Happier Grey Podcast

Episode 10 - With Gill Munro

May 24, 2024 Helen Johnson Season 1 Episode 10
Episode 10 - With Gill Munro
Happier Grey Podcast
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Happier Grey Podcast
Episode 10 - With Gill Munro
May 24, 2024 Season 1 Episode 10
Helen Johnson

Such fun chatting with old friend Gill Munro for this episode, loving her attitude to ageing and going grey.

I think lots of us remember finding our first grey hair... but Gill's reaction to hers is more memorable than most!

Show Notes Transcript

Such fun chatting with old friend Gill Munro for this episode, loving her attitude to ageing and going grey.

I think lots of us remember finding our first grey hair... but Gill's reaction to hers is more memorable than most!

Happier Grey Podcast with Gill Munro

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 Gill Monroe. She's a coach working with PR and comms professionals. She's going grey in Deal, Kent, whilst running her own business, bringing up her two kids and cramming in European city breaks whenever she can get away with it.

Hello, Gill.

Gill: Hi, Helen.

Helen: How are you?

Gill: Yeah, I'm really well. Thank you for having me to talk about my grey hair era.

Helen: Can I start by asking you, when did you find your first grey hair?

Gill: I vividly remember it because it was probably about, like in my very early thirties, and I'm fifty now, and I was living in North London, and I was on my way to work, and I was, walking from my flat to the tube station, same old situation that I did every day. And I caught a sight of a hair on my collar, and I went to just pick it off, and it was grey.

And I was just absolutely, completely, it was like a full existential crisis moment. I crossed the first half of the road, then I was on the island bit in the middle waiting for the green man to come on to cross the next half of the road. And it was literally in that spot, and I just had this, this sounds really dramatic saying it like, but I just thought, well this is it I'm gonna die. There was such a connection between that moment and accepting mortality. And I think it was a real transition moment from kind of responsibility carefree youth into something more like adulthood, at that point.

Helen: Wow. You're much later than me because I had my first one when I was 18 and I also vividly remember it, but only because of my mum found the hair and she was kind of like gleeful about it, and you’re kind of like, what’s wrong with you, you’re my mum, if I'm going grey, what does that say for you? 

But to be fair to her, she's got really dark colouring. So like Harry Potter type colouring, she probably has fewer grey hairs than me now. And she's 88. So, what can I say?

Gill: Yeah, my mum is 77. I would say she's only really getting into the grey now. She's always had dark hair as well, and I feel like it's only now when I look at her, I think, oh yeah, you are a bit grey there.

Helen: Okay, so now that you've decided you're going to go grey, I'm guessing you're a little bit more relaxed about white hair than you were with that first one.

Gill: Yeah, the first one freaked me out. Not so much because of the hair colour itself, but more I think because it indicated ageing, and it's a finite lifespan. But yes, I am completely relaxed about going grey, and even from that first time, I was never that precious or bothered about covering it up.

And it has to be said, it wasn't until sometime later that there was any, like, grey that anyone else would notice. But I always felt when I went to the hairdresser, because I did dye my hair at that time, and had highlights and so on, and I always felt the hairdresser was quite concerned about covering it up when I wasn't really that bothered.

Helen: Okay.

Gill: And he’d be like, if we do this it’ll cover the grey bits and I was a bit like, well, OK, that's fine. That isn't actually what I asked. I always thought they were giving me an answer to a question that I hadn't asked. And there was always a bit of an assumption, I felt, from hairdressers. 

I've never been one for going to the same hairdresser for years and years. I always go around different ones, and I always thought that they assumed that I would want to get rid of it. But that just fitted in with my general view of hairdressers, which is they always assume about a million things about you in any conversation about your hair. You know if you ask for your hair to be dyed, you know a certain colour and they'll say well, you do know that'll be quite light, you're like, well, yes, that's what I've asked for it.

Or if you ask for a real change in style or a change in length, are you sure? Have you done that before? And it's just like, yes, I'm an adult. I always find the assumptions of hairdressers quite maddening. And their assumption, I don't want to get rid of my greys, just another one of those.

Helen: Okay. I wonder where it comes from. Not from you, from them. I'm guessing that maybe they're feeding back what they hear from lots of different people and just projecting that onto you maybe.

Gill: 100% ‘cause I think a lot of people do want to cover it up. And I can totally understand that, but I guess I've always been, kind of lazy. Uh, and lazy to me is the kind of other way of looking at being the most time efficient possible that you can be. And, I knew I didn't ever want to get into a situation with my hair that was like a super high maintenance, like get to the hairdresser every six weeks for getting my roots done or something, because, I couldn't think of a worse way to spend my time. So, I would rather, just be relaxed about it and accept, who I am and what it really looks like, than shoehorn some kind of expensive, time-consuming process into my weekend every six weeks, which is no thanks.

