Grey Matters?

I got my hair coloured for the first time 12 years ago. And two years ago, I decided to stop that. I do like my natural hair colour, which is like a sun-kissed dark brown, and my hair is becoming healthier. Win-win, what? There will always be some naysayers. They make the world a little more interesting, albeit irritating, place to live in.

Recently I visited some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. As I hugged one girl, I heard two people standing behind me snicker and say, “Sh. Don’t tell her.”
I turned around. “Don’t tell me what?”
“Oh…nothing,” the boy lied.
“Tell me.”
“Um…you have a white hair on the back of your head,” he said with a smile that bordered on a smirk.
“I have three,” I corrected him. “One where you saw it, one on the side, and one on top, right in the middle.”
He narrowed his eyes and shook his head, saying slowly, “Why do you have white hair?”
If, at the age of 28, he doesn’t know why people have white hair it’s not my job to educate him. Such a question is best ignored. Or it should have a response like, “Because you’re just that annoying.” Instead I said, “Excuse me?”
He went again. “Why don’t you colour it?”
“Because I don’t care about a few white hairs? Because I like my natural hair colour? Because I don’t want to?”

Seriously, what is the problem here? Why should I have to dye my hair just because there are a few whites in there? And how, for goodness’ sake, is it anyone else’s business?

My hair-stylist actually pointed out each hair to me. I already knew about two (thanks to my brother), those he confirmed. Then as the other stylist there came up to us and said something, mine chuckled, and said, “Okay, I didn’t want to tell you but there’s a third one back here.”
“Oh okay,” I said nonchalantly. It really didn’t matter that much.
“Do you want to colour your hair?” he asked me.
“Nope,” I replied. “First I’m going to see how I deal with it.”

I didn’t always think like this. My first white hair appeared quite some time ago and, ignoring my brother’s cries of  “Six will spring up in its place!”, I plucked it out a few times. FYI, the fabled six new white ones did not show up. However, I think I uprooted the silver strand because, at that time, I wasn’t ready to grow up just yet. I didn’t want to accept it. Also, at that time, thirty seemed a scary number. But, as you can see, my take on that changed too. I’m not a different person because my age has hit a certain number. I just try to make wiser, smarter decisions that I’m sure of. And that’s because I spent my first 30 years on many people who aren’t valuable to me today; I don’t want to have that happen with the next 30.

I’ve come to the realisation that these greys are just a sign of growing older and I don’t want to cover that up until I find out what it really means to me or how it affects me. I want to see how I handle signs like these in a world obsessed with youth. Of course, I use anti-aging creams and sunscreen and sunglasses…to prevent wrinkles, sunspots, dark circles, etc. Sure, I want to keep all these side-effects of aging at bay for as long as possible, but they have to be dealt with at some time or the other. I’d rather be comfortable in my skin as I grow than groan and moan because of something so natural as age and life. It’s something each and every one must progress through. There’s nothing unique about it.

When I decide to, I will have my hair coloured a beautiful deep chestnut or mahogany brown and I’ll enjoy it. But until then I have a chance to learn a little more about myself and I don’t want to lose it. It’s a period of a different kind of self-discovery, the kind that is possible only now, when gradually transitioning from one phase of life into the next. The transition is inevitable; it doesn’t matter if you resist it, lament it, freak out over it, or simply deny it. What does matter is what you make of the journey. And I want to savour it.

Three white hairs. One for each decade I’ve lived. So far.

4 thoughts on “Grey Matters?

  1. It is really rather unfortunate that people are so very obsessed with the looks of those around them, and white hair – as a perceived sign of age – is not seen in a very positive light by most folks, except when it is compared to wisdom (which, by the way, I believe to be utter rubbish in as much as a measure of the other person, as it is his or her own perception about what wisdom should entail). I remember this one time when my brother – 28 at the time – went for an interview for a top position at a well-known firm. After completing all the rounds he had to go through, he had a sit-down with the management, where one of the older men said, “You’ve done really well, but we were looking for someone with a little more white hair”. Facing the genetic hair loss issues that plague half our family, my brother responded, “I understand that. But by the time I’m old enough to have white hair, I probably won’t have any hair left, so if you want to hire me, now’s the time.” And he got that job, which told me pretty much just how much white hair is a sign of wisdom – or in this case, smarts!

    Age, after all, is just a number. And it’s not the colour of your hair that counts at all, it’s what the mind underneath it capable of achieving, and how the heart a little further down is capable of living!

    PS: For the record, I got my first white hair at age 21, so something tells me I can discount age from the equation. It’s not growing older, it’s melanin deficiency – which, by the way, is a perfectly normal thing in a huge chunk of humanity.

    1. I think what’s truly disturbing in that story is that presence or absence of grey/white hair would affect a job opportunity.

      I’m not looking to start a male-female debate here, but it seems to me that perhaps on men it is construed as an indicator of wisdom and on a woman, merely that of age.

      In any case, someday soon I’ll let the whites be an excuse to dye my hair, not the reason. ;)

  2. Thanks for your post. I’ve been there from dyeing for years to embracing the gray. There is a double standard: Men can rock gray hair and its called wisdom. But when women do it, in general, its called aging. I recently did an article about discrimination and gray hair and you may want to check it out. That said: I think one has to be pragmatic about all of this. You know your situation and job requirements(said and unsaid) better than anyone. Do what deep down feels right to you. If I had just three hairs of gray(I’ve got a full head now LOL) I would probably spare my self all the dying and use something just on the few grays. Just a spot dyeing if you will. Once more gray hairs come in then you could go all the way, if that works for you.

    To gray or not to gray has a lot to do with your temperament and how strong a person you are. I found if you can project a positive self image then people usually go with “your flow”. What has happened in this society for so long is that we’ve only seen pitiful pictures and images of women with gray hair. But I think if people will embrace it, get a sharp cut and build their fashion style around it and really rock and pop it, more people would get the courage to go gray. It took me a while to get their fully. But it sure is rewarding when you get there.

    So in sum, wherever you are on this journey is where I think you should be. The grays start to determine the journey. Your budget and need to blend in plays a part. But don’t beat yourself up for conforming if that is where you are; you have plenty time to change. But when you’re ready, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you on the road.

    1. Thank you for such a wonderful comment, Sandra.
      I recently chopped off my long curly hair for a short bob and even that was a big step for me. For now the grey really is just three hairs and I’m not sure how I will react when it’s three dark hairs instead, but that’ll just be part of the journey. The truth is that I would love to get a new hair colour, just for the vibrancy of it but since one day we won’t be able to enjoy our natural hair colour anymore I’m making the most of it while I can. Once I know the natural colour has faded, I will let myself be free to enjoy having my hair dyed in richer shades. Until then I’ll enjoy seeing the greys pop up. :)

      It does take strength to go grey in a world where it usually affects almost every perception of you (and the double standard doesn’t help). I admire the women who have embraced it and the women who’re encouraging each other to accept themselves for who they are, age and all, grey hair and all, wrinkles and all. It all just tells a story of a life well-lived.

      Accepting any of that is not something anyone can talk one into; it simply has to come from within. I hope, when I get to that stage, I can be as strong as you, people you know and some I know. Thank you for leading me to your website as well. I’m going to bookmark it and keep referring back to it.

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