“My name is Huji (short for Harjit Hayre), I am a British Indian woman, a practicing makeup artist, and an influencer. On February 20, 2020, I decided this would be the last time I sat in a salon chair to cover up my greys and bleach my hair. I firmly believe everything in life is planted in your mind like a seed and it may take a while to grow, to blossom.
In my mid-twenties, I worked for an airline and to this day, I can remember checking in an Indian woman no older than 40 who had beautiful silver hair, perfectly cut into a chic lob and blow-dried to perfection. She looked young and her makeup was subtle with a lovely bold red lip. I recall asking her if that was her natural hair and she told me yes before walking away. I never forgot that woman and how amazing and unique she looked. Maybe this was the seed. The seed took another 17 years for it to completely manifest itself in me.
I have dyed my hair for 16 years and for the first 12, it was because I thoroughly enjoyed dying my hair. I loved experimenting with different colors and styles. Eventually, I decided in my 30’s I wanted to get blonde highlights. Not just any blonde, though, but an ash blonde. This took me 8 years to achieve. I finally had the color I had spent so many years bleaching and damaging my hair for. However, come my early 40’s and my second child, I found the pesky greys on my hairline were fighting for their own right to take center stage. I was dying my hairline every 2-4 weeks because the greys would show up within 2 weeks since the last dye.
My questions started there. ‘Do I really want to have this headache with two young children? Is this still feasible for me? Is this even a priority for me now? Is this how I want to spend my free time at home? Why do I feel the need to cover this up? Will my husband be annoyed at this decision? Will I be inviting unsolicited comments from people?’
At 41, I showed my husband images of women who had dyed their hair silver. This was my way of not telling him exactly what I was deviously planning to do. He was not sold (a blessing in disguise as that would have seriously damaged my hair). Once my youngest started nursery part-time, I realized there wasn’t enough time for me to get to the hairdresser, have my hair done, and be back in time to collect him. Fast forward to the beautiful age of 43 and I decided this was it! I am done! This time, however, I will not tell anyone. I went to the hairdresser one last time to have my grey roots blended. Unfortunately, they ended up covering quite a few of my greys, but it’s okay, my mind was made up.
In March, the lockdown was introduced in the UK. Now, if this isn’t a sign, then I don’t know what is. Although I wasn’t seeing anyone else in public, I still had hubby to think about so I opted to say nothing and just let it happen. 2 months had passed and hubby hadn’t said anything. I continued to stay quiet about it and in the meantime, I started an Instagram account to document my journey weekly. Little did I know, there is a colossal community of silver sisters on their own journeys whilst encouraging and inspiring women like myself.
3 months later, I casually mentioned to hubby I was not planning on coloring my hair anymore. He actually came across as encouraging (maybe he was just happy we weren’t out in public). Either way, he wanted to make sure I was happy with the decision and he was happy with it as long as I was. What a change of heart over just a couple of years. When the time came for the lockdown to be over, which was around August/September time when school had started, a couple of mothers inquisitively asked whether I had colored my hair this way. Well, I’m sure you can imagine my giddy joy within when I heard this.
When I finally decided to take this step, I didn’t really care what anyone would think. As a woman who has grown up in an Indian culture, our whole lives are based around this mantra, ‘What will other people think?’ As I became older, I realized those other people haven’t contributed to my life in any way. They have not supported or encouraged me. Instead, they have criticized and judged my choices in life.
This constant mantra, stripping at my self-assurance, lowering my self-confidence, and leaving me in constant doubt about my decisions. It has taken me a long time to realize this, but I actually wish it hadn’t taken so long so I could have freed myself from the cultural chains of others’ opinions that have weighed so heavy. I have children now and am so glad I have the awareness of how damaging it is to compare children, to make them feel doubtful constantly, and to live up to expectations of people that don’t really matter at all. As long as they are raised to be strong, compassionate humans who possess the art of self-awareness, I believe they will do just fine.
I refuse to carry the stress of what anyone else’s opinion of me may be, it’s not really my problem. I want to be a positive change, not just for women who are fed up with dying their hair and living under what society’s expectations may be. I want my boys to be open-minded enough to realize just because a woman has grey hair does not mean they are ‘old’ or they have ‘let themselves go.’ I mean try telling that to the 12-year-olds who started going grey. But to realize society has conditioned us in so many ways. It’s not just the color of our hair, but the color of our skin, caking on makeup, how our bodies should be aesthetically perfect, how having work on our face is a much quicker process than dying our hair.
Going grey has brought about this new sense of self-confidence, almost a feeling of nothing to hide and just being able to look the way I am in my natural sense. What a fantastic Midlife Arises to be going through. For women who may be thinking about embarking on the journey — this journey is not just about your hair. So be prepared, you will be surprised at the many changes that will take place within you. Your growth game will be on another level.
Being in lockdown during this process helped me more than I realized. Being shut off from everything forced me to go through a process of visiting past demons and reflecting on my life. It was difficult to go through this process, I felt dark and drained, almost lost. In the lockdown there was no running away, there was no hiding, I had to deal with things I thought I had overcome from childhood and my younger self. My inner child was awake and she was not happy. She persevered relentlessly until I had no choice but to accept what she was trying to teach me and pushed me to work through it.
I am grateful I went through this in synchronicity with the fact I was embracing my natural hair too. It has brought me to a point of realizing what I want from life, not just what I don’t want. Since I hit this low point, I have become a firm believer in affirmations and motivational content. I listen to this daily without fail, simply because it rejuvenates me and reminds me we are all so much more than what we have been led to believe. I highly recommend this to anyone who needs to rise up, who needs a shift in their lives.
I have been asked in the past, ‘What message would you like to give women to stop dying their hair?’ The answer is: I don’t want anyone to do anything they don’t want to. Women can dye their hair, they can do whatever they enjoy doing, wherever they find that little piece of happiness. What I do say is if you find yourself dying your hair because of others’ expectations of you or you really hate the process of doing it, then just ask yourself whether it is worth it. If your answer is no, it is not worth it, then hop on over to Instagram, come find me and the many other silver sisters who are there and happy to root for your roots.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by The Grey Indian of London, UK. You can follow her journey on Instagram and YouTube. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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‘What are you doing in the boy’s bathroom? You look like a girl!’ The longer it got, the more judgemental others got.’: Boy grows hair to donate to kids in need, ‘Heart, not hair is what matters’
‘I’m choosing to let my hair go. I’m waiting for my stylist for however long the shutdown goes on. It’s tough out there right now.’: Woman advocates for hair stylists, ‘Don’t forget about them’
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