February 16, 2009, my work-wife and I arrived at the DMV to renew my license. This day would go down in history for two reasons: The day I defeated the DMV photo Nazi—and of course, my 30th birthday. Before closing the car door, I threw my bag onto the seat to search for my heart shaped mirror. I needed to give myself one last look-over, seeing as we get one opportunity every five years to take the most damning photo on Earth.
NOOOOOOO! I collapsed face-forward onto the car seat. For two brief seconds, my life flashed before my eyes.
“Yesi,” I cried, “what’s that?!”
She pointed at my forehead and laughed “you have a gray hair!”
Why would I expect a 25 year-old with long, lustrous jet-bIack hair to understand?
I rolled out of the van onto the ground. To rub it in, Yesi said that gray hair didn’t run in her family.
I couldn’t believe this was happening on my birthday and the very last day I had to renew my license. There was no tomorrow. So, I closed my eyes and prayed. “God, I never ask you for nothing (that was a lie). Please just turn it back black.” I pulled myself up hoping for a miracle. Even through the dark tinted window, I could see it. I stared in absolute horror, as it stood at attention wiry and proud. What was it still doing there, I thought?
“Um, God, is it that you physically can’t or physically won’t?” Fine! I yanked out several good strands of black hair just to get to that one. Aside from everything going on with my frontal lobe, I looked wretched. That gray hair was the least of my worries. My whole head was a hot mess, and my face looked like Theodore Chipmunk’s. It’d be another five years before I could redeem myself… which I didn’t.
At 23, I watched my Mom and Auntie Marion race past me into the bathroom with an orange box. You would’ve thought they were smuggling cocaine across Mexico’s border. I had to beg to see what it was. Bigen. Their slogan: The Origin of Beauty. No wonder they rushed to destroy the first sight of gray hair.
My mom hated turning gray. She said it looked stupid. Her gray’s grew wild—in patches—very similar to a skunk. No amount of product made them lay down because the texture of the gray’s were different from the rest of her hair. Every year, she promised herself she wouldn’t dye it again. Two days later, it was back black. “What happened to being gray?” I asked. “Mari, I couldn’t do it,” she admitted.
My grandmother on the other hand, loved being gray. It represented something totally different. Survival. She lived long enough to turn gray. I was fascinated by her joy in getting old. She lived through era’s where women and people of color received little to no respect. Becoming a senior was a defining moment in her life. For her, getting her AARP card was like being honored with a key to the city.
I’ve watched her barrel to the front of the line at Hometown Buffet pointing her cane to the sky declaring “I’m a senior!”
I hated to interrupt, but had to remind her that being a senior only rewards a discount, not a fast-pass to the front of the line. It was no use.
Over the past several years, I found myself in my mother’s predicament. The only difference is, she has grown children and a was-band. In my opinion, if anybody could gray peacefully, it’d be her. Frankly, I wouldn’t give a rat’s tail if I was married with children—and gray. It’s the circle of life. But, I’m not, so…
I’m single with no kids. To see the baby hairs around my face turning white, is a harsh reminder of all I have yet to gain in my life.
In the last three months, I’ve tried to dye my hair red twice, but it wouldn’t take, especially around my edges. Decisions, decisions. I’ve seen some very beautiful gray haired women with my complexion, and many other admirable people.
Although, I admired it on them, there was no way I could let this baby-face succumb to judgement.
My sister changed her profile photo on Instagram. She dyed her hair blond. I don’t know her reason for doing so, but when mature women dye their hair blond it’s to mask the gray. Blond hides the gray hairs better when they start to grow back in.
I’m not doing this, I thought. Going gray can be good thing. Nobody is doing this to me. It’s happening. So, I’m going to let it. I took it a step further, and installed gray box braids to get the full effect. I was shocked at how beautiful it looked. I look.
I never imagined that embracing this natural occurrence would give me a boost of confidence. I am so not worried about my getting older. I’m in great company.
Live. Bless. Prosper.