Just dyeing to look young

Torn is the right word. Because India’s beauty narrative has changed, leaving a lot of its women undecided about which route they want to take.

Published: 01st October 2016 11:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2016 03:39 PM   |  A+A-

Once, older women were happy if they looked good for their age. Now they are pleased only if they look young at all ages.
“Are you going to colour your hair,” I asked my friend last week. Her beautiful, long hair had begun to reveal the first strands of grey. Her answer was refreshingly honest. “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t want to, but I can’t say I will not for sure. If I did not have an office to go to, I would perhaps let it all go white. But for now,
I’m torn.”
Torn is the right word. Because India’s beauty narrative has changed, leaving a lot of its women undecided about which route they want to take.
Our mothers and grandmothers talked about ageing but did nothing about it. They wore their wrinkles and grey hair as gracefully as they did their silk and chiffon sarees. When age turned their arms crepey and their flesh loose, they summoned their masseuse more frequently than before, hoisted their sarees higher and stayed away from sleeveless blouses. Some hastened to henna. Few, if any, resorted to unnatural interventions to look young.
But we live in an age when youth is worshipped. It’s not just an Indian phenomenon. On Thursday, the World Health Organization released a report on ageist attitudes worldwide. According to data from over 83,000 respondents from 57 countries, attitudes towards older people are most negative in the richer countries, and 60 per cent of respondents say they believe older people “are not respected”.
That might explain why in today’s world, there are more salons than schools, and  L’Oreal Dark Brown 4 is the new Parachute. At work, of course, but also away from it, everyone is expected to be well-dressed and well-coiffed all the time. Fatty livers are tolerable, fat behinds are not. And grey hair is acceptable only if it comes with George Clooney attached.
You’d think such absurd expectations wouldn’t matter to liberal, feminist-leaning, career women. But it’s difficult to not keep up with the ever-rising standards of what’s acceptable by way of appearance when everyone else does. Especially when you see the women who have decided to bravely yield to middle age—and the wrinkles, abdominal fat and grey hair that come with it—paying the price for their decision by being left behind at work and/or abandoned (by men and women) at social gatherings.  
Happily, for the conformists, retailers and doctors have decided to chip in. Buying ‘smart casual’ and ‘party’ apparel from e-commerce websites or, for that matter, getting cheek implants and Botox shots has become as easy as downing paranthas at Chandni Chowk.
And if all else fails, there’s the complete cover up. American journalist Noor Tagouri appears in the October issue of Playboy magazine, wearing a leather jacket, T-shirt, jeans and trainers— and a hijab.


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