Helen: Okay, I think that's a good choice, but I think it's interesting that a lot of women feel the pressure from society to look a certain way. Maybe you don't quite so much from what you're saying when you're just like got other priorities.

Gill: I think I probably do, feel the pressure. You know, like anyone else, you can't be immune to that stuff. I guess the hair is just not my sensitive one. I feel the passage of time and, you know, broken veins on my cheeks that I'll go and get lasered off or, I do do stuff like that, but I guess hair just isn't my Achilles heel on the societal pressures front, I think.

Helen: And so along with going grey are you noticing any other changes at this stage in your life?

Gill: Oh yeah, loads. I mean perimenopausal, so everything that comes with that. Or, a selection of the things that come along with that, not everything. I think I haven't had a particularly horrendous experience, like some people do. But equally, I haven't had nothing. I've gone down the HRT road, which I have really benefited from in terms of much better sleep.

I think the thing that pushed me to go and do that, was when I found like I was waking up so frequently in the night that I was just like, I can't do this and carry on, all the things that I need to do. And my hair, I was feeling actually, it was kind of unrelated to the whole thing. However, as time has gone on, I have definitely started to experience the thinning hair.

And my hair now is a completely different, I'm touching my hair as though people can see me, which they can't. I'm sort of touching my luscious locks, which are just not as luscious and biddable as they once were. 

Helen: Yeah.

Gill: They’re thinning out. I can feel the fragility there, that has just never been there before. And that is a bit alarming initially, but I think. Well, I just did what I do in these situations, I did a bit of research about it. I’m tackling it at an easy level by using different shampoo and stuff like that. I'm not doing anything next level like medication. I just think, we'll see how it goes.

Helen: What can I say? I don't think my hair's thinned at all. 

And what about your appearance generally in terms of style and the way you present yourself? Do you think that's changing as your hair's greying, or would, do you think that's just staying the same?

Gill: No, I think that sort of stays the same. I think that the thing that sort of made the biggest changes to the way that I dress has actually been the way that I work,

Helen: Yeah. 

Gill: Rather than I guess, what I look like. I do a lot of work online, from home, as a coach and even before I was doing that. Probably since about 2015 or 2016, I've mostly worked remotely, for anyone that I've worked for.

So, everybody knows now what that's like. For a while it was just a small kind of special group of us that were doing that, but now everyone knows, and you do dress a bit more casually. And I think there's probably less differentiation between what I wear at work, and what I wear when I'm not at work, than there was back in the day when I, you know, worked in a busy office environment and, had my work clothes and my work shoes and, you know, just don't do that now.

But I do feel, I do, I think, you know just think about what you said about societal pressure on how you look. I did catch sight of myself in a photograph. “Cause I’m in a choir, and in the choir when we do a performance, we have the wear this particular T-shirt with a logo on the front, and I caught a sight of myself in a photo and I thought I looked like someone who was much older than I feel.

Helen: Okay.

Gill: And that brought me up a bit short and I was like, I don't actually want to accept that. I think all of this is about acceptance, and not, and where you are on that trajectory. And I realized that clothes wise, I wanted to make some choices that very much were about wearing clothes about how I felt, and not how I thought I should look at a certain age, if you see what I mean.

Helen: I absolutely see, I live in jeans and leather jackets and things like that. Whereas I think of people with grey hair, when I was little, my grandma had a beautiful two-toned brown kilt, and a pale blue anorak and flat sensible shoes. And you kind of go, yeah, I'm just not doing that. And to be fair, my mum, who's 88, also wears a leather jackets and jeans.

I think you just have to be comfortable with yourself and with your style and maybe pick something timeless. 

I think in some ways wearing things that are quite formal is ageing, even people have gone back into the office I think a lot of them are probably more casual than they used to be.

Gill: Yeah. I think that's right. I mean, I can think, like, my husband, I don't think he even owns a suit now. He does still go into the office, but yeah, the years of that kind of dressing, more formal stuff, and none of his colleagues are dressing that formal kind of way, where you had to be seen to be smart, to be professional, I don't think they're associated with each other now at all.

It's almost a bygone era.

Helen: Okay. So, I guess another, age related question. Are you doing anything more sort of fitness related now than you used to do? 

Gill: Yes, I am. I’ve done Pilates for quite a long time, since my early 40s, and I do that once a week. And that kind of returned me to, I think, full mobility after having two small children. You know, babies and toddlers in my late thirties and when my second child was born when I was 40. And that was brilliant. I love it. I recommend it. If you feel creaky, get to Pilates. 

But the thing that I've started recently, which I never would have thought that I would do ever, is at weight training, because I think realizing that I was perimenopausal, and thinking about the fact that I do still have quite young children, I've still got a way to go on that before they're you know, out of my hair, out of my grey hair.

