I hope that I get old before I die.
They Might Be Giants

When I look in the mirror these days, I don't even have to search for them like I used to. Now they stick up at odd angles to the rest of my hair, demanding that their presence be known. It's become impossible to look at my head and not spot one immediately. They are my gray hairs and I love them.

I found my first gray hair shortly after I realized that I knew nothing. So, naturally, I associate gray hair with wisdom.

At 20, I remember thinking to myself, I've been through a lot: love and its demise, credit cards, my own apartment. I know so much. What more can I possibly learn? I was really quite certain that life had nothing else to teach me and that in terms of emotional development I had reached an apex. I didn't think that anything could take me by surprise. At 22, several life traumas crumbled my weakly built fortress of self, my trust in others and in myself and I thought: girl, you really don't know much!

Moments later I found the gray hair.

On a superficial level I equate gray hair with wisdom, in the same way some humorously associate blonde hair with lower intelligence. I see each gray strand as proof of some struggle or lesson learned, some obstacle overcome, some personal battle won. They are merit tokens, metaphors of introspective knowledge and self understanding.

Those who permit premature graying to show and who are able to carry themselves without concern about looking old appear distinguished to me. Vocal fear of aging is an integral part of youthful arrogance. Acceptance of the inevitable as something not completely undesirable and detestable is comforting wisdom.

30-something men with gray hair are sexy!

I saw a woman a few weeks ago at the museum. She was in her early 40's and was completely gray, her hair freely cascading over her shoulders in beautiful silver waves. Yet she carried herself with youthful abandon, as if to say: yeah, so what? She laughed in the face of the stigma attached to graying and her beauty lay in this defiance. She was casually flexing and asserting her inner strength and I admired her greatly. It was refreshing to see a woman who allows herself to age with pride instead of hanging onto the last fragments of youthful appearance with desperation. This act of disdain is akin to youthful rebellion and evidence of great confidence.

So here I am, 3/4's of the way through my 20's and my graying is slowly becoming obvious, but instead of hiding this fact I revel in it. I want to be that proud and confident woman who lets go of youth without regret and who isn't weighed down by the consumerist drive to look young. Several times I have had to fight off hair dressers, boyfriends and my mother to keep them from pulling out a gray hair. I am very defensive of them since I celebrate each and every one. I sit in front of the mirror sometimes, running my fingers through my hair. Happily, my eyes dart from one gray hair to the next.

However, premature graying isn't for everyone. Who knows, maybe in ten years I too will decide that I can't handle a full head of gray hair and follow in the footsteps of my mother and sister before me, Miss Clairol by my side. Maybe I am still too close my youth to miss it or regret its loss. Maybe my opinion is evidence of this fact. We shall have to wait and see.

At this point, however, I am not afraid of growing old. I am looking forward to it. If I continue to learn about the world and myself at the same rate that I have in the last five years, I will be a wizard by the time I reach my golden years and have the hair to prove it. This excites me.

Nine gray hairs

In spite of the fact that most of my friends began getting gray hairs while quite young, I've still never stopped believing that the loss of melanin in the hair was a "senior" thing. I'm not a senior, nowhere near. Yet, I've started to gray.

I've had one little white hair, right at the top of my forehead, since I was 16. It was my pride and joy. I thought I'd earned it for all my deep, contemplative thoughts. My trophy, standing out boldly against my dark chocolate hair.

Then, a couple of months ago, IT started. I found another silvery strand less than an inch away from the first, and it was long. It floated around in the breeze, right in front of my face, hovered for a moment before my eyes, and mocked me. I screamed and yanked it out, throwing it hastily into the trash.

I've got to dye my hair…

A few days later, three more of the shiny gray demons showed up next to my ear. Oh god, oh no, far too many to pluck out without going bald! Mind you, I lose a handful per day and haven't noticed a difference in volume on my head. I freaked out and checked for accompanying wrinkles while my hair laughed maniacally at the horror and panic it had induced.

Ack! right there! under my eyes! I'm a crone! No, this can't be! I'm not wise enough for the role yet!

I've got to dye my hair…

The day before yesterday, I found a matching set of the beasts over my other ear. The forehead hair was back, too, and had brought a friend. It struck me that if I were a man, I would be on my way to the delightful role of the "distinguished gentleman". Can gentlewomen be distinguished, too? Hmph, "no, Virginia", not by going gray.

I've got to dye my hair…

As someone so unconcerned with appearances that most of my time is spent running around and in jeans and t-shirts, without a drop of makeup, I have to be amused at my own vanity. I don't think I'll spend $30 on wrinkle cream, but,

I'll just have to dye my hair.

Or not.

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