Beauty is a smile and silver hair!

It was in my 30s that I began searching for grey hair – on my head, that is. No, not to remove them or begin dyeing my hair, but to flaunt them. Call me weird if you like, but I love to count my years and feel happy to have become a year older every birthday. In fact, ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be older than I was at that particular point of time.

Back in those days, it was not uncommon to have uncles and aunts who were slightly older, the same age or sometimes even younger than the nephews and nieces. I had become an aunt (chithi/maasi) when I was six. I had thrown a major tantrum because my young nephew wouldn’t call me chithi when he started talking! A couple of decades later when I became a great aunt, I naturally insisted that my great nephew and niece call me paati. They refused of course, because I was nothing like a grandma, frolicking as I was, along with the kids, with my black hair! That made me long for that mane of silver.

It never bothered me if heavily hennaed ladies in all their flaming-orange-crowning-glory addressed me as ‘aunty’. I felt happy that it made them feel young while it made my day because I was older than them! I actually feel upset when told, ‘You don’t look old enough to be a  grandmother.’ The other day, a mother and her young child got out of the lift as I was getting in and he asked, ‘Where is aaji (grandma) going?’ I heard his mother admonish him to say  ‘aunty’ and not aaji just as the doors of the lift closed. Had I been the only occupant, I would have opened the door and run after them to tell the woman that I was happy to be called a grandma, but I wasn’t. I have been looking for them since then, but I think they were visitors and I haven’t had any luck so far.

In fact my obsession for grey hair had been so intense that the brats often got out of  sticky situations – when they were sure to have got a scolding – by shouting, ‘Amma, there is a grey hair here!’ Whether there really was one or not, they would be off the hook with me searching frantically for the elusive grey in my hair! My goal in life at that point was to have a grey streak, not unlike Indira Gandhi. Even today, when contemporaries are feverishly colouring their hair to hide the silver or having it hennaed to come out looking as if they have inverted orange mops on their heads, I am vainly trying to pull out that lovely grey streak hiding under the black. I once even changed my parting, but it wouldn’t oblige by showing up to the world.

I have had running battles with the girls in the hair salons about my refusal to colour my hair. ‘At least get it hennaed,’ they plead. I set my teeth and shake my head, much to their disgust. ‘But you will look so much younger!’ they remonstrate and I laugh. ‘Who wants to look younger?’ I shoot back. Their nonplussed looks are priceless as they try to decipher this crazy woman who actually likes being old and looking it.

I am at a loss to understand the obsession with youth, the desire to stay young, appearing young and pretending to be young. ‘Old, who, me?’ they ask offended in the extreme, if you so much as hint at their advancing years. It is not just the oldies that are obsessed. Even youngsters lament the end of their teens/20s/30s as if they were in their 80s. It is not a female thing either as it applies to both genders.

I remember this movie Death becomes her, which has two women — Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn — who compete for the same man’s affections and drink a potion that makes them both immortal and youthful. They even try to make him drink it but he refuses. The end is hilarious with the pair of them literally falling apart, but still alive, while the man is dead.  As a black comedy it was fine, but the lengths to which folks go to appear young is sometimes ridiculous.

I can hear indignant cries of, ‘What is wrong with wanting to look young and beautiful?’ Nothing, except that no matter what cosmetic aid you use or surgical procedure you undergo, your body has aged, like it or not. Can anyone deny that even those who are agile and fit and full of stamina are that much older and slower than they were in their youth? Anyway, one doesn’t have to run up a skyscraper to prove that one is fit. Walking, yoga or even housework are just fine too. Or even staying active in whatever way possible – mentally and physically.

If you ask me, youth is highly overrated. True, you have the beauty, body and stamina to go with it when you are young, but ageing is beautiful too provided you do it gracefully and gradually.  I can think of one Indian beauty in the same breath as ‘ageing gracefully’ – Rajmata Gayatri Devi. She remained a beauty till the end, wrinkles, silver hair and all. While Amitabh sports a white French beard and jet black hair and looks more and more his age, I like the silver mane of Naseeruddin Shah and his wrinkled face better.

