I spotted my first grey hair when I was 20. I was a standard Year 2 medical student; exhausted, overworked, surviving on strong coffee and the goodwill of nurses. Over the next few months, that one sneaky grey strand became two. Then five.
I was ashamed. I mean, who greys at 20?
To make matters worse, my friends had glossy, dark tresses, with nary a hint of silver. So every morning I spent a good 10 minutes, artfully arranging my locks and walking out of my room, all casual, nonchalant. Nothing to see here, folks.
Soon, the five grey hairs became ten.
“Don’t you dare pluck them off!” hissed my mom over a late-night phone call. “They’ll grow back and this time, twice as fast!”
I rolled my eyes, but followed her advice just the same. The greys didn’t get the memo though, because the next time I checked, there were 15. They were getting harder to hide, so I took to trying new hairdos and experimenting with headscarves.
For the next few years, we had an uneasy truce. 15 stayed 15, and I was grateful for that.
My first pregnancy changed everything. I now had close to 4 dozen greys, and there wasn’t enough henna in the world to cover that mess up. I gave up and focused on my new baby, who didn’t care if my hair was blue or pink, so long as I kept the food coming. Plus, with a bawling infant, there was zero time to worry about how I looked.
And just like that, I stumbled into the art of elegant greying. Sudha Murthy, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, that random auntie from childhood who’d always sported grey hair. Sure, these women were decades older than me, but, hey! I was thrilled I had new role models to look up to. So, I flaunted my hair and embraced my body’s aging process.
Until I went for a haircut. The stylist working on me asked if I wanted to get the greys fixed.
“Nah!” I waved, “I like my greys. I’m all about loving my body and aging naturally.”
“Oh!”, she said, narrowing her eyes. “How old are you?”
She nodded and continued brushing my hair while I sat there, feeling ridiculous and small.
Didn’t I look 28? Probably not. Maybe getting the greys colored would fix that?
“But what about self acceptance,”, an angry voice whispered inside. “Love thyself and all that jazz?”
I sneaked a glance at the shiny posters on the wall. Ethereal faces with glorious tresses smiled back. Every color of the rainbow called out, teasing, titillating.
“You know what? I’d like to get my roots done.Do we have time for that today?”
An hour later, I walked outside, tossing my hair like a professional shampoo model. The best part? I felt like a new woman.
I’ve been seeing a colorist for a few years now. At first, the appointments were for covering my greys, but over time, we’ve evolved to fashion hair colors and cuts. She’s a master at her craft, and we experiment with safe, sustainable choices for my hair type and length. I’ve learned a lot about caring for my tresses, and my hair has never been healthier.
Somewhere along the way, I discovered that self-love can mean a variety of things. For some women, it’s not changing a thing about themselves. For others, it means fitness and keeping active. For many, it means expertly applied eyeliner and that perfect shade of lipstick. And for so many of us, it’s about these things at different points in our lives.
There’s no shame in choosing beauty routines, just like there’s no shame in staying natural. Our bodies are ours to cherish, any way we choose. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
I’m in my thirties now and love my hair! In spring and summer, I choose vibrant reds with peekaboo purples. During the colder months, I love deeper hues of cinnamon and wine.
I’ll age gracefully, the way I choose to. And right now, I’m doing it with a fabulous head of healthy hair!