As I approach my 10-year CURLY-versary, I’ve had a new revelation that has rekindled my love and appreciation for my tightly coiled coiffure: Gray is gorgeous!
Making the decision to leave all chemicals behind and embrace the natural texture and pattern of my hair took a lot of thought. I wavered at first. I’d been one who faithfully visited the beauty salon early on Saturday mornings . . . like 6:00 a.m. if necessary to get in that day. So, was I ready to leave the sleek and manicured, conservative and polished hair days behind? How would others accept me? Would I like it? Could I manage it?
After researching how to care for natural hair, seemingly endless YouTube tutorials, and natural hair blogs, I was ready. Then I had to decide how to do it. Transition slowly — which can take many, many months — or the big chop (yeah, that means cutting it ALL off)? This was harder than the decision to go natural.
Then one Saturday morning, I made the decision as I sat in the chair. I looked at my stylist and said, “Cut it off.” Honestly, I was as shocked as she as the words fell out of my mouth. Her response: “Are you sure?” In that millisecond, I made a decision that was about me and for me. Not about my spouse, my children, or anyone else. In that second I realized I am beautiful. Period.
With a boldness and confidence I didn’t know I had, I said, “ABSOLUTELY! Cut it off.” I’ll have to share the story of why that moment was so defining another time. My confidence soared as I studied the new me in the salon mirror.
The Chromatic Conundrum
I’ve been proud of my curly crown ever since . . . until about a year ago. I found myself questioning my beauty and worried how others perceived me. For months, I tried to hide it, hoped no one noticed. Then one day a friend called me out.
“What are you going to do about this gray?”
Her question caught me off guard. Like I said, I’d hoped no one really noticed that, more and more, the hairs around my temple were graying. It started very subtly, with a few strands here and there, but it seemed with the dawn of each new day a new patch arrived. Short, new, “baby curls” that were sprinkled about had now become long coils in groups . . . a gang even. That’s how I felt — like my hair was ganging up on me, rebelling, REVOLTING! How dare it turn gray!
As much as I still loved my kinky hair, I was embarrassed. When other women would give me a compliment on a style, instead of saying thank you, I would say “but this gray, ugh” or “this gray is killing me” followed by a review of all the products I’d tried, as if I needed to prove to them I was trying to cover this unruly, unsightly mess.
Oh the products and styling methods I tried! Strategically placed parts worked for awhile. No up-dos or only partial up-dos because hair had to cover my temple where the battle was most intense. I colored often, even using the so-called specialized treatments designed to conquer the gray. It worked, but only for a couple of weeks. Coloring would require consistent, frequent applications. I hennaed (I think I just made that a verb). Great at conditioning! But not a solution to gray. Henna on gray is like burnt copper — wiry and orange.
The Silver Lining
One Friday, I sat at my vanity getting ready for a formal event, and I was frustrated because no matter how I parted my hair or strategically placed the curls, the gray was visible and demanding attention. Then it happened. Just as it did nearly 10 years ago. A wave of boldness and confidence swelled within me: I am STILL beautiful. Period. Nothing needs to be added or changed.
Truth is I have been fearfully and wonderfully made. Why am I doubting that fact? Why am I concerned with society’s definition of beauty? There is a double standard in America when it comes to graying. Men are referred to as distinguished, handsome, and silver foxes. No such monikers for women. As we get older. — which I prefer to the alternative — we are judged and shamed by the processes that naturally take place, including the pigment of our follicles. We receive recommendations from friends on how to color it, unsolicited opinions from others on how old it makes us look, and insults thinly veiled by compliments like “but it still looks cute and healthy.”
Let me clarify the last comment. “Still,” in this sense, implies “in spite of.”
Why is graying for men accepted and even praised, but women get the opposite? I say just as we’ve taken a stance against applying other dangerous chemicals and extreme amounts of heat to our hair to conform, it’s time to stand against the societal pressures to hide our natural hues. I’ve thrown out all hair dye (because I always kept a stash in case of a dating emergency . . . again, another topic for another time). I will no longer subject my healthy curls to color treatments. I will no longer let another’s definition of beauty confine me. My name is Nichole. I’m going gray, and I don’t care!
Let’s create our own cute nicknames: Platinum Queen, Gorgeous Gray, Silver Sultress, Silver Stunner, Gray Goddess. Can you think of other names that demonstrate the beauty and boldness of women as we gray?