Silver-Haired Shit Starter

I was doing an interview on Radio Boise about the stand for self-love a little over a year ago when a beautiful woman with long, gorgeous silver hair knocked on the window of the recording studio, smiled, and rushed to introduce herself and hug me. Donna and I became fast friends that day and she told me that she admired my bravery, my courage, my rebellion and my hair. She inducted me as an honorary member of the "Canas con Ganas Club," which she told me meant "gray with gusto" but for months I couldn't remember the exact meaning and would always translate in my mind to "silver-haired shit starters."

 Donna and I at Radio Boise, September 2015, photo courtesy Donna Vasquez

Donna and I at Radio Boise, September 2015, photo courtesy Donna Vasquez

 I was also captain of the junior varsity cheer squad the year I decided to chop my hair off. You can see me in my feminist rebellion germinating phase here second from the right.

I was also captain of the junior varsity cheer squad the year I decided to chop my hair off. You can see me in my feminist rebellion germinating phase here second from the right.

I've written before about secretly saving up my money at the age of 16 to seek out a bold new stylist in our tiny conservative Idaho farm town in high school with a creased picture torn from the pages of Vogue magazine. In a radical act of feminist rebellion, I cut my long curly brown hair off into a super short pixie cut in 1991 much to the chagrin of my parents and most of the boys in town. It was a move away from beauty standards I felt imposed upon me, a way to begin to take some control of my body. In a recent piece on her short hair for Ravishly, Emily Hill writes about her departure from long hair to short in a way that feels familiar to me:

Short hair takes away a crutch. I’d been leaning on the long-hair trope to feel more secure. Something about flowing curls, I admit, is comforting. Long hair is the ultimate accessory. It’s your wingman. It wraps you up, makes you feel taller, thinner, bolder. It gives you something to twist flirtatiously around your index finger. And in moments of self-consciousness, it allows you retreat, to hide, to take your place.

But this isn’t just about my cheeky haircut.

It’s about how a woman's worth is derived from beauty, not ability. It’s about how hair is sexualized and fetishized. It’s about how we’re taught to make ourselves desirable above all else. Sorry not sorry for the lofty departure folks, but this is not about pixie cuts, it’s about the mutha fuckin’ patriarchy.

 My, left, right after I liberated myself from my long hair, 1991.

My, left, right after I liberated myself from my long hair, 1991.

 Black box dye phase, c. 1997

Black box dye phase, c. 1997

 Still coloring it dark in 2000.

Still coloring it dark in 2000.

My first silver streak came when I was just 18, a small wisp in a curl right above my forehead. It was quirky and a conversation starter for a few years, but I was soon embarrassed by the freakishly early continued spread of gray around my face and went through that angsty phase in my early 20s when I used cheap boxes of dye to color my hair black. It was so harsh it fried my cute a-line bob and dried out my scalp til it peeled off in chunks, so I cut it off into a short pixie to let it heal around age 25. It wasn't until I discovered the fat acceptance movement eight years ago that I felt comfortable embracing my true colors (in more ways than one). I also found an amazing stylist who took to my idea of highlighting my large silver streaks with my natural dark brown and adding in some funky bright red. While most women go to great lengths to hide their gray, I choose to celebrate it. For me, body positivity means accepting the natural ways of my body, including aging, as beautifully imperfect as they may be.