Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bottled Black

Bottled Black

“Unless we have silver hair or are a poet laureate, don't ever call us ma'am”. Mindy Kaling, actress and writer of the “The Office”.

“Going gray is like ejaculation. You know it can happen prematurely, but when it actually does, it's a total shock.” Anderson Cooper, CNN

I have finally decided to out.
And the reason to do so is the same one that makes most outers out.
I’m tired of the subterfuge.
Of pretending that by a special papal dispensation, no matter what else may wither, waste, shrivel, shrink, sag or crumble with age, my hair will stay forever twenty-eight. (Twenty-eight is a n number at which to freeze anything – age, shoes, lovers, carats of diamonds on engagement ring, inches on waist.) And that the shade of Kohl Natural Black that my hair giddily flaunts is not because every few weeks I secretly marinate my hair for hours in cold, wet, slimy liquids that resemble pond scum and stink of urine but because that is colour Nature intended for Forever Twenty Eight.
In other words, I have officially outed my grey hair.
Naturally, like all outings, it has been a difficult crossing, done with the greatest trepidation, after much gnashing of teeth and twisting of knickers. Because grey hair is not just the first public admission that there is an outside chance that you just might be a mere mortal. For us women, it is also the laying to rest, the putting to pasture, the hanging up of the boots of our inner Helen. The creature who, though she cannot claim to have launched a thousand ships, would’ve certainly caused at least a tugboat or two to twitch for a few brief seconds with unbridled lust.
What rubbish, you scoff, of course men will still find you attractive.
Oh yeah?
Well, take a good look at this list.
Richard Gere. Naseeruddin Shah. Harrison Ford. Jay Leno. Anderson Cooper. Sitaram Yechuri. The actor who plays Dr. Aaron Shutt in Chicago Hope. Bill Clinton. Javed Akhtar. Parkinson. Karan Thapar. Sean Connery. And of course, the unbearably delicious George Clooney
(The women may take a few moments to mop the slaver and drool.)
All gorgeous, all grey. And all male.
When I tried to drum up a similar list for women, all I could come up with was Judi Dench, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir and the Queen.
Still not convinced? Think of all the attractive older women you know and then think how many of them have grey hair.
The prosecution rests.
So why is grey hair so attractive and sexy in men, but not in women?
Maybe it is a leftover from the times when childbirth made sure that most women didn’t live long enough to go grey. So, for millenniums, nobody knew what a grey haired woman looked like and when one was finally sighted, she was viewed with the same goggle-eyed disgust that one would view an oozing sore. And the feeling lingered like a dead fly in the soup of our collective consciousness…
Or perhaps it is to compensate for the fact that women have always outlived men. (In Russia, apparently by a good thirteen years. No wonder everyone drinks so much vodka there.) So, if you fellas get to be objects of desire even you are grey old goats of eleventy-eleven while we are dismissed from active service because we are withered old crones at the first glint of grey, it balances the books out very nicely.
I know, I know. I’m a man-hating, bra-burning, feminist harpy who can’t stand the fact that boys have all the fun, even when they are grey old grandpas. Well, actually I’m just a freshly outed gray haired woman trying to come to terms with the possibility that I may never ever have a pass made at me again.
So, is it hopeless then, the end of the road?
I would have thought so, till I stumbled on this strange but heartening tale.
Anne Kreamer was a 49 year-old writer and creative director who, after nearly twenty-five years “on the tyrannical treadmill of hair-colour upkeep”, was all but ready to out her grey. So she did, but she also did one other thing. She posted her profile on First as a 49 year-old single (separated) woman living in Brooklyn, along with a photo of herself with grey hair. Then three months later, she put up the same profile, substituting the photo with one in which she was a brunette.

Three times as many men were interested in dating her as a grey-haired woman than when her hair was brown. Why? Nobody knows. Not even Ms. Kreamer herself because she didn’t date any of the men who responded since she was happily married.

But, Ms. Kreamer and me not withstanding, it may be a good idea if you chaps came to terms with the fact that there are going to be lots more of us openly grey-haired women in the future because the statistics are stacked in our favour. You see, the human race is ageing. By 2025, it’s estimated that there will be almost as many 40-50 year old women in the world as 20-30 year old ones. And many of those forty-plus old bags are going to be out there, prettily perched on that barstool, sipping their pina coladas, all freshly liberated from the yoke of the urine-scented Kohl Natural Black and flaunting their silver for all the world to see.

I’ve gotta go now. To hang out my brave, new grey-haired shingle on