What a beauty!

What a beauty!

What is wrong being old, anyway? All it needs to brighten up an aged, lined face is a smile and a crown of grey/silver. Throw in some wrinkles and you have a classic beauty! The wider the smile, the more it lights up the eyes and the grayer the hair, the more beautiful it is. Salt and pepper would do too, but the prize goes to silver hair.

For close to three decades I have yearned for that crown of silver hair and all I can boast of is salt and pepper without a single discernible streak of silver.

Hope, they say springs eternal in the human breast. I am hoping it will be on my head in the form of a nice grey streak one day. Maybe it will be there next year. If not, I will be at least another year older. Yaaaay!

What do you feel about ageing?

Images courtesy:

Homepage: www.miligirlwellness.com, This page: http://m.bollywoodshaadis.com/

55 comments

  1. I am not sure if I agree with you that youth is overrated. At least talking about myself I have always enjoyed whatever the age I am presently the most – and even though I have outgrown youth myself I can still enjoy their company. But, in society – particularly in the Western world – age is not regarded as it ought to be. In my mind there is nothing wrong with being old. By then we have gather lots of wisdom and experience. We ought to be an asset to the rest of the society. By the way, my hair has gone grey long time ago. I didn’t wanted it and I didn’t not want it. It’s just how it is.

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    1. Great to see you here after a time, Otto 🙂 The reason why you don’t mind being old is because you are comfortable in whichever age bracket you are and have been. That is growing old gracefully, isn’t it? When I said youth is overrated, I meant that one finds only youth as being worthy of emulation and so we have septuagenarians and octogenarians trying to act and look like a 20-year-old instead of doing what you suggest — be an asset to the society and reveling in the knowledge. And yes, I noticed your grey hair, Otto 🙂

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  2. My mom is the one person I know who aged gracefully, zephyr, and I hope I can get the two of you to meet soon. I already have a few grey hair and am happy to flaunt them. I so loved this post of yours since there are such few women who think like us!

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    1. Glad to know your mother shares my love for silver hair. It would be wonderful to meet her 🙂

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  3. You sound just like my Mother 🙂

    I’m not sure what special herbs my Grandma prepared when my Mom was young, but her hair is black with just occasional strands of white hair, despite being the mother of two grown-up daughters and a grand mother. Though she does not get offended when people mistake her age, she wishes to have more strands of silver hair to complement her age 🙂

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    1. I have come to the conslusion that genes play a big part in greying. My mother, elders sisters, except one and brothers too began greying very late in life. I don’t exactly get offended but feel upset that I mistaken for someone younger 🙂 Once my elder son had admonished me for wearing a salwar-suit while going to meet his teacher because she had later told him that his sister had come to meet her. He was in middle school then. From then on, I remembered to wear a sari and put up my hair to look older 🙂

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  4. How did I miss this post? You really must send me notifications every time you post. Oh yes, I remember when I called you too young to be grandmother, you almost seemed offended :). Though I am not looking forward to grey hair as yet, I am perfectly fine with wrinkles, lines or whatever that age may bring along with it. I find it so pathetic when I see botoxed women with not a muscle moving looking like caricatures. You are right — accepting one’s age is graceful! And every person looks good if only they are comfortable in their skin. In this world chasing good looks, you are a breath of fresh air!

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    1. You should perhaps resume following the Cybernag on FB because it gets posted there the moment a post is published 😛 Seriously I forgot this time. Botox beauties, I call them. But when the face is lined and you have jet black hair, it looks sad too, doesn’t it? Sometimes dyes cause allergies and turn the skin black. No matter how much the advertisers scream that their product is natural, they are full of all kinds of chemicals. You remember THAT reaction about me when we had met, do you? 😀

