Why I’m embracing grey hair during COVID-19
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Grey hair, don’t care
My mum hated my white hair. She hated it when it first sprouted in my early twenties. She hated it six years later when I too busy raising a small child to keep up with covering my increasingly silver roots. And she really hated it when, years later, I finally decided to let it grow out.
I was in my 30s when I first started to truly get fed-up with my hair-dye routine. Twice a year, I’d splurge for a salon to professionally dye my hair, but within a few weeks, I was back to needing a top-up. To help save my bank account, I’d then grab the cheapest box of dye on the shelf and dutifully slather its contents on my head. Still, I’d see white roots within two weeks. And, because I often grabbed whatever was on sale, even when I kept up the schedule my head was a random mix of sable, chicory and a dozen other names for “brown.”
I began to strategically style my hair with colourful headbands. I used a kind of hair paint to touch up my roots, even though it never quite matched my actual hair colour. I discovered a love for hats.
At one point, I bought the blackest black dye I could find, thinking I could at least reset my locks to a single colour. Instead, I stained my forehead charcoal. I walked around that way for weeks before it faded. After, I thought: that’s it. I refused to buy another box of cheap dye, and decided that if I really wanted a do-over, I was going to get back to my natural hair first—even if it meant embracing the grey.
Meanwhile, my mother was in her mid-fifties and three decades into her own Clairol pledge. Her hair was dyed jet black, and like many women in the Indian community I grew up in, she believed grey hair meant she had given up on being attractive. “What will people think?” she’d ask me, glaring at the curly, grey rebels wending their way through my dark hair in growing numbers, “That I have jet black hair and my child is going grey?”
I’d respond by pointing to a photo of her mother, my Nanni. In India, women commonly disguised the age of their hair. Once they became widows, however, they were expected to look the part. After her husband died, Nanni wore her hair in a single, snow-white plait that ran halfway down her back. She was only in her 40s, but she loved her white hair. With it, she was no longer expected to wear bright saris and makeup, or to endure the catcalls of men as she walked outside. To her, white hair symbolised freedom.