My mother started going grey in junior high, was salt and pepper by thirty, and completely silver by forty. This is mitigated by the fact that time hasn’t touched her face in forty years, except for a few wrinkles just beginning to show around her eyes. My father’s genes have watered down this process in me, but I still found my first solo greys around the same age my mother did.
When you start finding grey hair shortly after puberty, it takes something special to shock you. Finding my first grey pubic hair at twenty-three was a shock. I couldn’t pluck that damn thing fast enough; ditto the two which popped up after. Every five years, my body marking off the passage of time like an odd flower that only blooms when the planets are aligned exactly right.
The last two years, it’s been nose hair. What fun that is. At six foot three, I need to trim vigilantly to ensure people aren’t looking up my nostrils and wondering what that white thing is hanging there.
The sides of my head are salt-and-pepper. Not Clooney salt-and-pepper, but give it time. If my brother is any indication, I’ll have a set of Reed Richards' wings in about five years. It’s never bothered me. It didn’t bother my mother until she found her first grey eyebrow hair. The last streaks of black clung to a silver mane on her head, but a single hair in her brow made her panic about getting old. She ran out of the bathroom screaming, “My hair is grey!” Well, duh.
This week, I found the first grey hair growing right out of my fucking hairline. Not away from my face, looking distinguished or manly or whatever the hell it’s supposed to be, but right from the top of my forehead. Old man hair, no way around it. The urge to pluck it is surpassed only by the urge to run screaming through the streets that God is not making an exception in my case.
I will not pluck; I will not dye.
It’s not the physical signs of aging which worry me. The admonition to be careful with your thoughts, for they become your words, be careful with your words, etc. etc; that worries me. In my short story, “A Beautiful Son,” I compare the young mind to fresh clay. As you age, the mind hardens, and eventually becomes set. Mindset, get it? Gosh, I’m clever. It worked in the story, I swear!
I want to be open, evolving, and learning as long as I’m wandering the earth. I’m amazed at how annoying I find children, when with each breath they personify that perfect, in-the-moment wonderment I break my brains trying to achieve. Probably I’m just jealous. You can only read your favorite book for the first time once, and children are going through everything in their lives anew.
Off the rails a bit there, but let’s get back to aging as personified by my first grey scalp-line strand. I hate it. I wish it ill. But it’s here to teach me something.
Looking from my eyes, I still feel like me. Every day, I discover new things to humble myself before, facts I had no idea about, and people I didn’t know existed. Life was that way pre-hair, and it’s like that post-hair as well. Maybe it’s telling me aging won’t dull my zest for life.
Or maybe it’s reminding me of my mortality, that I have limited time to make an impact with my life. Thanks, hair. Like the arthritis in my broken bones weren’t doing that daily. If that’s the case, you’re redundant, hair. Redundant, and years late to the party.
Maybe it’s asking one of those how many angels can dance on the head of pin questions, like how many greys before I’m old? More than one, anyway.