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  5. Such a different thought and its like a breath of fresh air ! I have a lot of grey hair now and honestly, I have been in two minds whether to color or not.My hair stylist cries foul every time she spots my black and white peppered mane and tut tuts with disapproval. Looking old is definitely graceful and I admire people who can grow old with dignity instead of fighting, kicking and scratching all the way. To come back to the point just about hair, things that have kept me off the hair color so far are 1.I felt it gives a nice professional aura of seniority instead of looking young and wet behind the years 🙂 2. Hair coloring is expensive and its not a one time thing 3.Half the products are carcinogenic.. so I would probably die early with died hair 😀 4.Its a bother 5.Its good to look my age as I can profess to have more wisdom than the others :)..
    My only hope is that my silver streaks appear stylishly like Indira Gandhi instead of the unruly peppered mop I now have …Sigh. Cosmetic companies should introduce stylish greying products to add to their already burgeoning array of products.

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    1. The hairstylists are the most disgusted lot with a customer like me, because like you I have been refusing to comply with their suggestions for years now 🙂 Salt and pepper is not my colour of choice but that is what I have and I’d better make the best use of it. As long as your children are not embarrassed to have a prematurely greying mother, I guess you’d do fine as you are. Call it envt if you like, but I sometimes have a sneaking suspicion that the streak our ex PM had was perhaps artificial 🙂

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  6. Age,that is looking old,is only in the mind.
    Grey is so impressive

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    1. I am so glad you agree with me about grey hair, Chowlaji 🙂 In fact when we look our natural selves and feel young at heart even ageing is beautiful.

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  7. Hahaha…I haven’t met anybody who is desperate to have grey hair! Cosmetics people are going to wage war against you now!

    I too became a paatti when I was 22 itself! I am a great grand mother now but no one wants to call me paatti…I am maami for relatives of all ages!

    I started dying my hair with henna, some 8 years back then it is KACA which is said to be a herbal dye. I apply it once in 2 months. I have got salt and pepper hair. I am bored of dying and thinking of stopping it soon. People are used to seeing me in salt and pepper in the end of the second month anyway!

    Gayatri Devi was a beautiful woman. Her type of silver hair can be had after stopping using chemical dyes. It is visible. If you don’t use chemical dyes, the colour will be grey with slight silver colour!

    Amitabh is not using black dye, it is some orangish grey colour. It looks good on him. He is not bothered about his wrinkles and so he looks very majestic. I am watching ‘Yudh’ serial now! Though it is not very captivating, Amitabh is very good. Look at Hema malini…Butox face without any expression!

    I love Surekha Sikhri…she is not good looking but very very majestic.

    Want grey hair deparatly? Dye your hair with any branded hair dye…all hairs will become grey within 6 months!

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    1. You don’t understand! I want natural grey, not chemical induced! You seem to have done a lot of research on hair and greying 🙂 Pati at 22? Wow! I became a mother at 22 🙂 I didn’t say I don’t like Amitabh, just that I like Naseeruddin Shah better! And today I saw AB in an ad where his hair is also grey! I think he read my post 😀

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  8. I have not yet made peace with the fact of ageing because I do not like most of the aged I know and I fear I might turn into one of them. That people of my age showing such signs does not help either…

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    1. Oh, but that should be reason enough for you to aspire to be different, right? For no matter how much you deny growing old, the biological clock is not going to stop. After all, everyone has a different personality and they don’t become a certain way with age. So you should not worry about age but be comfortable with it. You will feel younger even if you don’t look young 🙂

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  9. Aiyo when I saw you for the first time, I must admit, I felt you didnt look as old as I thought you would :):) But then thats more to do with your enthusiatic personality than the grey hair I guess 🙂 (Errr..did you have any greys??)

    I have started greying but do apply mehendi once in three-four months..and honestly I like the bright red colour hair which the mehendi eventually turns all the white hair into…I havent gone for artifical colouring yet (scared of all the chemicals that go into it) but I am not sure of the future 🙂 I may be tempted eh?

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    1. Do you know RM, I used to feel bad if someone told me I didn’t look old enough and used to go to great lenghts to tell them how old I was 😀 Don’t tell me you like the flaming orange hair colour! Now you must be having streaks of orange, but when the whole head turns orange, you will have to begin dyeing your hair, I guess. Sandhya has some good ideas about hair and dyeing 🙂 Alas, it was my enthusiastic personality that made my great nephews and nieces refuse to call me paati 😦 Eventually I had persuaded them to do it though.

