Saturday, March 20, 2010

Grey is the new Green

Do you know someone --anyone -- above the age of 40 who has NEVER coloured her hair?

I was researching old people in my mid-30s. It was advantageous to me then to point out that I was already greying and felt much at home with the old people I spent a lot of time with.

But they kept telling me I was grey not because I was old (they were in their 70s, 80s and 90s and I was relatively young to them), but that I read too many books.

Crunch came when I returned to Singapore to prepare for my wedding. Friends suggested that I might consider colouring my hair, either "just to hide the grey", or sometimes in a more diplomatic way, to give it some 'highlights'.

Having seen my mum struggle to keep her hair black when there wasn't that wide array of over-the-counter hair dyes we now have, and having seen how beautiful she looked when she went completely 'silver', I was loath to colour my hair.

Some years back one hairdresser had in fact suggested my trying "burgundy highlights", because my hair had shades of burgundy and a burgundy wash-in colour would be great.

I learned that it would wash out in about 16 washes. A complete waste of money then, as I wash my hair every day.

The colour of my hair has always been a mystery to me. It has never been black, or I've never remembered it as black, like that of the rest of my family (at least when they were, uhm, younger).

I used to be told -- and believed -- that I was picked up from the dust-bin (Singapore equivalent to "the stork brought you") and felt truly out of place for many years.

One day (and I remember this very clearly) sick and tired of being teased for my not-so-black hair I stood in front of the mirror and started plucking out those hairs which were not black.

After a few minutes I realized it was futile. I would have been left without any hair. So I decided to live with my hair with all the different shades of brown, and even a few strands of orange (or 'red' as the Europeans call it).

It was not until I was sitting my 'O' Levels and waiting for my oral exam (English or Chinese, can't remember) while chatting with another girl that I learned that many other girls would die/dye to have hair colour like mine.

Really? I didn't know that.

Fast forward to one Wednesday morning after playing Majulah Singapura at the flag-raising ceremony at junior college. The sun was beating down on us as usual, even at just after 7.30am. A fellow clarinettist (I had defected from the trombone section then) exclaimed in disbelief, "SP, you have orange hair!"

Once on a bus I heard the driver and his mate talking about a girl with "ang tao mor" which in my limited Hokkien means "red hair". I didn't think anything of it till I was getting off the bus and realized I was the only person on it and they were in fact talking about me.

So how on earth did this Chinese girl acquire red and brown hair? No one knows. One niece also has this red hair (I don't know if she's lost it since) and so does my son (who incidentally has one strand of white hair, or is it blond?). Mum-in-law insisted that no one in her family (ie including husband's) has ever had red hair.

Back to the wedding. I didn't want to dye my hair and had to come up with an excuse or two:
  1. It has taken me so long to find the man I wished to marry I have hair to match the colour of my wedding gown. Why hide it?
  2. If husband-to-be would dye his grey hair, then I would, too. (Knowing full well Mr T would not bother.)
  3. Why bother? I already have natural highlights!
I am really loving my salt-and-pepper hair with its 'natural highlights' now. But I was surprised to learn that most of my female friends and relatives have resorted to colouring their hair.

As one of my old ladies from my research days said to me, "Don't start dyeing your hair. Once you start, you cannot stop." She had jet-black hair, totally out of place with the rest of her.

Yes, I noticed that my skin colouring (tone?) has changed as I age. While I used to wear a lot of black, especially to work, I cannot now wear black any more. I look ghostly. Not for me the LBD (Little Black Dress).

And as I've never had black hair it seems silly to try to turn it black. I am happy and comfortable to be grey.

Why is grey green? Just think of all the packaging, plastic gloves, paper instructions, and other paraphernalia that come with hair colouring products. Not only have I saved a lot of money by not bothering, I have saved a lot of unnecessary packaging going into landfill.

A few days ago I came across a newspaper article going on and on (and on) about Liz Hurley showing her grey roots. Has she decided to age gracefully, etc, etc. Goodness! Why such a big fuss about a few greying hairs?

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."
Proverbs 31:30

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