Fiona Bruce, grey hairs and the Emperor Augustus' joke
I'm sad that Fiona Bruce feels that she HAS to dye out her grey hairs to appear on telly. I'm perfectly OK with dyeing... the more shocking pink the better, I say -- but not with feeling that you HAVE to. And it's all so self-fulfilling. The more the grey is dyed out, the more women feel that that they have to. I cant help thinking that in a couple of hundred years time people will be writing essays on why women in the 21st century had to disguise their hair colour (at considerable cost in time and exoense), just as we now wonder about those Victorian women who wielded their crinolines).
It was funny, though, just as the Bruce article was hitting the headlines, I was reading about the Roman emperor Augustus' view of getting rid of grey hair (that's him above).
This was in the course of writing my book on Roman laughter.
The passage in question comes from Macrobius' wonderfully learned Saturnalia. It's a section in Book 2 where the learned interlocutors of this dialogue turn to discuss jokes -- including those by the emperor Augustus and his daughter Julia.
The relevant bit of banter goes like this. Julia, Macrobius explains, was going grey and she started having the grey hairs plucked out. One day, her father Augustus interrupted her while this as going on. The hairdresses stopped their work and he pretended not to notice the plucked grey hairs all over her clothes.They chatted for a bit, then Augustus asked her "would you rather be bald or grey in a few years time". "Grey, dad," she replied.
"So why are you having these women trying to make you bald so quickly?" the wise old emperor asked.
Oh .. plucking isnt exactly the same as dying. But in this anecdote at least Augustus comes across as a man after my own heart.