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  10. G.N. BALAKRISHNAN. · · Reply

    Let me frankly admit, without offending the womenfolk, that you seem to be strange and really out of the world in admitting that you would like to be counted as more aged than what you are actually. It is quite common among men, and even now, whenever any one asks me my age, I PROUDLY say I am 80, when in fact I will be 80 only in the last week of Aug, this year, Also, though born in a family where grey hairs appear as early as the late 20s, I was an exception, as the subtle hint of wisdom, exhibited itself only in my late 50s to my misfortune. The spirit of youthfulness is still aglow, mentally, though, signs of senility is gradually gaining the upper hand of late. This is part of evolution and I find it rather difficult to understand the reason for persons, especially middle aged ladies, refusing to divulge their date of birth , for reasons best known to themselves. Beauty is only skin deep and is purely a matter of perception of the beholder. Age has a beauty of its own, far more superior than visual beauty, The GRACE and POISE of the really aged has no match to concocted visual physical manifestation of beauty. I am quite sure, none will take offence to my above remarks and if it does, I only crave their pardon and indulgence.

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    1. I am a strange specimen, GNB and no offence meant or taken. So please relax. The post is about me and so no one else will take offence either 🙂 Like your family, we have this black hair gene too. Only one sister has silver hair and I love it! One reason for denying one’s age is, as Roshni has pointed out, is fear of one’s mortality and an overhyped advertisement of youth. You are still better than my husband, who believes in rounding off his age and mine. For instance if he is 62, it will be written or told as 65. The rounding off is always on the upper side 🙂 His reasoning, it is easier to remember. Only after they made the id cards compulsory in train travel has he begun giving his correct age!

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  11. Ha ha! Very enjoyable post, Zephyr!

    I agree completely about not colouring one’s hair. I believe in aging gracefully- why struggle to look younger than I am?

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    1. Exactly! Ehat a waste of time and energy,not to speak of money!

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  12. I guess most of us are more bothered about how we look than who we are.

    I had never been a fan of Rajinikanth’s, in fact I had hardly seen his films, until I saw him one day at close quarters on a flight, perfectly at ease with his natural look, which is completely different from his looks in films.

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    1. I have seen him on TV without his wigs and make up too. If you ask me, we all look good as we are, if only we accept our faces, complexion and appearance. But that still doesn’t make me not want my grey hair 🙂

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  13. Yet another lovely post! Keeping mind young is more important than worrying about streaks of grey hair:)

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    1. But Rahul, I WANT to look old not act old though 🙂

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  14. He he he reminds me .. my real mama is 6 months elder to me.. obviously my nana ji had royal taste it seems..he married again..

    I hate being called a uncle dont kknow why..and its a weekly panga when I talk to my mum on fone or my masi..they want me ti color my hair and beard as in the last one year my beard has gone all white..

    But it does not bother me..age is jusy a number.. I am more healthy now and do more things when I was 20..
    And actually I somehow like silver hair I actually one went to get my hair colored silver.. weird I know..grey hair show intelligence and experience.. at least that way I might look intelligent he he he else I am very stupid and a big idiot…

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    1. Welcome to the club of those who like silver hair. But be under no illusion that it means intelligence. Experience yes, but not always wisdom 🙂 But what is wrong with uncle? Aren’t you uncle to your nieces and nephews? My nephew who is just six years younger to me still calls me chithi, though he told me once that it felt weird to address me thus, as he himself has crossed 50! Who said you are an idiot? Anyone with such a large heart can’t be one, take my word for it!

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  15. Yaas. I do not mind age. In fact, if I ever fantasize about being younger again, I sigh immediately over having to pass exams/get a job/marrying/having kids AND *shudder shudder* having to do nappy duty and sleepless nights again.

    No Sireee… Am happy where I am, wrong site of 50.

