The Beauty of Imperfection

There is a Japanese method of repair called kintsugi in which ceramics are mended with lines of gold. The result becomes both a reminder of the original crack, and a stunning piece of unique beauty. (More explanation and a few lovely examples at My Modern Met.)

I found my first grey hairs at the age of 21, back when I had just graduated and moved to Chiba in Japan to teach English. As I combed my hair in the small mirror hung up in our kitchen, three spiked lightening bolts of white shot out from from my temple. My reaction at the sight was a simple, “You have got to be kidding me.”

Since then, I’ve been one ongoing transition from brown to salt and pepper, most of my hair remaining brown while increasingly large swaths of white emerge from my temples. It’s a minor problem with a simple and common solution, but one I’ve stubbornly resisted. There are many pressures in American society for women to color their hair, from the ever-present cult of youth to the known biases against older women present in many workplaces. I’m not afraid of color as an idea, and in fact my senior year of college bleached and dyed two magnificent red streaks on either side of my head1, but I always felt that for me I’d be more self-conscious of the effort to hide my age. And on the larger scale, the only way to change social attitudes is to normalize the sight of grey.

Recently, Instagram, creepy Instagram, started pitching me adds for a coloring conditioner called Overtone. While they recently added some natural colors, their emphasis is on bright happy colors, across the spectrum. I subscribed to their account and after a few months of indecision ordered a package of extreme red and purple for brown.

Now my colorless strands are highlighted against the dark, bright and sparkling in sunlight. It’s a reminder of my college days, a visible indication of privilege in a professional position, and joyous celebration of my follicular imperfection.