Going grey? Forget what everyone thinks and follow your heart



The humble cockroach – fat, brown, twitchy-winged, survivor of nuclear holocausts – has long been the most reviled living creature in all the known universe, tied for joint first place with rats and lizards. And possibly pigeons.

I have, however, discovered one instance where a cockroach would emerge the victor in the ‘Would You Rather’ competition, and it is in the following scenario: Would you rather have a cockroach crawl up your sari (or shalwar/jeans/shirt – we are not picky here) for five minutes? Or would you rather never go near a bottle of hair dye again?

Global consensus: hair dye is as crucial as oxygen

I put the question before a generous sample size of twelve women of varying nationalities spread across the globe, whom I am happy to take as a scientific representation of the female population of the Milky Way. They all picked the cockroach, and although it was not a requirement of the questionnaire, they also kindly recommended which colour would best suit my hair.

My hair is currently in the process of being colonised by greys at the speed of light. I personally blame the greys on poor genes and children who, an hour before leaving for school, will say things like, “Oh I forgot to tell you, but I need 500g qeema for my food tech lesson today, is there any chance we could go to the shops right now?”

The twelve women – all of whom have fabulous hair, by the way – do not blame the children or the qeema. They blame (my) idleness. The younger women gave a scientific analysis of why self-care was important, and how one of the main routes to achieving it is through the salon and foil strips. The older Pakistani ones – the most devoted of all to maintaining their youthful glow – were less interested in self-care and more horrified by the thought that one of their own could walk around so brazenly without giving a thought to what everyone else would think. Like a beautician in a salon giving her thesis on everything that is wrong with your appearance (“Oh I remember these blackheads!” and “Wow, you’ve not been in for your eyebrows in a long time!”) they attempted to make me see reason.

“Listen,” said the one lady in her seventies whose identity I dare not disclose, on account of her having my phone number, and also my parents’ phone numbers. Let’s call her Mrs B, because she is going to be featuring rather a lot in this story. “You are still young, and if you don’t watch out, you are going to start looking older than me. Why are you doing this to yourself?”

Anticipating this line of questioning, I had prepared an impressive talk on financial responsibility, taking a stand to show my daughters that beauty comes from within, and that little conclusion on how it is unnecessary to be a slave to the salon. Which was a total lie; I am all for rejecting the tyranny of salons in principle, but even someone as fashionably uninspired as me finds it difficult to resist their call. Every few weeks my local salon receives a frantic phone call from me and has to slot me in for an emergency eyebrow appointment, often at the expense of the woman having her nails done (although this is actually a win-win, because the nail woman can use my eyebrow time to make a final agonising decision on which pink she is going to live with for the next three weeks.) In any case, for the perennially disorganised, following a regimental hair-dye schedule is beyond our limited capabilities, backed up strongly by the stratospheric cost of the conditioning treatment required to keep the scarecrow-like dyed texture at bay. I nearly died when I saw the price of salon-approved conditioner.

Doing it for others

I did not get a chance to delve into the ‘perennially disorganised’ segment of my argument to Mrs B, because my anti-slave-to-the-salon movement nearly brought on a cardiac arrest. “But your husband!” she all but cried. “Doesn’t he try to make you see sense? It’s important for a woman to look good for her husband!”

Pakistani ladies of a certain generation are addicted to taking a husband’s viewpoint on beauty matters. Me asking the husband’s opinion on hair-related matters would yield as much results as if I asked him whether we should move to Pluto or Mars. He would much rather be pondering over more critical matters, such as whether he should give up following cricket altogether than give any useful comments regarding hair that does not belong to him. (I’ve tried. The sentence “Do whatever you want” is not the beacon of helpfulness everyone thinks it is.)

The route away from colouring roots

In a flash of inspiration, I explained to Mrs B that it was actually very fashionable to reject artificial hair colour, and that many celebs have hopped aboard the ditch-the-dye trend. She did not believe a word of this and demanded examples. “Mary Berry,” I said, not figuring Mrs B to be a baker. Sadly, Mrs B knew exactly who Mary Berry was, and inched ever closer to that cardiac arrest. From that point on, it did not matter which name I threw out. Neither Emma Thompson, nor Meryl Streep, nor Andie McDowell – all of whom have beautiful grey or white hair that shines out like a lighthouse at award events – were able to help my cause. “Marina Khan, then,” I supplied desperately, hoping that someone more local would allow Mrs B to reduce her blood pressure. “Shahnaz Sheikh! Samiya Mumtaz!”

“These women all look old,” said Mrs B scornfully. “Do you want to look old too? I’m sending you a link to the best dye for your hair right now. Get it done by the next time I see you.”

Fortunately, Mrs B and I are separated by several thousand pounds’ worth of airline tickets. Mrs B also has a poor internet connection, so it is unlikely she will catch sight of my offensive greys, either in real life or online, in the near future. Until then, I will be on the lookout for younger celebs who will join me in rejecting the tyranny of salons, and maybe together, we can turn the tide and do what no one in history has ever achieved: make greys fashionable.

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