Of Men And Women, And Ageing
“What’s with the face?”
Karan and Priya were going out to a formal dinner in about an hour. Priya was at the dressing table, twisting her hair this way and that, trying to get it to stay in place. Karan, who stood behind her fiddling with his tie, looked seriously at her reflection in the mirror.
“I just found my first grey hair,” Priya said to his reflection, in dismay.
“Welcome to the club!” Karan smiled at her reflection, caressing his grey-and-black, close-cropped beard.
Though not much older than Priya in age, Karan had begun sporting grey hair for the past few years now. And proudly at that. Of course he had no idea of the hurt and dismay that Priya felt, having found that one stray grey!
But to Priya, it was devastating. It meant that she was crossing over to the other side. At the back of her mind, she knew, that there would be a time when she would actually, proudly let her greys show.
But that time wasn’t now. Not now when their children were still in primary school. Not now, when Priya was still in her thirties. Not now, when she still had a lot of parent-teacher meetings in front of her, where the teachers would undoubtedly be younger than her, and the only parents sporting grey (if at all) would be the ones who had kids older than hers!
As she sat there, arranging her hair so as to hide that first grey – all the time, desperately trying to suppress the urge to just pull it out once and for all – Priya watched Karan, regal in his formal clothes, with a closely cropped beard and a thick mop of salt-and-pepper hair. He had no qualms about displaying the silver in his hair. Just like he didn’t care about the crow’s feet that had begun appearing at the corner of his eyes. Or the fact that the ‘salt’ was steadily increasing in comparison to the ‘pepper’ in his hair. In fact, he relished it!
Well, it did suit him. It made him look distinguished. Experienced. Unruffled. It gave his personality an edge. It made him look more sophisticated. More polished. Gone was the scruffy young man Priya had fallen for over a decade ago. In his place, was this George Clooney look-alike, who made heads turn when they walked hand in hand.
Priya sighed. Over a decade of marriage, and several ups and downs later, here they were, as different as chalk and cheese, in appearance. And while Priya was getting into more and more complicated skin-care, hair-care and what-all-else-care routine as the years passed by, Karan seemed to be getting on just fine without any of these.
Priya still remembered the time when she and Karan had been college sweethearts. He, perpetually unkempt, and she, experimenting with make-up and diets. She had been the head-turner then. The beauty with brains that Karan had fallen for. There had always been people turning mid-step, to give her second glances.
And now here she was. Years of unhealthy (read kids’ leftover food) eating and a crazy lifestyle – not to mention her penchant for baking – and her current sedentary work-from-home job, had added layers of fat on her that she would’ve, at one point in time, considered impossible to have! With no one to care for them routinely, her hair had gone all limp and dull. And now the grey was adding insult to the already grave injury.
What is it with men and women, and ageing, she thought. Nature has given both men and women enough and equal beauty inside out. They both start out okay. In fact, the women mostly have the upper hand! And then, as they both get older, age works differently on both. As the women go through the journey of life, taking marriage, childbirth, child rearing and everything it entails in their stride; the men breeze through on the periphery (most of the times)!
There is a certain sophistication to a man’s weathered face, while a woman needs to hide her wrinkles from the world by buying expensive creams and make-up. Beautiful, attractive women suddenly feel themselves becoming invisible when they age; while men – the once frazzled, slovenly, inarticulate guys whom the women would have taken pity on in their youth – graduate to these refined, genteel people who are the life of the party, no matter where they go!
Priya bristled. Of course it was the society that had a big role to play in this too, she reminded herself. It was the society that made it feel uncomfortable for an ageing woman to step out of her home sans make-up. The same society that doesn’t blink an eye if a man looked tired or hungover; but cannot resist, if a woman’s eyes were puffy, to inform her, in the gentlest of whispers, that she should do something about it seriously. It is the society that has no problems with a man’s growing stubble, but will make it a point to expect the woman to always be well-dressed and well-groomed…
“Don’t take it to heart, jaan” Karan’s voice brought her back to the present. “You and I can compete now as to who sports more grey … Or if you do not wish to compete, as I think, I can see from your expression, then I shall help you select a hair colour that you are comfortable with! … I will help you apply it too,” he said, with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
…. And then there were people like Karan, thought Priya smiling; and that is why the world was still a good place, grey hair or not.