"Color it," she said.
I didn't know what to say. I was in my mid-twenties and shared that I was starting to sprout grey hairs all around my face. I didn't know what I hoped to hear until I heard her reply.
I admired my friend and her timeless beauty. She was exuberant and wise. I wanted to be classic and lovely like her. Deep down, I must have been hoping to hear what we all long to hear: You are beautiful, acceptable, and worthy as you are. Don't change a thing. I wanted permission to go against a cultural standard of beauty that I had internalized long ago.
I know that her response was meant in love — an encouragement to do what made me feel good. But it got me thinking about what I really wanted. What I want for myself and what I want for my daughter.
Our culture spoon-feeds us stories of women with perfect cheekbones and flawless skin. With this change or that product, you'll find the beautiful you that's always been dormant. So we contour our faces to change how our features appear. We buy new clothes, embrace new trends, and try to find happy. And often we lose the capacity to feel beautiful and worthy as we are with what we have.
It may seem a small point. It's just a hair color, after all. But for me, it wasn't just about covering my grays. It was about covering up something about myself in order to fit a mold. And if I do that, how can I expect my daughter to feel beautiful as she is and as she begins to decide who she wants to be? If we don't wear what we want and what makes us feel good, how can we empower other women to dress for themselves instead of others? If we continue to validate the expectation that only one body type is acceptable, how will we ever really embrace the diverse expressions of humanity around us?
So if you find yourself asking others about your looks, when truly, you are asking for permission to be different, can I be your friend today? Color your hair, don't color your hair. Wear what makes you happy. You do you. We need you. Just as you decide to be.