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    1. Ha ha! Good point! I have never wanted to become young again, because of the things you have mentioned. Why look back, when one can look forward and hope to have that silver streak, eh? Good to find a fellow lover of old age 🙂

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  16. Ah,where is my comment?

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    1. It had gone into spam. Hope it doesn’t happen again. I am so sorry.

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  17. Haha….you sure are one of a kind Zephyr !
    If one starts to grey at a correct age ( say around late thirties or early forty)…then it adds dignity and grace to the person ( as in the case of Rajmata Gayatri Devi or Nasiruddin Shah ) ! But surely one wouldn’t like to have a streaks of grey hair in their twenties or sometimes even in their teens !
    Still I’d say..each to his own !:)
    Loved your post as always !

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  18. I have been happy with whichever age I was, and growing old or being called aunty never bothered me.In fact there are countless benefits to being old.
    Lots of love and happy greying Zephyr.

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    1. A post on the benefits of growing old is in order, then 🙂 Talking of being called aunty, I remember a neighbour of mine who had literally burst into tears for being addressed as one. We both had gone to the market and I was fine with it. Though she was of my age, she couldn’t digest the fact that the boy in the shop (it was a 15 year old boy, incidentally) called her aunty. Once we came home, her histrionics started much to my disgust. Thank you for your wishes. Next year is another year and maybe time for my streak to appear.

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      1. I too was thinking of writing about the benefits of growing old.
        While we were travelling to Delhi the TT asked my hubby for age proof,but since it was in the bag up on the rack he said don’t bother,you are a senior citizen I believe you.It was very pleasing.

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        1. When I said time for a post on growing older, I meant that you should be doing it. So when are you coming up with it? 🙂

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  19. So glad to have found someone with similar thinking. I couldn’t wait to be 60. For some reason it felt good, although nothing had changed overnight, except that I can now enter BEST buses from the front entrance, and stand in special senior citizen lines for things. 🙂

    Things are a bit tough if you have a daughter, who keeps looking despairingly at your hair. As far as that clump of grey hair, i do have one, but it is way at the back below the outside tresses, so one can see it (or others can) , only when one ties one’s hair up.

    It occurs to me that those who grow up being bombarded by TV ads, get traumatized the most. This obsession with youth is clearly detrimental to the mind.

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    1. Good that you have enumerated some benefits of ageing. For me it is getting concession in the railways! I can imagine that imp Pinky despairing over your hair. I remember her escapades in the hair department from one of your posts 🙂 But do you really think that ads can influence one, if one is strong and not insecure about her looks? Why can’t girls, who have so much going for them stand up and say, no to them, or ignore taunts? If you ask me, the girls themselves are to blame to a large extent especially in the days of social media and selfies galore.

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  20. jaishvats · · Reply

    Hi zephyr

    I got my first gray hair when I was 12 years old. Now at 33 if I don’t color my hair it will look like that lady’s picture you have posted.(the last one) In my case I do it just to look my age 🙂 and yes I really really envy those like you who have to hunt for that streak of gray. 🙂 but yes I agree one needs to age gracefully 🙂

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    1. They call it ‘pitta narai’ when greys prematurely. Sometimes it becomes necessary to dye to look one’s age asin your case. Besides, with young kids you can’t afford to have grey hair. Kids feel embarrassed at the smallest transgression (to their eyes) in the looks department 🙂

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  21. chsuresh63 · · Reply

    Ah! Some have age thrust upon them 🙂 In MY thirties, I was counting my hair 🙂 I cannot say I was really bothered one way or other. Young was OK, old IS too and what I am is what I am. I just get along with living the day 🙂

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    1. You are one of those who have aged gracefully, Suresh and also because you have that smile to make the grade. I am glad you were only counting the hairs and not running to one of those ‘hair BOUNDING’ centres or getting fitted for a wig 🙂

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  22. I believe people are afraid of getting old because they’re afraid of dying! But, what is the purpose of denying one’s mortality?!
    By the way, I’m a fan of Naseeruddin Shah myself! 😉

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    1. You have got it right. It is the fear of death that makes people deny their growing years and holding on to fading youth. Sometimes it is pathetic to see them do it. Good to find a fellow fan of Shah 🙂

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  23. As I started reading your article, I was thinking of ageing gracefully (and Rajmata Gayatri Devi); and lo and behold!, she found a mention in your last para. No talk about age and beauty is complete without her, right?

