Silver linings, budding seniority, dyeing choices

I must admit that part of my week’s obsession with ageing problems and support is that in the month of December I was called a senior citizen twice. I am a number of years short of that landmark, and the comment made me bristle, not just because it bumped up my age (something which even an elder-respecting society does not consider a compliment) but also because of the attitude with which those words were said…sort of, all is over for you, Ma’am, and so anything you do is unexpected and like a miracle. It was so dismissive and patronizing that it bugged me.

It made me wonder how I’d feel once I did cross the age of 60 and heard the word applied to me in that tone, knowing that the appellation was factually correct. Anyway, why should a particular age matter so much, and why should it be such a way of judging people? Are the Govt concessions connected with the age worth that aura?

I have, of course, only myself to blame for being taken as a senior citizen before I have reached that “silver” age threshold.

For one, I am not dead. If I had died when younger, I would have died wrinkle-free and black-haired, without having the word “senior” applied to me.

But, you know, I would rather be alive and senior, than dead and young.

As for the other reason I may be getting mistaken as an older person, it has its roots in a story…

This incident happened when I was around 35 years old. There was this really active lady in the neighborhood, always smartly turned out, energetic, much admired by all. Then, for a stretch of a few months I did not get to see her. When I saw her next, she looked…I have no other word for it…haggard. I noticed her wrinkles, her crow’s feet, the tired turn of her face, the straggly white hair. She looked so old. With some hesitation, very gently, I asked her what happened, had she been unwell? She looked at me in a very puzzled way.

“No,” she said.

“But…” I didn’t know how to let her how different she looked. “You look so…tired.”

She frowned some more, and then she burst out laughing. “I was very busy,” she said, her voice sounding quite normal. “I didn’t have time to dye my hair.”


Now I’m a rather lazy person.

I postpone my haircuts and manage to make do with one every two months, always getting my hair cropped as close as the hairdresser is willing to do, and then waiting till the hair is totally unwieldy and long before I go for the next haircut.

As for other beauty treatments…I got a facial done once, and all through that long and alleged luxurious facial, with almond paste around my eyes, cucumber slices on them, some other rich gooey stuff plastered on my face and neck, all I could think of was, what a bloody waste, I could have been reading a book instead. It was, as you might have guessed, my last facial.

Around the time this episode with the undyed-hair lady happened, my own hair had started getting a teeny-weeny hint of white. I tried to imagine a life full of fortnightly hair-dying sessions and touch-ups at home for the exposed white roots of the hair, and my mind boggled. I thought of people seeing me swing between old and young and old again every few weeks just because I had not stocked up on hair dye or I had preferred a book to a beauty parlor.

I decided right away that I would never dye my hair. If silver lines my hair, so be it.

So here I am, salt-and-pepper haired in a world where almost everyone my age has suspiciously jet-black hair or has “tinted” or “streaked” hair (whatever the correct word is) so that seeing someone who chooses to remain white-haired in public is possibly as unsocial and ill-mannered as walking out to the market in a dressing gown.

Last week I sat in a café and looked around at all the ladies around me, mentally replacing their dark black hair with suitably grey-streaked hair (by extrapolating the teeny hint of white at their hair roots), and I suddenly found myself in a room of so many old women. I also noticed, funnily, how that mental switch from dark black/ fashionably-tinted hair to old-fashioned grey hair also made it easier for me to notice their wrinkles and age spots.

So much so for not going by appearances.

Given that I am (currently) choosing to remain not dead and not dyeing, I expect I should be reconciled to be seen as a senior citizen before I am one 🙂 I may walk briskly, remain trim, active and energetic, but my crowning glory sort of caps it all.

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About Swapna Kishore
I'm a writer, blogger, and resource person for dementia/ caregiving in India, and deeply concerned about dementia care in India. On this blog I share my own caregiving journey, my experiences as a resource person for dementia care, and musings on life, aging, dementia in India, and such sundries. More about me and the work I do for dementia care in this set of pages:

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