Happier Grey Podcast

Episode 11 - With Donna Brennan

May 31, 2024 Helen Johnson Season 1 Episode 11
Episode 11 - With Donna Brennan
Happier Grey Podcast
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Happier Grey Podcast
Episode 11 - With Donna Brennan
May 31, 2024 Season 1 Episode 11
Helen Johnson

Not going to lie - I probably laughed more during recording this episode than I have with any other.

Loved Donna's honesty and humour in telling her tale.

Show Notes Transcript

Not going to lie - I probably laughed more during recording this episode than I have with any other.

Loved Donna's honesty and humour in telling her tale.

Happier Grey Podcast with Donna Brennan

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 Donna Brennan, who lives in the beautiful Tyne Valley with her husband, children, and furry child, a dog. She enjoys walking, running, reading, crocheting, gardening, and catching up with her friends and family. Hello Donna. Thanks for joining me. 

Donna: Hi Helen, good morning. 

Helen: You didn't mention in your intro that you're also a Parkrun volunteer and that's how we know each other.

Donna: I did wonder whether you'd bring that up or not. I do love Parkrun and it's great for meeting people, volunteering in your local community. You know, it's a nice community event and you feel like you're part of something. It's great to give something back,

Helen: Cool. So, in terms of you going grey, I know it's quite a recent thing. So, when did you decide to go grey?

Donna: It'll be two years past March, so I've been on this journey for two years now and the decision to go grey. I'd thought about it for a little while before that, probably about six to eight months beforehand. And I'd joined a few groups on Facebook and Instagram of other people who had decided to go grey, and I'd I had a little bit look at how I wanted to go grey in terms of did I wanna go down the blending route?

Did I want to just grow it out and go down that route. Was I going to have some highlights put in to try and blend it that way? So, I followed quite a few other people's journeys first before I made the decision as to which way, I wanted to do it. 

Helen: Okay. And do you think that gave you a little bit more confidence when you were starting out?

Donna: I think it did, and I think it also, up until that point, I'd never really thought about other people's reactions to me making my choice to go grey, if that makes sense. I'd never thought that other people's reactions could have such an effect on you as a person, if that makes sense as to how, how you are perceived by others.

I would say I've always been quite a confident person and yeah, I'm bothered about other people, but I'm not that bothered about what other people think of me, if that makes sense. Because of that, when I was reading lots of other people's stories, I was like, oh, I hadn't thought of that.

Oh, I hadn't thought of that. You know, some people I was reading some. Stories that people's mothers or close friends would say, you look old, you look this, you look the other. And I was like, oh, how am I going to feel if somebody comes out with that to me? Because I hadn't actually thought of it that way.

I just thought, you know, if it's your natural self, nobody would judge you if that made sense. It was quite thought provoking that way on, but to be fair, I thought, we'll go with it. We'll have a try. We'll see how it goes. And as I say, I've been thinking about it for six to eight months. So, I'd gone from having permanent hair colour to semi-permanent hair colour. 

And there was some photos taken. I was outside and there were some photos taken. One was Parkrun photos, actually. The other one was, I was with a group of friends outside and the photos, and I could see on my roots, although it was apparently the same colour that I've been using. One was permanent, the next was semi-permanent, you could see the difference in how much hold it had on my hair and how dense the colour looked for the permanent compared to the semi-permanent.

And I thought, do you know what? This looks really, really rubbish. I might as well just go whole hog and just do it. Just the end of, don't bother faffing around with all of this semi-permanent. And it getting ever so slightly lighter with each wash type of thing. Just go whole hog and see how it goes.

You've got two chances. You'll either like it or not like it. My hair wasn't down to my bottom long, but I would say it was probably well past my shoulders when I'd made the decision to go grey. Over the years, I've always chopped and changed with hair length.

I wear it really short for quite a while and then I'll decide to grow it. So, then it goes through the growing out phase and it gets quite long. And then I'm like, no, this is too much hassle. I want it short again. So, I decided that the easiest way for me to do it would be to get as much off as I could.

So, I went and had a cut, I had a pixie cut. I coloured it one last time so there wasn't such a drastic change between the cut, with the cut and the colour, if that makes sense. I coloured it the same colour that I had been one last time on the 23rd of March 2022 and I've never coloured it since. 

