Ah—to gray, or not to gray? That was a question I grappled with a few weeks ago, as I noticed the color creeping away from my hair roots yet again, demanding immediate attention.
To gray, or not to gray? Should I hang on, or let go? Allow my hair to grow platinum white, or opt again to dye?
Why go “gentle into that good night,” as Dylan Thomas suggests, if one can still “rage, rage, against the dying of the light”? After all, hair color is probably the least invasive way to outwit time, and a good, organic hair dye has little or no harmful side effects.
Besides, everybody dyes!
At my hairdresser’s one day, I noticed a mother having her daughter’s hair colored. Nothing, normally, to invite raised eyebrows. But the child could barely have been 10 years old!
What untold repercussions must lie in wait for her, if she continues to color her hair regularly from this point on! And what does it say about the mother, that her vanity overwhelmed her better judgment?
Once uniformly black-tressed when young and salt-and-pepper gray, or snowy white in later years, many Filipinos today, young or old, male or female, are no longer averse to hair color. Peroxide-blond Pinoys and Pinays walk the streets of Manila with nary a second glance from anyone.
And flaming red, or fuchsia locks, streaks of brilliant peacock blue, bright green, even purple and shocking pink, are no longer novelties, but merely bold statements of identity accepted without question, especially among the trendy young.
So. Should I, or shouldn’t I? Face advancing age squarely on my round head, or continue to cling to that ‘final frontier’—the illusion of youthfulness that colored hair seems to help uphold?
A few days ago, I went to see my doctor after nearly a year of procrastination. I was heading for Hong Kong where my children and grandchildren continue to live in the land of their birth and I needed a clean bill of health before departure.
I passed, as I expected, with flying colors! Apart from a marginal case of diabetes—readings averaging 100-115—I am free of major life-threatening chronic diseases. Good genes, perhaps, and blessings from above, but definitely!
As I took my seat in the clinic, I overheard the doctor scolding a patient whose blood sugar continued to seesaw dangerously, despite on-going adjustments to her medication, raising alarm bells about the continually increasing dosage.
Apparently, the patient was consistently failing to follow the doctor’s instructions. Instead of administering a dose of insulin before meals, she invariably forgot and administered it only after wolfing down her food! Taking responsibility for her own health care was obviously not her strong suit.
It seemed that earlier that morning, before coming to see the doctor, she had stopped off for breakfast at a fast-food chain, eating as usual, before remembering to administer a dose of her medication.
“That’s putting the cart before the horse,” fumed the doctor.
Meanwhile, the patient was happily recounting how her “pencil” (the gadget that delivers the proper dosage of insulin to her system) seems to last forever. “Matipid,” she rejoiced. The doctor exploded!
It turned out that while she does stick the needle (or pencil gadget) into her stomach, the patient never allows it to stay there long enough to deliver the correct dosage, but withdraws it almost instantly. No wonder the dosage needed to be continuously adjusted.
Exasperated, but speaking in patient, modulated Tagalog, the doctor admonished her to follow instructions more mindfully, or risk going into shock, or worse—premature death—from carelessness.
Perhaps doctors should be called patients, instead of the other way around. It was almost hilarious to listen to the doctor/patient exchange. Judging from the conversation, I imagined the patient to be around 80-90 years old and somewhat senile. But she turned out to be barely 70, though she looked much older.
When I finally finished my consultation, and as she ushered me out of her inner sanctum, the doctor (Tish, daughter of colleague and fellow journalist Johnny Gatbonton) exclaimed to the patients waiting at the outer office: “Ayan! Maniniwala ba kayong ochenta na yan? (There! would you believe she’s 80?),” referring to me. I quickly pointed out that I shall, in fact, be turning 82 in a few months!
Yes. Age is just a number, and it’s all in the head. But there is very real danger in not being mindful of one’s age. Until the unscheduled lesson from my fall, I was very inclined to forget I am 81, not 18.
To combat increasingly debilitating arthritis, which threatened to consign me to a wheelchair, I started doing Pilates a year or two ago. It put the spring back into my footsteps, the shape (almost) back to my body and generally made me forget my age, with disastrous consequences.
Rushing to the kitchen from my bedroom a couple of weeks ago, I tripped on a single step leading up from the bedroom corridor to the living area and came crashing down on the granite flooring, smashing my face! Stitches closed the largish gash and torn muscle on my forehead, and swelling has gone down from my right eye, but I am still nursing a black—rather, purple—eye.
I was once told by a kasambahay that I don’t dress my age. I wondered what that meant. How are people “my age” supposed to dress—in dusters and shapeless sacks, or the baro’t saya of my grandmother’s generation?
Dusters are my comfortable nighties and sarongs are my day-to-day housedress. I doubt one can even buy baro’t saya these days. Not only that, but the traditional image of the bent, gnarled lola with a walking stick, patiently crocheting in a rocking chair has gone the way of the baro’t saya. A thing of the past.
Not even my mother’s generation wore the baro’t saya; nor did they typically sit in a rocking chair, crocheting. My mom sat in front of a sewing machine pandering to the vanity of her daughters and granddaughters until her eyesight gave out.
Today’s “Lolas”—at least those I know—are a different breed. While some may indeed favor dusters, they are just as likely to gad about in shorts at home. The new-generation female oldies tend to stand tall and remain sprightly. No mincing footsteps for them, though they may occasionally pay dearly for it, as I obviously did. Indeed, there must be some truth to the saying that 80 is the new 60.
As to the unresolved matter of whether to continue to dye or not to dye my hair, the issue has become moot.
When I consulted my hairdresser, he turned to me in horror. Absolutely not! he stressed. It is harmful to bleach hair to just make it uniformly white. Wait instead for the roots to grow out until it is uniformly white or gray. Meanwhile, stop dyeing!
And there lies the dilemma. Can I, or can’t I pull it off? Will I have the necessary patience and discipline to ride out the long wait or will I, as usual, yield to vanity and resort to hair color yet again to avoid that awful in-between stage?
Abangan! As a friend of mine (also a journalist, and contributor to this paper) is inclined to say.