, being locked down I was fortunate because you had an excuse. You know, you weren't expected to look immaculate all through lockdown because nobody could get to the hairdressers.

But then when we came out of lockdown, I remember there was one particular time where I got my hair cut quite short to try and cut out the blonde colour more. And I hated it. I hated that hair style. As I say, my hair grows quite quickly, so it quickly grew out of that style that I really didn't like.

There's been one other time when I've thought I would suit a pixie crop hair. And it was when, Halle Berry won an Oscar a million years ago. And I can remember I'd been to Paris on the Eurostar with a friend and we'd got Hello Magazine. And so she was all, Halle Berry was in Hello Magazine.

And I was going, Oh wow, she looks absolutely amazing with a pixie cut. Got off the train and went straight to the hairdressers and said, I want a pixie cut. And he was like, are you sure? And I was like, yeah. Pixie cuts don't suit me. 

Helen: No. 

Moira: So, I did this kind of pixie-esque cut and yeah, I didn't like it. Everyone else thought it looked nice, but for me, when I [00:15:00] looked in the mirror, I didn't look like me.

And I think you've got to be comfortable with, for yourself, not for other people. You've got to be comfortable with what you see in the mirror.

Helen: Yeah.

it's interesting because you do have to go through a transition phase where you're not going to be comfortable with your appearance for a period of time. And for some people having it cropped really short is a good choice. For me, I knew really short hair didn't suit me because I'd done it any number of times in my teens and early twenties.

So, I knew I couldn't, but I really didn't like the stripe. And you just have to sit and be patient. And at the end of it, I would never go back now. I love how my hair is now, but I think anyone who's thinking about whether they want to do it or not, just needs to know that There is going to be that period where you have to make a choice.

And hats off to the people who can go for the pixie cut. But I was just like, no, I just can't. I couldn't. 

Moira: Yeah. Yeah. I thought that afterwards, Oh no, I shouldn't. But yeah, it was just, it was that, that part, only that part, the rest of it was, it was okay. And I got really nice comments from people.

Helen: Yeah, I find that now, people only say positive things and, a lot of them are kind of like if I had your hair colour, I would absolutely do what you've done. But I think you don't really know what your hair is going to look like when you just see those few little roots , you see them and you're kind of educated to think they look terrible, 

Moira: Yeah.

Helen: but when they actually grow out, it's like, Oh, actually it's not nearly as white as I thought it was going to be. 

Moira: Yeah. I know. And part of me, I would love it to be white all over

Helen: Mm hmm. 

Moira: But, actually a lot of people say, but it's really nice because there's a lot of movement in it because there's the light here and there's the dark here and, and so. So no, I'm, really happy with it. I'm happy that I didn't play with it.

Cause I know some people will, in fact, my hairdresser did take some, samples of my hair and try dyeing them to see if we could dye it grey for that transition. And it didn't take it. The colours just didn't do anything. She didn't want any payment for it. And I was like, no, I'm insisting on paying for it.

She was like, and I've done this sample and I've done this sample and I've done that. She did a lot of work and a lot of research, and then she says I think we've just got to go stick with it, and keep going for kind of growing it out without putting colour. And I'm glad I did that, because it has been I think easier, because I think I probably would have then got into that cycle of feeling I need to because what if it's not right and 

Helen: yeah. 

Moira: just go with the flow.

Helen: Okay. So, if somebody came to you and said, now I'm thinking about letting my hair grow and embrace the greys, what would you say? 

Moira: Go for it, definitely go for it, do it and you'll not regret it. There's been other things that I've done in my life that people said, what would you say if somebody said, I'm going to do this? And I'd go, oh no, don't do it. But this definitely go for it. It's just an easy transition to do.

And, especially now, I think we went grey at a time when there was that, movement, you know, a lot of people did it. And so, there is now that tribe of women who have made that transition. And from what I see, everyone's really happy with it.

Helen: Yeah.

I think it's definitely more acceptable than it was because there is now kind of a bit more of a critical mass of women who've taken the choice and are just standing up and saying, no, it's who I am and it's natural and 

Moira: Isn't it crazy though?

Helen: Why are you all making such a fuss? 

Moira: I know, isn't it crazy that, as you said, in the intro, on your first, podcast you can have silver foxes, but women don't get very nice comments, or they didn't get very nice comments about them, so I think that's changed.

Helen: I think it’s more mixed now.

Moira: And actually, it's more of the Hollywood actresses that are being natural, so you know, Andie, Andie McDowell is it? 

Helen: Yeah.

Moira: Um, and then even, oh, the woman that was on Baywatch, you know, that kind of natural,

Helen: Pamela Anderson. I think, Sarah Jessica Parker as 

Moira: yes, yeah, and you just think, well yeah, why shouldn't we just be allowed to just age naturally?

Helen: It's normal. It's healthy. And there are many things about ageing we should be thinking about, but trying to look 25 was probably not one of them. 

Moira: Yeah, exactly. 

Helen: in my World.

Moira: Yeah, in my world, you know, I'd rather work on that flexibility and, you know, getting a better core and eating foods that have got natural phyto oestrogens in to try and combat that loss in oestrogen, and trying to cut down on ultra-processed food. 

So yeah, I'd rather age gracefully naturally if I can.

Helen: Yeah, ageing healthily is my goal. 

Moira: Yeah. 

Helen: If I can be as fit as my mum is at 88, I shall be very happy. 

Moira: Yeah.

Helen: Cool. Well, thanks so much for joining me, Moira. It's been lovely chatting to you. I wish you a happy weekend. 

Moira: Thank you. Yes, thank you. And, carry on carrying the torch for us. It'd be great.

Helen: I will.

Thanks so much for joining me for this week's show. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. I'll be back again next week, but in the meantime, you can follow me on Instagram at happier. grey. Have a great week.