Helen: Very good. I did mine in lockdown. 

Donna: Do you know what, in hindsight, That's what I really, really should have done because I think during lockdown you wouldn't have been anywhere or not too far. You just going for, you were going for your walks and one thing or another, but you didn't see a lot of people, for anybody to make judgment on you for any comments to come to you.

So, by the time you were used to it, you were used to it and comfortable with it. And therefore, when somebody did say something to you, we're just like, well, I like it. End off, you know. 

But I think. There is a bit during that process when you're growing it out, isn't there, where it doesn't look intentional. If that makes sense, it looks like you've not had your roots done, you've missed a couple of hair appointments type of thing. But I think once you get past that, first three, four-month stage, I would say, it then looks intentional. So, the first three to four months of grow out, where you've got perhaps an inch, an inch and a half at the top of your head. Once it gets past there, it looks quite okay. You can see that they're clearly growing the natural colour in, you know. 

Helen: Yeah, I think it looked intentional, but in my head, it still looked a mess. So, I did spend a lot of the time with my hair tied back.

Donna: Yeah, well, I know it's certainly for me. I was similar, Helen, in that you would wear it tied back. Or I went through a phase with me growing it as well, I couldn't, tie it back initially, if that makes sense. So, I was wearing wide, fabric hair bands. So, at the front was all grey at the front of the hair band, but then at the back of the hair band, it was all, I was gonna say dark, but it got lighter and lighter as the months progressed.

So, I was almost like a really Coppery ginger colour, I would say, you know, and even the ends now, I've still got, I think, another good cut. We'll have, have that out, but the ends now, they're still tinged with a little bit of that copper coming through. 

Helen: Okay. So, what's your natural hair colour before it started going grey? 

Donna: I would say, I haven't seen my natural hair colour since I was probably about 13 or 14. When I first started colouring it, I had, a medium brown with, hints of auburn in it. And when I first started colouring, it was when all my friends were at school as well. I dunno if you remember them.

Do you remember the harmony hair dyes? They were in the little triangular box. They did Toners and Shaders I think were in the sachets. And then they did a, bigger volume in a triangular box. That was what, early nineties it must have been, and I used to dye it a more vivid, so either a mahogany or a copper, bit more of a vivid, I've always stayed with, down the red tones, but, as I say, that was quite a while ago.

First grey hair I got, so I stuck with the Harmony for quite a while, first grey hair, I think I was about 16, 

Helen: Okay.

Donna: I was quite young, and Then I just started using permanent box colours on it. I've never, I'm saying never, possibly twice had my hair coloured at the hairdressers. But certainly, the last 25 years I would say always coloured it myself. 

Helen: Okay. 

Donna: Yeah, just with box colours.

Helen: See, I went to the hairdressers, which is kind of why lockdown happened because I couldn't. And my husband did volunteer to dye it for me, but he can be a little bit slapdash. And, I figured I didn't really want that on my hair. 

Donna: Yeah. I have to say it was my husband that's coloured mine for the last, I would say, 10 years. Well, depending on the length. When it was short, I could manage it myself. But anywhere from probably jaw lengths down, I really struggled with, so my husband would help me. But as you say, slapdash, so you know, if I was going out on a weekend, most people would have their hair coloured at a hairdresser's perhaps the day before they went to a special event, wedding, christening, whatever. I wouldn't dare do that I'd have to have at least three days to scrub the colour off my forehead. 

I certainly don't miss that at all, I don't miss the mess it made. With having the red tones in, the box colours, you know. Standing over the sink or over the shower tray. Showering off all of the colour at being up the walls.

Trying to get it cleaned off before it took, you know, stain to everything that it had touched. Yeah. I don't miss that one bit. And the time, you know, it was a long process. Although the colour only needed to be on your head for what, half an hour? I think it used to be something along those lines.

By the time you sat down, combed all your hair through, did all the prep work and then got the colour on, and then it rinsed and then the conditioner on and then rinsed again and all. I certainly don't miss it. It's much easier and my hair feels in such better condition now than what it's felt in years, years and years.

Helen: Mine was always bleached, so it was very, very dry. 

Donna: Dry. Yeah. 

Helen: And very split at the ends.

