I’m thirteen years old and my hair has begun to grow white. Long white hair strands run through my thick locks. I used to love my hair. I loved the way it fell over my shoulders. Bouncing. Swaying. Endless.
But then, one day, I began resenting it. I resented the shiny whites that crawled through from my roots to my tips. I resented having so much hair. I didn’t love it anymore. Everyone would ask me why my hair was white. They would say I need to do something about it. I would overhear aunties telling my mother that it doesn’t look good for a young girl to have a head of white. How will she get married? How will she face the embarrassment? My mother didn’t have an answer. And I had no answer. I was confused as well. I didn’t know why all of my friends had dark silky hair, and I didn’t. I went to numerous doctors, from Karachi to America, all of whom were unable to answer that question. Some thought it was my anemia, some thought it was the lack of one vitamin or the other, but no one could really give me a solid answer.
And eventually, my resentment turned to shame. I had to hide my white hair. I kept it tied up and hidden as often as I could. Until, finally, my mother allowed me to dye it. I remember that day so clearly. I was sitting in a salon chair, the woman dying my hair talked me through it. I was messaging my best friend throughout, unable to contain my excitement. The stylist was nice. She told me that everyone dyed their hair. But I didn’t want to be everyone. I just wanted to be a regular 13-year-old girl, who didn’t have what now seems like such a silly problem. But at 13, man, at 13 everything seems so much bigger than it is.
It’s been 11 years now. Eleven years since I’ve been dying my hair. I do my roots every six weeks like clockwork. And sometimes, when I forget, I have people reminding me. Telling me that my whites are showing and that I need to get my hair dyed. I’ve tried not to, I’ve tried using white coverage sprays, and dye sticks but none of it ever works as well as regular dye. And the dye, it’s a process. It’s a pain.
Up until recently, the shame was still lingering. I would wear a headband to hide my white roots. People would whisper. They’d look at me and ask why I had white hair when I was so young. Or they’d just straight up pass a statement saying that I have white hair. Really? Thanks, I had NO idea.
I never knew how to respond. Now, I am 24-years-old and I’m finally able to say fuck it. My hair grows white and yes, I have accepted it. People will continue to tell me it doesn’t look nice, that my whites make me look strange or peculiar but that’s okay. They’re a part of me now. These days, I don’t dye my hair as frequently as I once did. And now, I’m no longer doing it because of log kya kahengay (what will people say). I do it when I feel like it. I realized it wasn’t about the dye, it was about knowing that I had a choice. And the choice had always been my own.
I sit here, brushing my hair. The whites glisten in the sun. Reminding me that I am stronger than all the words that are thrown at me. I am stronger than my shame. And no aunty will ever be able to take that away from me.