Archive for February 15th, 2008

February 15, 2008

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.