Fade to Grey

I’ve been ‘Redwoods1’ in the social-media sphere since it began. It’s my trademark. I like the name for all sorts of reasons.

First of all, I like where it was created. I was in a hot tub in Russian River, Sonoma, outside San Francisco, sipping local sparkling wine and wearing massive earrings with my halter neck bikini. I was thinking about breaking out of my marriage and trying out a newer, more confident version of myself out on holiday, with friends I felt comfortable with.

For years, people pronounced my name not as Lisa Edwards with two separate words, but Lisaredwards because of the two vowels being next to each other. Redwoods. The hot tub was surrounded by them. One of my friends looked up and cried, “Redwoods! It’s you!” Red hair, redwards, redwood trees, redwoods.

Someone had already taken the name ‘Redwoods’ on Twitter so I just stuck a 1 on it. Now I’m @Redwoods1 everywhere and even my own publishing company is called Redwood Tree. I like it – it implies longevity, standing tall, consistency, growth, beauty, strength and freedom.

Red hair became synonymous with my identity in the 00s and I took pains to make sure the colour was just right. I was born with chestnut-brown hair that started going grey when I was in my late 20s, early 30s and I’ve been colouring it for as long as I can remember. I tried blonde for a while in the ’90s, to better manage the grey grow-out, but I felt like I’d lost my identity and disappeared into the crowd. Being red helped me to stand out, and I needed its help, I thought.

I’ve spent hundreds, probably thousands, of pounds over the years keeping the roots at bay. I’d have to think about the timing of holidays, work events and birthdays, to make sure the dreaded badger stripe didn’t make an appearance. The horror!

Then everything changed. Last Christmas in Goa I noticed that there were lots of women my age (50s) with beautiful silver hair on the beach. They were mid-transition or fully transitioned and they looked fantastic. They were just themselves – being. I started to look at myself in the brilliant Indian sunlight and saw the fakery very starkly. The red hair, the make-up I wore at night. It made my face look green. Something about the Goan sunshine highlights anything that’s fake, including yourself.

After I’d given up drinking in January and started yoga teacher training in May I had an urge to be fully authentic. Who was I trying to be? Somehow my red hair was synonymous with the publishing powerhouse persona I’d cultivated over the 23 years in the industry. As I asked myself questions about why I craved professional success so much when I’d already proved myself, I started to ask myself why I needed to be Redwoods1 at all.

How much of her was the real Lisa and how much was she a persona I adopted to make my way in the world? Underneath the extraverted redhead was there still an introverted Welsh girl who was happier living a simpler, less exhausting life?

My roots started to show as I completed the yoga training because I hadn’t planned to be in India for so long. I had, of course, booked a hair appointment in May and had planned my visit to Goa around my root growth. FFS. Imagine a man having to think about that.

I started to wonder why I’d panicked so much about missing my hair appointment and some other insignificant events back at home when I’d decided to do the training. I looked at my silvers coming through and quite liked how they glittered in the sun. I joined an online forum for women transitioning their hair and realised there was a trend for grey hair, inspired by Game of Thrones. Young women were colouring their hair grey because it emulates powerful female fictional heroes. If ever there was a moment to do it, this was it.

I’m five months in now, and the pictures I’ve posted here show me as a freshly coloured redhead, still drinking, still wearing makeup, through to my latest hair appointment. I have about four inches of grey growth now, and my wonderful hairdresser, Nick Bland at Haringtons Soho, has been managing the transition by toning out my red and adding silver highlights.

I like this shiny, new me. A male friend recently remarked that I look ‘brand new’ like I’ve been ‘reborn’, and I think my hair is part of it. Friends’ reactions have been interesting – men are the first to say my new hair suits me, women either don’t comment at all or say that it doesn’t look any different, I just look sun-kissed. It’s as if, as women, we’re programmed to deny that grey exists at all. When I had my first transition hair appointment, another female hairdresser went past and asked me what was happening with my colour. “I’m growing out my grey,” I said. She put her hand on my shoulder sympathetically, “No, you’re going blonde…”

Men often used to ask me if my red was natural and it made me squirm. Now I can honestly say that yes, this is the full natural me. All I’m hiding behind is a bit of mascara. No concealer, no foundation, no blusher, no eyeliner. I like the first picture of me, all made up with my red hair, but I like the last one a whole lot better.

