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.

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No More Bad Hair Days And Skinny Clothes

I’m done with bad hair days, they don’t exist. Men don’t have bad hair days; those few who say they do are distinctly in the minority because bad hair days are about sexism, not appearance.

Bad hair days are a way of trivializing women and making us feel like we aren’t good enough as we are. It takes hours for a woman to get the kind of hair that graces magazine covers — time that could be spent getting more sleep. Death to bad hair days!

My hair is neither curly nor straight nor wavy. I had been thinking of it as kind of this perpetual bad hair day. Except it’s not.

Recently I realized how much time I’d been spending beating myself up for not having time to blow dry my hair, since my mornings are about walking dogs, feeding dogs, changing diapers, and then getting a toddler dressed and fed before encouraging her to brush her teeth (good luck). I’m fortunate if I get in a shower before starting to work.

Thinking negatively about my hair had started to invade my space. I started thinking I didn’t look “professional” enough to see colleagues or “good” enough to see friends. I had all this self-imposed stress in the mornings to meet this goal to blow dry my hair.

Wait, what?

When I started unpacking it, I realized I have the same hair that I used to think was totally hot on guys I used to date. (I focused a good chunk of my single life on men who look like Jesus.) This made me realize — hey wait, that’s bunk! I’m not having bad hair days. I’m feeling bad about not measuring up to impossible standards for women. Perhaps, even, my natural hair looks good.

Well, okay then. Bye-bye bad hair days.

On a similar note, the other day I purged my closet of small (skinny) clothes. It felt wonderfully empowering. Leaving clothes that are too small in my wardrobe implies that I need to lose weight to get dressed. No, thank you. Clothes are supposed to fit people, not the other way around.

Self-esteem is not fluff, y’all. When we are able to stand tall, we are able to insist others respect our bodies and our minds. We can dare to be vulnerable, and we can dare to change. Creating the world that should exist is actually a hell of a lot of fun.

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