Donna: Your hair always looks lovely though. Always looks lovely. 

 You know, not processed, not, you know, just really, really nice. 

Helen: It looks a lot whiter to you guys than it actually is because it's white underneath and around the front. So, when I have it in a ponytail, which is how you normally see me at Parkrun. Then it looks really white on the top, but it's quite salt and peppery around the back. Anyway, I want to come back to something that you touched on in the beginning that you were concerned.

When you'd read other people's accounts of the reactions from other people.

Donna: Yeah.

Helen: Did you encounter any of that yourself?

Donna: I remember getting a couple of frowns from people. I wouldn't say anything really rude from anyone. My mum, she still colours her hair. She's In my late 60s. And when I said I was going grey, she was like don't be so silly, what do you want to do that, for? and I was like, well, actually I cannot be bothered with the mess, I cannot be bothered with the whole process of it, and I said, to be fair, I look at photos and they look really, really false. You know, when I was saying about the, the contrast between the permanent and the semi-permanent, and I said, I'm just not happy so, I'm gonna give it a shot. If I don't like it, what have I lost?

Helen: Yeah.

Donna: and she went your dignity. But we laughed. We laughed about it, actually, mam now, she absolutely loves my hair. She'll always say how really, really nice it looks but, I would say probably from about month 3 to month 6 ish around there. I remember, not so much mum, but there was somebody else who used to say to me, Are you sure you don't want to put a colour on that.

Are you, are you sure? No, no, I'm fine. I'm happy with it. You don't have to be. And that was that. But other than that, I haven't really, even at work, because I was back in the office by the time, I'd made the decision to grow it out. I told my colleagues, I said, just so you're aware, might look a bit of a mess for a few months. In the March, I decided in the March, and I'd read all of this, it's about a year to the ear. And I can remember thinking, I've got a colleague's wedding that I was going to a good, good friend of mine, in the October. I had my uncle's wedding in the July, And my cousin's wedding in the August. 

I hadn't had any weddings for about six or seven years, but, you know, really lovely events that you were gonna go to. And I was thinking, oh, what am I gonna do. here? But actually, when I look back at the photos, they all look, well, I wouldn't say I look a mess. Yes, it's two-tone, but you know, I still put little twists in my hair and little gems or pearls or whatever, you know, and it, I still felt that I look nice. So, yeah. But I think it, It's more about that.

You're not worrying about, oh it’s gonna look hideous or I’m not going to look as smart, or, what's the word I'm looking for? Sorry, that's another thing, isn't it, with menopause, you forget words. It's gone, Helen. 

But I think if, if you accept what you look like, then others will too. And it, you know, it made no difference. I still went out there. I still had fun. There's still lots of lovely photos, wedding photos. Nobody said I spoiled them.

So, fingers crossed they don't think that. But no, I didn't have as I say, I didn't have a lot of negativity. and now, the amount, of comments that I do get about my hair, how lovely it looks. Also, from strangers. You know, not just people I know, people will stop me, I was, I love your hair, where have you been getting that done?

And I went, oh, just at home. I went, it's all my own. You know, and she was like, it looks fantastic. I was going to ask what colour it was. I went, it's just my own. And that's nice when you get comments like that. 

One thing I was really, really worried about, I don't know if you, you were worried about that at all, Helen. I've never been a person that wears a lot of makeup. But when I went out, I always used to make sure I had eyeshadow, bit mascara on, open the eyes up. And since I made the decision to go grey, I thought, I'm not actually too fussed about makeup anymore, if that makes sense. 

I don't know if, perhaps, I felt like I had to put makeup on to make my face pop as much as what the hair was popping, because it was so dark, if that makes sense. I feel like I can get away with a much more natural face now, even when I'm going out somewhere dressed if that makes sense. Don’t get me wrong sometimes I'll put on a bright lipstick. But other than that, I don't really wear much now. 

Helen: No, to be honest, I never did. I never got into it in my teens other than. Lovely blue sparkly eyeshadow, which obviously you're not going to carry on wearing for the rest of your life because you realize that you do look stupid. But no, I just, I never really got into it at all, thankfully.

And now I'll maybe wear a little bit of concealer to hide the grey bags and occasionally put a little bit of mascara on but not very often. I just, I don't have the time.

