So, apparently, the long and tedious course of the pandemic impelled a lot of us, humans, to embrace our greys. Salons were closed, for one. More importantly, most of us weren’t going out — or letting ‘the others’ step in to our spaces. For social media, one could always use that beauty app, you know the one that makes your hair take on any shade under the rainbow. Those compulsive (hair) colourists took to stepping back from that routine, and ran the course being brave… and grey.
But now that things are getting to normal, there are reportedly those who feel so “comfy” in different shades of grey and greyer — 50 (shades, not years) or otherwise — that they have decided to remain that way. There are tomes being written on how Covid has made us less shallow since we have all been introspecting about stuff that really matters, the grey matter, but going grey, sorry, doesn’t fall into that groove. Those who have decided to remain true to their (hair) roots are being felicitated, and given virtual pats on their locks for “taking a stand”.
A leading American newspaper carried a piece on “self-drop”. It means letting yourself go. The piece debated whether or not people feel letting your greys show is a sign of letting go — a sign that you’re giving in to the challenges tossed by life, visibly “ageing”, and showing yourself up as being “frail”. Or is it a sign of savvying up to self-worth, and deciding “you are what you are”?
I really have no idea how this will pan out, and if we will, indeed, see a healthy smattering of greys and silver streaks from now on as ‘Embrace Your Greys’ becomes a strident hashtag. But I do remember how, a few years ago, Kate Middleton was “shamed” for not covering up her greys. It became a “thing”: everyone was talking about it, relentlessly, as though they did not have anything else to do in their lives. The last straw was when ‘celebrity hairstylist’ Nicky Clarke remarked: “Kate needs to get rid of her grey hair — it’s not a good look. Unfortunately, it’s the case for women — all women — that until you’re really old, you can’t be seen to have any grey hair… Kate is such a style icon that even a few strands of grey would be a disaster, so I highly recommend that she cover it up. I hate grey hair.”
Other than being wildly inappropriate as it was, it also led to a sexist debate: why do grey-haired men like George Clooney get called “silver foxes” while women have to contend being referred to as old hags?
Then again, I know so many men who — unlike Clooney — would give the ladies a run for their salon treatment money. There’s this gent, a lovely man, who dutifully colours his hair once every fortnight, because a time lag longer than that will have white roots peeping out, not a pretty sight. The double whammy is he has a beard and a moustache (the beard, he says, is to camouflage his double chin that “adds years” to his face), and these have to be tended to as well (well, because it looks slightly odd having raven black head hair and salt-and-pepper facial hair — his words, not mine). Now, the problem is that facial grows faster (ever heard of the 5 o’clock shadow?), so he has to colour his facial hair every three days because, in about 48 hours, whites start interfering with the landscape.
Such effort, I told him, I’d never have the patience to do that.
It’s vanity, he philosophised gamely.
During the lockdown, I asked him if he was continuing with his colouring routine. Nope, he said gleefully: “No one to see me, no one to judge.” But now that hunker-down time is effectively over, he’s back to his old regimen. “I remain vain… and shallow,” he sighed.
The other day, another friend pinged to tell me she’s decided to colour her hair at long last. Not because she’s “greying” — she claims her hair is still as youthful as ever — but because she wants to be “trendy”.
“What colour?” I asked.
“I’m getting it coloured grey.”
“Grey? Why do you want to make your dark hair grey? Isn’t that like counterintuitive?”
“No, no, it’s not the ‘old-age grey’ silly! It’s a new-age grey, this one is real cool, looks super chic.”
That got me thinking: is this a smart move by #EmbraceYourGreys to get women to fall in love with grey hair? By calling it new-age?