by Kousalya Sarangarajan
A barrage of notions about how ageing and its signs are viewed in the society startles me every time age (in)appropriate adaptations are not made.
From being a diaper-wearing toddler to a self-conscious child, who later starts looking at the opposite sex with interest, and then possibly gets married and has kids, we all live through drastic changes that everyone accepts with élan. These changes are in fact, personally flaunted and accepted too. However, when it comes to a gradual change in one’s looks, I wonder why it becomes totally unacceptable! Appearances are skin deep, aren’t they? Of course, the way a person presents himself does matter too, when you want people to take notice of you, but are we going to become totally unrecognizable when we start showing signs of ageing? Is being a contented wallflower not acceptable?
A whole industry thrives in helping people ‘look young’, ruthlessly fighting the natural course of life. It’s common to see people agreeing with the adage ‘growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional’. Growing up with years of experience, learning, introspection and understanding would only bring along a certain amount of grace to a wholesome human being. Why should we not grow up?
The rate at which age starts showing is definitely influenced by one’s state of mind and outlook towards life. Why then do signs on account of daily wear and tear – physically and mentally, emotionally and psychologically – tend to alarm the majority of the human population? This is beyond my comprehension. Ageing is also largely influenced by genes, environment, lifestyle and the food we eat. While eating healthy, lifestyle and environment can be manipulated as a necessity to remain healthy far beyond the skin-deep ‘healthy-looking’, what can one do about the genes he or she inherits?
Greying of hair seems to be the definite red flag of “getting older”, making people quite uncomfortable with the number that indicates age. I am all of 38 years and I have a lot of grey hair and I seriously don’t care. A lot of people seem to care about how MY hair looks. I hear 11-year olds to 91-year-olds advising me to colour my hair. Any colour other than grey seems to be acceptable. Bright shades of orange bordering on carrot red are accepted. Coming from a conservative family, blues and greens have not been suggested so far. Various shades of brown, purple, burgundy, herbal dyes are recommended so that my hair can look “naturally-not-grey”. Why can’t people just accept that my hair is grey? I look in the mirror at least twice a day and the grey colour doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers others. Some people I know keep ‘de-greying’ their hair even as their eyebrows and eyelashes start turning grey. Perhaps they find it difficult to justify their de-greying and decaying processes when they see so much grey on my head not undergoing a drastic colour conversion/revision.
Answers like “I am not interested” are usually met with skeptical looks and questions that range from “Are you depressed?” to “Are you crazy?” are diligently followed by hair-colour suggestions boring a hole through my head. I started trying other answers like “When you can accept Ajith, a cinema star, to sport salt and pepper hair, why can’t you accept a person who is nowhere close to the entertainment industry, (which requires people to look good) with grey hair?” or “It becomes a chore” or “My mom died of cancer and I would like to keep away from anything artificial” or “So that you would look younger than me!” But they never seem to convince people! My darling spouse who is very careful with words also commented how I could look (even) better if I coloured my hair. I did not bite back the retort. I should be frank at least with him. “Your hairline has been rapidly receding: why don’t you weave hair onto your scalp?” I told him. The matter was not broached further.
I wish I could ask people “Why do you hide your true-colours?” but then, apart from stamping me as a really mad-wild-lazy person, they would also prefix “antisocial” to my name. I guess I will have to wait till all the hair in my head goes silver, imparting a halo when light gets reflected off it and then, I can get rid of such questions for good!
Ageing gracefully involves growing up in all ways and accepting all the changes happening within us and around us and growing beyond that. There is a certain sense of peace when we accept ourselves the way the Creator has created us and the way we have turned out to be with all the bounties we received. Let us recreate ourselves to be a better person, not a better-looking person.