Bring on the silver because I can’t wait to sparkle again.

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My Name Is…

Much has been made of international human-rights lawyer, Amal Alamuddin’s decision to take the name of Clooney, following her marriage to the actor, George. The world is still divided into those who do and those who don’t take their husbands’  surname, with a venn-diagram central portion who put both names together. Cute.

It made me remember that moment when I got married and took my (now ex-) husband’s name, and how wonderful it was to state it proudly on every bit of paper, and in every situation. Hello, I’m Mrs Mudie.

I know what you’re thinking. How do you say that? It’s east-coast Scottish: pronounced Mew-dee. Every time I went anywhere or made a phone call involving stating my name I inevitably had to do two things: a) correct their pronunciation from ‘Muddy’ or ‘Moody’, and b) spell it out: M. U. D. I. E.

At first, I rather liked the novelty of it, but it soon became tiresome. Especially when I received a letter to ‘Mrs Nudie’. But we laughed about it, and all the variations on pronunciation and spelling just became a fact of life for me.

During the final year of my marriage and my push for independence and freedom I began to realise that I’d lost something of myself. Part of that self was to do with my name. The only situation I’d not changed my name in was work, and at the time, my career was burgeoning. I was working on movie tie-in publishing, getting a name for myself on the conference circuit and making my mark in the world. The person doing this wasn’t Mrs Mudie – she was very much Lisa Edwards, and still is. She was who I wanted to be.

When I became single I wanted to change my name back so badly, but there was a period where I was waiting for the divorce to come through, where I had to remain with my married name while the paperwork was completed. I went on holidays, alone, as Mrs Mudie, bought a flat as Mrs Mudie and paid my bills as Mrs Mudie. How weird to still be her and yet doing all of these independent things.

I finally changed my name back last year and it felt so good. One of my favourite bits in Sex and the City is when Carrie loses her precious ‘identity’ necklace with her name on it – the one she wears throughout the series. She is with a man whose ego – his life, his work, his needs – threaten to subsume hers and the moment is poignant. And then comes the joy of rediscovering the necklace in a hole in her vintage purse – marking the moment when she comes out of this unsatisfactory relationship to find herself again. Fairly obvious stuff, but it always makes me very happy when I watch this scene – I know how delicious that feels.

There are still a few moments when the odd bit of mail comes through from a company that still has my old name and they hit me like a tiny electric shock. Oh yes! That used to be me! I have loved getting my real name back again. Edwards. It’s such a Welsh name and I am proud of it. My grandmother’s name was Dilys Myfanwy Edwards, and I always say you can’t get much more Welsh than that (although I don’t know her maiden name – but I’m betting it was Jones, Roberts, Thomas or Davies).

I’ve recently been typing up my father’s attempt at writing a memoir – he didn’t get very far, but I loved all the names in the first part of the story – Welsh names aren’t hugely varied so the Joneses and the Roberts’s feature heavily. There’s even a Mrs Roberts the Shop, like something out of Under Milk Wood. I like that my name comes from a small pool of names that are an immediate regional identifier – of course I’m Welsh.

People ask me where I got my Twitter name from @Redwoods1 – this comes from the fact that my full name is inevitably pronounced Lisa Redwards, because there are two vowels together in Lisa Edwards so it’s easier to put an R in there when you say it out loud. Redwoods then became a bit of a nickname for me on a holiday during my final months as a married lady. I’d gone away on the spur of the moment with two work girlfriends to San Francisco. It remains one of the best things I’ve ever done – we’d decided to go during a wine-drinking session after work, and put our plan into action (I still can’t believe the company let all three of us managers go). For part of the trip we stayed in a gorgeous cabin in the forest in Sonoma. After visiting various wineries by day, we lounged outside in the hot tub, drinking Corbel sparkling wine, surrounded by Redwood trees. ‘Redwoods!’ one of my friends exclaimed. ‘Lisa Redwoods!’ The name stuck, not least because of my reddish hair.

That holiday was a turning point for me. Redwoods beckoned – the woman who wanted to experience the world as an independent person, who wanted to get on a flight to SF without thinking about it and end up in a hot tub in Sonoma with two girlfriends, a gay couple and a load of sparkling wine, smiling up at the trees.

So here I am.

Because I can.

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Why do we care so much when women change their maiden names?:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/poorna-bell/amal-alamuddin-clooney_b_5981286.html