Beauty, lifestyle and the grey class

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Perhaps it’s in keeping with the spirit of the Christmas season, that this paper is advertising the publication of a Special Supplement on Beauty and Lifestyle. But somehow I doubt that the Supplement contributors will include in their material the needs of those classified as ‘Senior Citizens’ (SCs).

I don’t remember any such ‘Specials’ in the past devoting segments to how seniors, too, can be fashionable, look good; or, say, Lifestyle tips for SCs.

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But then the omission should not be a surprise, considering that even our national Constitution has stipulations implying that life should move to a lower level once a person attains the age of 60: A public officer shall, except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, retire from the public service on attaining the age of sixty years.

Is it not thus implied that brains begin to slow down from age 60?

Else why should the mandatory retirement age be fixed at 60, with only a few exceptions – even if one is demonstrably at one’s intellectual best or has acquired experience beneficial to the employer or the country – to make way for ‘Junior Citizens’ (JCs).

‘Junior Citizens’? Yes! There can’t be ‘seniors’ without corresponding ‘juniors’!

Yet we all know plenty of juniors whose brain power is questionable and no match for the 60-plus! But no matter. There will be scope to go into these matters of age and brain power another time. For now, my interest is in age, beauty and lifestyle.

For the Special, the Mirror is encouraging the lifestyle, fashion and beauty industry to make contact and to advertise their products and services. However, as indicated above, I will be surprised to see any part of it focusing on, for example, write-ups on ‘Life Begins at 60’or ‘Grey can be chic!’

In fact, I have come to the conclusion that although seniors still want to look good and be admired, the tendency is for others to think that the SCs shouldn’t bother. It’s a waste of their time because they are “too old”! To some people, fashion, cosmetics, and the look-good industry generally, are the preserve of the JCs. One even hears rude comments such as: “Leave it for the young!”

Evidently, this anti SCs stance is partly to blame for the hostility towards, or even fear of, greying. But greying is a natural consequence of growing old. And it’s food for thought that the nickname for ‘intelligence’ is ‘grey matter’. There must be a reason for linking grey to intelligence!

However, I must hasten to add that it appears that in some cases it’s not a matter of ageing, but increased responsibility and stress which can lead to the fast arrival of grey.

Noticeably, presidents and other high office holders begin their tenure with non-grey, but very soon start greying. Although they were not so old, Presidents President Bill Clinton of the US and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were sporting grey after a few years in office.

Coming to our shores, Presidents John Rawlings, John Kufuor and John Mahama, also soon joined the grey fraternity. No surprise there, maybe, given Ghana’s problems and what a difficult people we are! And as for incumbents President Nana Akufo-Addo and Vice- President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, their solution is to sport a cool bald look.

In fact, the duo are not alone in that. Many male SCs who apparently fear going grey usually borrow the trademark of Akan chiefs: a shaved head. Okay if your head is a nice shape. Otherwise ….

As for SC women, they have the choice of swerving the grey by dyeing their hair another colour – doubtless the reason for the somewhat cynical Ga saying, yoomo bϵ Ga (meaning ‘there are no old women in Accra/Ga’). They can also go off chemical treatments and embrace the natural look, as I have done.

Getting personal now, I have reverted to wearing my hair natural, which was my hairstyle decades ago. I changed then because the natural made me look too young. I got tired of people thinking I was much younger than my actual age, so I decided to join the chemically-treated hair club until I got some grey hair. And now my greying is rapid!

There are anecdotes about Makola Market women who would fly into a rage if they were addressed by customers as ‘Grandma’ or ‘Mother’ or ‘Mama’, instead of their preferred ‘Auntie’ or ‘Sister’. The response would be something caustic like: “who are you calling ‘Grandma’/Mother’?! Did I give birth to your great, great grandmother?!!”

It’s been many months since I went back to the natural look and I’m enjoying the freedom that comes with it – such as much fewer visits to the hairdresser.
What I didn’t anticipate was that the sight of grey hair now seems to be a signal to some people that one is of decreased or frail mental ability, or weak thinking, or in need of guidance with every decision.

To put it succinctly, I think I now understand the attitude of the market women.

The Beauty and Lifestyle people need to keep in mind that the SCs form a substantial part of the population, and most of us still want to look good. It’s your loss if you leave us out!

Anyway, those of us of a certain age remember American singer James Brown, the ‘Godfather of Soul’, who decades ago, took the world by storm with his song celebrating black empowerment and blackness, ‘Black and Proud’: Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud!

So, for the record, and in that vein, I’m grey, natural – and proud!

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