And the fact that I absolutely love, love, love, getting away to somewhere different, and going and walking the streets, just walking, walking, and I want to keep my mobility and strength. So, I started weight training with that as my goal. Like, my goal wasn't, you know, lose my tummy or, you know, get arms like Michelle Obama or whatever it is. It was that I want to stay as mobile as possible for as long as possible. And if I don’t start that now, I'm going to be on catch up. 

And in my own parents, my mum's pretty mobile because she was always a stay-at-home mum. And I think that just necessitated a life where she was not particularly driving around. She was just walking everywhere all the time. And she's always done that. 

Whereas my dad was a more classic sedentary office worker. Never did any fitness activities to speak of. And I can see the difference that has made for him now that he's in his 80s.

Helen: Yeah.

Gill: And I want to just keep my strength and mobility as long as I can, and touch wood, I've never had any notable health challenges in my life, but if one of those comes down the track, now, the stronger I am the better, if I need to negotiate something tricky.

And I love it. I'm surprised by how much I like it. It's really good fun. I like the challenge. I'm sort of competing with myself only, which I quite enjoy. And to kind of get, keep getting better. Yeah, it's really good.

Helen: So, you're going to a gym while you're doing it at home?

Gill: A gym. Technically I could do it at home, but I'm at home enough. I need to leave the building.

Helen: A change of scenery is nice as well.

Gill: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Helen: So how many times a week are you doing that?

Gill: I do that once a week and I do the Pilates once a week.

Helen: Okay, I've literally in the last 30 days started a gym trial, to do some weights and stuff. 

Gill: To get me going, I got a personal trainer for about nine months to kind of bed in the habit. Have you got someone? 

Helen: It’s a small group PT thing, that I'm going to, so there's maximum of six in the group. So, they're sort of focusing a lot on your technique and that sort of stuff. 

Gill: Yeah. Are you enjoying it?

Helen: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's kind of sits in with my other, cause I'm still running and I do yoga as well. So, and I walk every day, so I'm fairly active anyway, but my upper body strength is just feeble, non-existent.

Gill: Yeah.

Helen: So yeah, it's good. I like it. Yeah. I think I'll continue after the trial.

Gill: And it's amazing how quickly it sort of builds up as well. Because I think I felt, I really felt the benefits of it. It's probably just a couple of months. And I really noticed the difference. And having, other people around helped me push myself as well. I didn't just settle for, oh, I can do these nice and easy, uh, or certain lifts or certain weights, and actually believing I could do bigger weights without breaking was really empowering as well.

Helen: Okay. That's cool. I like the idea of looking to age well and age healthily. Whether or not that's linked to grey hair doesn't really matter. I think the fact that you're looking forward in a positive way and planning for 10, 20 years down the line and being healthy and fit is the right way to go, to be fair.

Gill: yeah, I think it's quite selfish in a way. But I think the thought of, you know, my children getting to the stage where they've left home or, are at Uni or college or something, and I've got more freedom, and that I couldn't make the most use of that to do all the things that I put to one side so I can be a mum, I just do not want to contribute to myself being in a position where I couldn't do that. 

Helen: Yeah.

Gill: That's such a motivating factor for me.

Helen: Okay, with you there. Can going to ask you one last question around going grey. So, if someone came to you and said, I'm thinking about going grey, what would you say to them?

Gill: What's stopping you? I'd be really interested to know

what they were afraid of.

Helen: Okay, so why they've even got to think about it.

Gill: Yeah, because if someone's hesitating, it's because they're afraid of something. I guess in the case of grey hair, likely to be one of two things. Fear of age because it means you're acknowledging that finite lifespan, or fear of the judgment of other people. And you can't do anything about the first one, and you really don't need to care about the second one.

Helen: That is definitely spoken as a coach, from the way that you're considering that, but I do think fear of judgment is a huge, reason why people choose not to.

Gill: Yeah.

Helen: From most of the people that I've spoken to a lot of that's in your head, if you actually do it, you don't get comments, you don't get people, making rude remarks or anything, or very rarely, mostly you get support.

Gill: Yeah, And I think it does depend on what kind of context you’re in as well. You know. You know lots of people have got families who’ll make snide remarks. Or you know, worry about what people in work are going to think of them. And that to me is just always, you know, the grey hair is just a tiny part of that. It's like there’s something bigger there, and how do you want to engage with those situations, and be yourself?

Helen: Yeah. Being at peace with yourself is kind of the biggest thing in life, generally.

Gill: Indeed, indeed. And I don't miss dyeing my hair one little bit, because it costs so much money, takes so much time. But that said, If it was free, and didn't take up loads of time, would I experiment with my hair colour sometimes? Yeah, I probably would. But it wouldn't be to cover up the grey, just because of, I don't know,

Helen: a bit of fun.

Gill: the same way I choose different nail polish at different times or something.

Helen: Okay, well, it's been really interesting chatting with you, and I wish you a lovely weekend and I'll catch up with you soon.

Gill: Yeah, lovely to speak to you Helen. Thanks for having me.

Helen: Bye.

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.