Loving My First Gray Hair Is Political

Yesterday I got my first gray hair. It’s beautiful and light, hugging the soft space to the side of my forehead. I love it.

I have been waiting for this day. I am 35. Gray hair was going to happen. Years ago I made a conscious decision to continue loving myself as I grow older. This is an act of self-preservation, and defiance.

This is about my feminism — hatred of women is intimately tied in with dangerous, racist, and unrealistic expectations of beauty that we are expected to internalize. We must reject that as much as we can (real talk: this can be a day-by-day thing, and feeling like crap about your looks doesn’t mean you don’t get to be a feminist).

This is personal — I almost died of anorexia. Gray hair is a victory! I am fortunate I made it to my 18th, 19th, and 20th birthdays. I am both grateful and proud I did, because damn that was a lot of work. My personal interest extends beyond having overcome nearly lethal negative self-talk related to my appearance; I’ve reached an age where too many peers have died for no good reason. I’m lucky to get old.

This is about parenting, too — my daughter deserves the example of a woman who dares to look like herself and love herself.

As a social justice activist and organizer, I struggle with the decision to write posts like this sometimes. Today yet another video has surfaced of a Black person losing their life to police violence; his name was Sam DuBose. Racism is one of the most pressing issues of our time.

And so, I ask myself:

Is it indulgent to be introspective about the first freaking gray hair on my head at a time when people are dying, when politicians fail to acknowledge that Black lives matter, when terrorists are targeting abortion providers because they dare to help women?

I struggle with this question, and yet this post speaks for itself: Here I am, writing. My firm belief is that self-love is radical. You cannot fight effectively for equality, dignity, or justice when you are unable to treat yourself with respect. You cannot find the courage to accept difference in others if you’re unwilling to accommodate difference for yourself. Loving yourself is not ego or dominance (those are rooted in insecurity, after all); loving yourself is about compassion. Best part? Inner compassion is compassion, and both are contagious.

So, when I embrace my gray hair, what I am also saying is that we should embrace ourselves and one another as we are. We must treat our fragile lives with respect and love, and break every convention necessary.


5 thoughts on “Loving My First Gray Hair Is Political

  1. sutarooni

    Hi, I am 63 years old with short thin hair. I have grey around my temples but am much more dull brown than grey. If I could grow a full head of gorgeous white or grey hair, I would. I think it looks super. I put some purple coloring in my hair last year and am loving it. Women come up to me in the street and so do young people. They all love it.

    So my message is this, love your head and your hair and do what makes you happy. In the long run, blonde or brunette, red, grey, or purple, enjoy your life and remember, only judge with love.

  2. You’re not writing about it as if it were the only thing that mattered–as if you had your head so far inside your head that you’d forgotten anyone else existed. So yes, write about it. And celebrate it. And if you want a report from the perspective of a 68-year-old, things gets better as you get older. The body develops some habits I’d just as soon do without, but emotionally? It’s all so much easier.

  3. I got my first grey at 17. I have slowly gotten more and more over the years. I followed my father. I have over the years loved it sometimes and hated it at others. It doesn’t define me, never has. You write, not as a definition but as stepping stone. We see ourselves as whole, grey hair is only one piece that lets us know we are still here.

  4. i think this topic of self-love is integral and political and indeed radical, and i appreciate your point of view, but i would just like to point out that we’re all on a spectrum that shifts and moves, so one day the self love may be strong, another day it may be weak, and this is perfectly normal. with all due respect, to advise people that they cannot fight effectively for what matters to them until they have achieved some nebulous nirvana of self love is a bit off the mark.

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