Donna: Time's precious, isn't it? It is. There's lots of other things that I would much rather be doing. I know people, family members laugh at me because I did go through a phase, as you say, teenage years of wearing makeup. But then as I've grown up, I would probably say even well before I was married, probably late teens.

I can't be bothered with this anymore. I used to start work at 6. 30 in the morning. And I used to always want the extra time in bed. As soon as I was up, I'd have a shower. You know, that was enough. Shower, teeth, wash face, hair brushed, out the door type of thing. That was always enough. Yeah. 

Helen: Yeah. I know a lot of people who go grey do wear quite a bit of lipstick. And I'm one of the people I interviewed recently, red lipstick’s, kind of her signature. She says she does that more since she's gone grey. 

Donna: Yeah. 

Helen: So, she has a pop of colour, but I do think it's very much a personal choice and what you feel comfortable with.

And I've always been sort of pretty natural in terms of my appearance generally. So, Yeah, that's not going to change anytime soon. 

Donna: It’s interesting though isn’t it. It’s interesting when you talk to others. Cos as I say I’d not really thought about that. I wasn’t a massive lipstick wearer, if that makes sense, ever. Perhaps a little bit, you know, clear lip gloss, or not even gloss, Vaseline, sometimes, most of the time. It was normally about my eyes, but now, I don't know if that, in turn, as well, is because I wear glasses more often now than what I used to So, which, it could be, you know, yeah, 

Helen: Maybe. Okay, well I’m going to ask you one last question. So, if somebody came to you and said, I'm thinking about going grey, what would you say to them?

Donna: I'd probably ask them why, why they want it to go grey. Because I think, you know, if you're doing it for you, fine, fair enough, do it. But if you're doing it for somebody else, it's probably not the right thing to do. 

And I, would probablyhave a bit chat with them about their expectations of others. Or how they would feel. Because that wasn't something that I had considered until I'd read it on those pages. And to be fair I'd probably say if, if they were ready for comments from others. Because some people might take it really, really personally and get really, really upset about it, but at the end of the day, nobody's got anything to lose.They really, really haven't by going grey. 

There's lots of different ways that you can go grey. I was reading an article, I'm trying to think what it was on, it, might be on Pinterest, a few weeks ago. It was about a lady who'd literally coloured down her parting. If that makes sense, and she started growing everything else out other than the parting, the way she had her hair cut. So, it was an inch either side of her parting, and then once she got it down so far, she then swapped where her parting was, and she was grey, completely grey. So, then she just had to grow out that bit dye that she'd been putting in, but you know, and that was a really clever way of doing it. 

Helen: Never thought of that. 

Donna: No, I hadn’t either. But no, I would say wants to do it, I would definitely give it a go. I fell freer, I would say probably. See I was colouring my hair every ten days, which is just ridiculous, it really is. And I'll be honest with you, I was expecting to be really quite light, and I wouldn't say that I am. I've got really, I would say it's a dark grey with lots of with lots of bits of tinsel through it. I would say, you know, I wouldn't say it's, it's not bright white. I've got this white strip at the front, but if I've got a fringe cut in you cannot actually see that, and it just looks like a more like a steely grey, Brillo pad grey, I would say.

I don't think anybody's got anything to lose, and if you don't like it, you know, just put a colour back on. But I don't think I would I think I probably got about seven months in and thought, no, I'm sticking with this journey now, definitely. I'm over the worst. It can only get better from here.

Helen: Cool. Yeah, I’m definitely never dyeing it again.

Donna: No, I just I don't think I could be bothered. And as I say, I feel, I do feel a lot more authentic, if that makes sense, with my natural colour. And as I say, very, very free, very, you know, not, not tied. And yeah, it's great. I love it. 

Helen: Well, it looks great on you.

Donna: And you. 

Helen: Cool. Thanks so much for chatting to me 

Donna: you're very welcome. 

Helen: and wish you a lovely weekend.

Donna: You too. I'm sure I'll catch you at Parkrun. 

Helen: Yeah, maybe not this week.

Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of Happier Grey. I hope you've enjoyed it. If you have, you'll find another one next week, but in the meantime, if you'd like to know what we're up to, you can find me on Instagram at happier. grey. Goodbye until the next time!