The colour of my mane is uniquely me

I was 16 years old and standing in front of the mirror, getting ready for my school's prom night - not by making sure that my make-up was perfect, but by plucking out the few scattered strands of white hair on my crown.

The strands of white hair, about 10 of them, were unapologetically shiny and conspicuous against the rest of my black mane.

I hated my white hair. Whenever I saw a girl with silky black hair, my self-esteem would plummet.

Then, there were the boys - I felt that my white hair made me look old and unattractive in their eyes.

Why me, I wailed at times.

At yearly health check-ups, I earnestly asked the nurse if my white hair was due to stress, hoping that it was something that could be, somehow, fixed. It is probably hereditary, said every single nurse, dealing me blow after blow.

Though friends had a tendency to point out, with puzzled looks, that I had white hair, they were generally kind and did not make further comments.

My father, however, seemed the most surprised.

Exclaiming loudly one day while we were out shopping in town, he said, in a tone which I took to sound unnecessarily incredulous: "Wah, you have white hair ah."

Yes, thanks to you, I mumbled defensively, embarrassed that a sales assistant had overheard our exchange.

White hair runs in the family. My father, 58, had a full head of grey by the time he was in his late 40s.

My mother, who is a few years older, started dyeing her hair a trendy ash brown when she began greying in her early 20s.

My older brother, 28, leaves his black cropped hair, with a sprinkling of white, mostly as it is.

As my white hair multiplied, it soon became impractical to pluck them, so I turned to hair dye.

By the time I was in my third year of polytechnic, I was touching up my roots once a month. By then, at least 30 per cent of my hair was white. I consoled myself that at the very least, I still had a head full of hair.

Having grown weary of touching up my roots every three to four weeks and emboldened by the trend of fashionable Asian bloggers with peroxide-blonde hairstyles, I began to entertain the idea of bleaching my hair to grow out my white hair.

I tested the waters by bringing up the idea with my mother and then-boyfriend, S, and received opposing reactions.

It's so ugly, said my mother. You'll look so cool, exclaimed S.

In the end, I decided against it, it didn't seem to be worth the effort: Half my head is still black, so the problem will remain, in reverse, when my black hair grows out.

I came to terms with my white hair three years ago when I realised that my closest friends and family do not see it see it a flaw, but something that was uniquely me.

I still feel self-conscious when my roots show because I think they look untidy, but I cannot wait for the day when all my hair is white so that I can finally ditch the dye and let it grow out.

By then, I hope that I am able to relish the stares that come my way.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2016, with the headline 'The colour of my mane is uniquely me'. Print Edition | Subscribe