When I am an old woman I shall be purple

According to my blog stats, someone, somewhere has made their way here by searching for “Aishwarya has grey hair?”. I was startled when I found this out this morning because Aishwarya does indeed have grey hair. At least, I did yesterday, though it was only one hair. And I pulled it out immediately. I’m rather surprised by this reaction, because I’ve been rather looking forward to the grey-haired part of my life.

Those of you who know me know I’m very (perhaps overly) concerned with the condition of my hair. I like it to be curly. I like it to smell nice. I like it to be clean and bouncy and soft and smooth and pretty. Which is why I’m terrified of hair dye. I have black hair, which means that for pretty much any colour to show up, evil chemicals would have to participate in the process. My one experience with highlights, four years ago, was unfortunate – parts of my hair felt like straw, split ends sprouted all over the place, and I was very sad. So I’m waiting till I have enough grey hair that I can use startling colours and be interesting.

My mother insists that grey hair is far more attractive on men than on women. The first time she did this, I went off into a long spiel about how our culture does not allow women to age, sees aging in women as deterioration, I quoted extensively from The Beauty Myth, and all in all sounded very intelligent (if very ranty). When I was done, she said something along the lines of “yes, but all this is why I find grey hair more attractive on men. It doesn’t change the fact that I do”. Which, well, yes. I like grey haired men too, but can’t remember the last time I found an older woman attractive on anything more than an objective level.

It’s true; we do as a culture seem to punish women for aging. Most people dye their hair to hide the signs of aging (consider advertisements – the focus is less on the range of colours than on grey coverage) and so it isn’t supposed to be obvious that your hair has been artificially coloured. I’ve seen people sneer at men (it’s usually men who do this, for some reason) whose hair is improbably black (and thus obviously dyed), or people who use henna in their hair long after it’s turned white, so that instead of hiding the grey, the effect is a sort of bright orange. (When ads do focus on colour, they feature young women in their 20s – the ads with less outrageous colours usually have celebrities in their 30s and 40s – you can look like you’ve dyed your hair as long as it’s obvious you don’t need to. I remember Garnier Nutrisse had Kareena Kapoor advertise its range of reds, and even that ad mentioned grey coverage). In this fantastic interview of Shabana Azmi (it contains the line “You are 57, and glowing like a magic lamp”!) Shabana claims that her friends don’t like to be seen with her because their dyed hair will become obvious.

For myself, though, I’m going to make it obvious. I’m going to be the fifty year old woman with the bright purple (and shiny and healthy and pretty, so take that, beauty industry) hair. But first I need to train myself not to yank out every grey hair I see.

It is probably a good thing that I don’t plan to have children. They’d be mortified.

15 Comments to “When I am an old woman I shall be purple”

  1. I’m looking forward to grey hair myself. It’ll make me look rather distinguished, I think.

    My mother’s hair is now completely grey-white and she’s 45. It looks great on her but. BUT. My entire extended family seems to now consider her a blot on their hair-dye blackened landscape. My father, brother and I have fought with practically everyone we know, about this, and so have turned militantly anti-dye. I don’t suppose we’ll let my mum colour her hair back to black, now, even if she wants to (which I really doubt she does). We’ve turned her into a reluctant pro-grey activist. Heh. It’s a matter of family pride with us, now.

  2. bright purple….hmmmm…if you have children, they will be blessed with a psychedelic mother!


  3. i remember reading in my hindi textbook (either manasi or sanchayika; hindi course b; standard 10) that if you pull out one strand of white hair a “guchha” (bunch) will become white at the same spot.

    so i carefully preserve my white hair. on my head. and i hope to let my head grey (now that i have assurance from your mom that grey haired men can be attractive).

    and i would encourage you to check my “turn offs” in my orkut profile

  4. b. jabberjee – Your mother’s hair looks great the way it is now. As for your hair, you must let it grow a little longer than it is now, I think, and have it swept back from your brow. Or something.

    alex – Ah, but children are out of the question!

    wimpy – sure, but I have no desire to turn you on!
    Why was your Hindi textbook giving beauty advice? Why didn’t mine? I feel that my education has left me at a disadvantage.