    This is like my obsession with glasses; I used to long during my teen years to wear glasses, as in my mind, it made one look wiser/smarter. My dad would admonish me and most of my friends who wore glasses (and hated it), never understood my obsession. Finally, I convinced my parents to get me photochromic eyeglasses to wear while riding my bike 🙂

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    1. Oh yes, I remember girls wanting to wear glasses and then came the time when they didn’t want to because they would appear like nerds 🙂 Isn’t Gayatri Devi so beautiful? I was so happy to find the pics that showed her beauty changing form with age.

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  24. Salt and pepper looks good as well and yes, wearing our crown with grace and dignity is the most elegant style. Wait till I show L’Oreal, Godrej hair dye and Wella this post. I am sure they would stay safe from people like you.

    “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be . . .”

    Joy always,
    Susan

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    1. Thank you Susan, for I feel that I will never get the silver hair at this rate. All I can boast of is salt and pepper 😦 You think the L’Oreal and Cowould be fazed? They will come up with special silver streak colours to cater to us! I am growing old, but I wish I had the silver streak to make me look older….

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  25. I think “beauty” is a myth created by society and the marketing of cosmetic/fashion industry. We are constantly sold these images of certain faces and body types and we begin to all believe that this is how we should look. A relevant link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzZqETo5h6c

    I miss seeing ‘real faces’ in the media – faces with imperfections. Faces with grey hair. And wrinkles. Where are all the real people, I wonder sometimes. I wish we could change this outlook. It begins with each of us. Good for you, you feel comfortable in your own skin (and hair!):-)

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    1. Interesting video. I agree with Kilbourne that it has become worse today than it ever did. I would say that it speaks more of the insecurities of women than the advertisers’ skill in persuading them to buy their products. Also, each preceding generation has something to do with these insecurities. In my case my mother was not obsessed with her looks or appearance. So we each of the four sisters developed our sense of self worth based on what we were instead of how we looked. Of course, during the teen years it had hit me, but I turned it to my advantage since the feminist movement had just been born with its radical message for girls. I briefly dallied with cosmetics but gave it up soon. Yes, I feel comfortable in my own skin and hair 🙂

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  26. I am first today? yayyy. And btw, you are weird, BM. Everyone wants to hide their silver streaks and you want to look old. Why? Again, you are not one of those everyone 🙂 Buy one of those shampoos loaded with chemicals and you are sure going to fulfill your silver dream by next year. :P. Right now, I am hennaying my hair, but I don’t think I will go dyeing to avoid the heck of pain attached to it. It was just the other day, mom and me were talking about Gayatri Devi and how beautiful she was. Really, she looks very graceful in her silver crown. Silver crowns are okay, but what looks bad is the salt and pepper hair 🙂

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    1. I think DI beat you to it this time 🙂 Never mind. As long as you are reading it is fine with me, dear. I am indeed weird, didn’t you know? Perhaps now you’d change your mind about me 😀 I have been using all kinds of shampoos all my life regardless of what they contain and my hair has not seen a drop of oil since the last nearly four decades. Still it is not obliging me by giving me one measly silver streak. And don’t tell me salt and pepper doesn’t look good. I can only boast of that 😦 Beware of henna. It can turn you into one of those orange-mop beauties!

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  27. If ppl. start wanting grey/silver hairs, how will the cosmetics/beauty industry survive?? 😛

    Destination Infinity

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    1. The cosmetic industry is very cunning. It would come up with something else to lure people. But no matter what they say, unless the person himself or herself wants to be sold something, it is impossible to make them buy it. Else by now one of my hair stylists would have convinced me to colour my hair 🙂

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