Gray Pride

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Modern society stresses the importance of youthful beauty in film, music and media. Sex symbols are airbrushed smooth in photographs; their skin appears flawless, wrinkle-free and polished. The Media creates a vacuum of emptiness so they can fulfill the illusion of overcoming it, in the same way that Pharmaceutical companies create cures for diseases that they most likely caused. The side effect labels unwittingly disclose that the cure is often worse than the original malady. Material greed rules our world and we the consumers are buying into the mirage of superficial self-improvement.

The illusion of eternal youthfulness bombards magazine ads and television commercials, we’re exposed to the message everyday that aging is a horrible condition, a preventable disease to avoid. Buy this expensive face cream and dye your gray, hide your true age, regenerate your sex appeal, that’s the programmed message that we’ve been force fed for decades. I can’t remember the haircoloring brand that came up with this, but their motto was, “Because you’re worth it”*. Does that message imply that if I don’t dye my hair, I have low self-esteem?

How menacingly clever the marketers are, hiding criticism in a compliment! But that’s the nature of Marketing, convince people to buy products regardless of necessity. Train people, especially women, to feel insecure and inadequate but pretend that their altruistic company can gift them with a solution…their miracle product. If you’ve watched any infomercials it’s obvious that their effective strategy relies heavily on repetition to reinforce their agenda. They are literally brainwashing us. Commercials are set at an obnoxiously loud default level, because Corporations want to program us even while taking a bathroom break. How insidiously evil of them.

I recently visited my mom after she’d been diagnosed with a serious illness. We hugged at the airport with tears streaming down our sorrowful faces. I genuinely love my mom although we have a frequently strained relationship. It’s mostly due to misunderstandings in communication: linguistic, cultural and generational. I mention her now, because the first thing she said during my visit was a confrontational question. She asked me, “Are you the only mother at your son’s elementary school that has gray hair?” Her question felt like a challenge, like an invisible punch, whether she meant to offend me or not, I was instantly offended.

We have dramatically divergent perceptions of beauty. I like the natural look, but she prefers a dramatic style. She was a beautiful woman who didn’t know that she was attractive. Years of constant underserved criticism from both her mother and her husband, formed a distorted self image that she never seemed to overcome. She agreed with the lie that she was ugly and she wanted me to avoid that fate. The same criticisms that she received eventually returned to me in an altered, diluted, disguised-as-help form. I never felt like I could gain her approval but I knew that she loved me.

After years of dyeing my tortured hair with toxic chemicals, I finally decided it was an invalidation of who I was. Initially I had to stand my ground with two boundary-less coworkers who repeatedly questioned my choice to go natural. I tried to lightly laugh away their suggestions but it was frustrating. But on an inner, intuitive level, I knew where their motivations originated…self-rejection. I could see the traced clue on their scalp, a growing line of climbing gray roots, fighting against the jet black blue falseness. They were harassing me to join their cause because they felt trapped in self-inflicted obligation. I think they resented my escape from self-oppression. I felt unchained, unwrapped, unaddicted when I claimed that life was exquisite at every natural stage and age.

In the SF Bay Area, (especially in eccentric Berkeley), gray hair is frequently celebrated. The wise woman, the sage, the crone are revered as teachers and healers here. It’s a Mecca for respect or wise women culture and my crone hair is often complimented. Yes, it’s thinner than it used to be, more wispy and curled at the edges but I love the way it shines silver white lightning strands waving in a seaweed bed of river. When I look at the mystical strands gleaming in the mirror, I feel proud. Proud that I let the magic remain. In claiming my worth, I earned the right to have gray hair. In my perception, maturity is a process of evolving; it’s an honor not a punishment. It was a bogus deal to trick women into trading their wisdom and leadership role for a subordinate one, symbolized by a box of dyed ammonia encased in plastic squirt bottles, all in the name of cosmetic glamour.

(*The haircoloring company was L’Oreal)


  1. What a beautiful celebration of the “graying” of ourselves! We will all age, and with age, comes changes to our physical selves that we cannot stop (no matter how many cosmetic alterations we use). I like your view of accepting the changes for what they are and celebrating them with honor, instead of trying to hide them or change them in some way, pretending to be something we are not.

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    1. Thanks Sindhuja, I wish society would encourage real self-love vs narcissism. I’ve wrestled with self-acceptance most of my life, but as I get older, I feel more aligned with being natural, loving who I am. I think self-confidence is a graceful aspect of aging.

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  2. This should be a must read for every girl and boy in the world. We should celebrate our personal evolution and learn to embrace the changes to our hair and bodies as we age.

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