For All CurlKind is a place for members of the curl community to share (and rant about) their experiences, especially about going gray naturally. Today we’ve got a guest blogger, Talia – who has been in love with Deva for over a decade. She’s sharing her story on embracing the gray. What are you waiting for? Go ahead, gray gracefully.
It seems everywhere I look these days, there’s a new it-girl dyeing her hair some sort of lavender gray and being applauded for how edgy she looks. Of course, society isn’t as tickled by women who let their hair naturally go gray with age. Oddly I know this, because I fall both into both the “young gray” and “naturally gray” categories. At 28, with my hair already well into its stubborn silverhood, the lavender gray trend is now popular enough that I’m often asked if I’m dyeing my own. Perhaps due to these “edgy” young beauties, I’m somehow unintentionally in high-flying follicle fashion.
It hasn’t always been this way, though. In fact, the first time a person discovered my gray hair 14 years ago, it caused her to recoil in absolute horror.
This was 2002. Back then, it seemed there were only two choices for curly girls: Chemically alter/heat damage your hair or give in to how curls looked back then: A wet-looking, highly-gelled … situation … famously worn by Felicity (circa Season 2) and Justin Timberlake.
Personally, I took an iron to my locks.
Though I dreamed of stick-straight perfection, most days I looked like I had stuck my finger into an electrical socket. In a desperate attempt to stop me from putting a searing object inches from my face, my mother booked me an appointment at the original Devachan Salon.
Carlos was the business. Bald, flamboyant, and leather jacket clad, he was easily the coolest guy I’d met in my fourteen years.
If you’ve ever been to Devachan, you know how it is. Curly Goddesses! Head massages! I was busy enjoying what I imagined a Spice Girl must live like when the woman washing my hair jumped back in horror. She yanked out a strand, stared at it like a burning cockroach wrapped in manure, and gathered the salon to gawk at my first gray. Stylists began offering up “solutions.”
Carlos, thankfully, was not having this noise. He shooed them away and issued a decree: “Girl, promise me you won’t ever dye that. You’ve earned it.”
I promised, because what else are you going to say to the literal coolest guy you’ve ever met? Deep down though, I was nearly positive I would never follow through. Perhaps some part of me knew just how little society would accept that choice, should I choose to make it in the future. Plus at 14, I hadn’t earned it. That gray hair appeared because of genetics, not because I had been through some of life’s great challenges.
14 hardcore years later, that’s not the case. I’ve been through and seen a lot. I have learned about first, second, and third wave feminism. I’ve crafted my own personal style, and I’ve set my role models as women, who, whether they color their hair or not, embrace their age and grow into their pursuits with each year.
So far I’ve kept my promise to Carlos. But the closer I get to a real full head of silver, the harder I find it to drum up his “I earned it” mantra.
This could be because I’m warned so frequently by women ahead of me. When I voice my plans to stay gray, I’m often told, “You look young now and have gray hair, so nobody cares. Letting your face actually age and wearing gray hair, now that’s too much.”
I don’t know if this is true. I hope not, though our culture’s obsession with young artificially gray haired it-girls doesn’t have me feeling too optimistic.
My own experience, however, has led me to be aware of how deeply penetrating society’s anti-woman/aging propaganda can be. Some days I look up at my hair aging with me and feel rad. Other days, I fear that if I let my hair go fully gray, my partner won’t love me anymore, I won’t be taken seriously, or that my career will stall out.
In those moments, I remind myself that aging has made me better: as a person, as an artist, and as a partner. I may be young, but I haven’t had it easy. My hair is evidence of that, both in its curl and in its color. I challenge myself daily to change the narrative, and look to women like Iris Apfel and Maye Musk for inspiration. At my most down, I pull up an Iris quote: “I don’t see what’s wrong with a wrinkle here and there. It’s kind of a badge of courage.” I apply the same logic to my hair.
As a third wave feminist, I retain an à la carte menu of what I choose to do with my hair. By the same logic, I salute women who choose to color for any reason. Do you, ladies.
But as of right now, here’s my pitch for not doing so: celebrating ourselves is a challenge that only gets harder the more we don’t do it. My face is young now, sure. But as my face ages to meet my prematurely gray hair, I’d like to think that I’ll continue to support and believe in myself. After all, if I don’t do it, who will? I’m making a choice to try my own little social rebellion experiment, for right now. Because Carlos is right: I did earn this silver. And Iris is right: These are my badges of courage.
So bring it, melanin deficiency. I’ve got this.