  5. Bright green. That’s the way to go. Say you’re an eco-lover.

  6. As soon as my hair starts to pale, I will send you a telegram with the happy news/ mail you a recent photograph by speedpost and expect congratulatory remarks and hair-styling advice. You’ve known my head longer than most people have and so probably know what’s best for it.


  7. Or you could dye it completely white and style it like Marie Antoinette. Hers was a wig, of course; you, however, will need to practice how to imperiously say, “No naans? Let them eat halwa instead.”

  8. Children are mortified by their parents anyway. You might as well give them a good reason, should you ever have them. According to Mommybloggers, you certainly will. And do you really want to defy mommybloggers? Their wrath is terrible!

  9. My father’s ill-advised adventures with hair dyes have filled me with dread – he came out the other side with hair much whiter than ever before, and I wouldn’t want a dye that actively works towards addicting me to itself.

    I wouldn’t mind grey hair myself (my sis and mum insist I will grey prematurely because I hate hair oil), as long as I have a full head of it. I mean, sure, I go bald once in a while, but that’s out of choice. I shudder to think of a time when someone reminds that I should shave my head, because the gaps are showing.

    Thankfully, attractiveness and I don’t have even a passing acquaintance, so this particular issue will never hold centrestage.

  10. I’ve had grey hair since I was 15, I think… one of the many bad genes I inherited from my father. And I like them. People always go “Oh Sumedha, you have white hair” in tones of complete shock, but I don’t pluck them out. The myth (is it?) that plucking makes double the number of white hair grow back also stopped me. :)

    I have a friend who has greyed way too much for his age. He once tried henna, and I sincerely hope all the jokes we cracked on his reddish-orange hair will have taught him to never do so again.

  11. I have, I think, two grey hairs. I can never find them when I’m looking for them, though; the boyfriend occasionally finds one and points it out.

    Mind, I also dye my hair (for practical and religious reasons) with henna, so I’ll probably be orange someday. May swap from the red to the red-brown.

    I knew a woman with glossy black hair who actually dyed it with Kool-aid. The effect was spectacular — glossy black with green highlights. She looked like a refugee from an anime. I don’t know if that would work for curly hair, though, and I suspect especially in curls it’d get sticky.

    I need to make another go at dyeing my tips blue …

  12. ??! – Nah. Wouldn’t suit my skin tone.

    B. Jabberjee – This pleases me.

    BP&SK – I fear that Evil Chemicals would be needed for this effect also. Plus I couldn’t be imperious if I tried.

    Aadisht – …so you’re saying I should have children then?

    Aditya – If you go bald often enough no one will know when the transition occurs.

    Sumedha – I wish I’d started that early. I remember one grey hair when I was in my teens, but it never multiplied. :(

    dw3t-hthr – The kool-aid thing sounds marvellous, but horrifically sticky (and smelley?). And I refuse to give up my curls.
    Also, have you tried these?

  13. Try Biotin (B-vitamin) for your hair-health. Women are chronically low in Biotin. Also, I hear that sage (dark, not the white kind) mixed into shampoo helps alleviate gray hair, but that’s mere hearsay!

    There are some great natural herbal dyes, such as Tints of Nature, which I think is a British brand. It washes out slowly over time, and is not so “extreme”–my daughter uses it to keep her hair unnaturally flaming red. :)

  14. That is in fact the henna I use these days.

    And the henna I used to dye my boyfriend’s hair, for that matter. ;)

  15. I once got red highlights in an attempt to look different for my birthday party. Highlight, though, is an ambitious word.. what actually happened in the end was that multiple locks of my hair were bright red, and very, very frizzy.

    I eventually washed the whole thing off before the party, with (thankfully) very few people witnessing the experiment. I still have pictures though.. I did keep the red for about an hour just to enjoy the novelty. :)

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