Written by Shannon Lell
I found my first grey hair the other day. I’m just shy of 38. Relax. This isn’t one of those posts where I lament about getting older and the passing of time and then circle back to tie it up with a neat bow of embracing my age. No. This is not that.
This post is about how I found my first grey hair on my blondish dyed head and then spent 30 minutes subjecting that hair to every quality of light in my home to discern its exact hue. Because it could have just been an over-processed strand on which I was placing some undue significance, and I wanted, no NEEDED to know the truth. Was I really going grey? Often, I like to live in the illusion that my body isn’t aging. Call it blissful ignorance but it works for me. But was this irrefutable proof that I wouldn’t be youngish forever? I needed answer.
First, I took it to the 60 watt lamp. Then the fluorescence of my kitchen. Then I put it against a black piece of paper and took it back to the 60 watt bulb and then back to the kitchen. Then I got a flashlight, and just to be sure again, I contrasted the hair next to a positively glinting, blond strand against the black paper. In all these tests, the strand was different than any hair I’d seen on my body before. It shone lighter, but not with actual shimmering quality like the gold in the blond strands, but with a more permanent, steadfast light; one that refused to glint in any kind of illumination but remained true to color. After all that, the conclusion was definite. It was my first grey hair.
And it wasn’t grey at all. It was actually white. White-white. Which made me wonder why they call it “going grey” because I’m sure people go white immediately, like this hair. Unless this hair was supposed to be grey and due to the amount of stress, worry and existential crisis’ I’ve had in the last six years that I skipped right over grey and went to white? Perhaps children, a divorce and career change will do that to a person.
Once I determined that it was, in fact, white, I stopped to take the temperature of my internal world. Was I supposed to feel something for this first white hair? Was I supposed to have a moment of reflection, insight or lamentation? I felt nothing. I decided it was probably because all the stress, worry and existential crisis’ I’ve had in the last six years that this barely hit my radar of things I needed to feel something about.
But I would never, I mean NEVER judge anyone who reflects and laments about grey hairs and wrinkles. Physical aging sucks in our society. I get Botox and apply a bevy of expensive creams and sunscreen to prevent said wrinkles. I get it. I will cheers a glass of wine in solidarity with any woman while lamenting about what sucks on our bodies as we age. And maybe I’ll exaggerate about caring that I now I have white hair, that I skipped grey entirely because I’m an overachieving ager, and we’ll howl until we pee a little and then we’ll talk about our urinary incontinence brought on by childbirth. But just between us, right now, I really don’t care about my white hair. Not really.
What I do care about is the lengths I went to prove that it was, in fact, white. The moment I plucked it from my temple I knew what it was or I wouldn’t have felt the need to inspect it like that. The moment I put it under the first 60 watt bulb, I knew in my gut that it was my first white hair, and yet my mind doubted. My brain wanted irrefutable proof, clarity and closure. But why? Why did I have to go through all the other steps to prove to myself what I’d known from the beginning? This, beyond the significance of the passing of time and all that sentimental stuff, was what I was left thinking. I have white hair now, but I’m still second guessing myself.
That deep, steadfast light is something I’ve always known was inside me, and yet, I am measuring it against all matter of things both real and imagined. For what? For proof? For validation? For approval?
I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to waste any more time in my life looking for proof of something I already know to be true about myself. Deep down I know that I don’t need to be measured against anything else in this world so why do I still do it? It is my intention to stop this and my instinct tells me this kind of confident clarity comes hand-in-hand with getting older.
So bring on the white hair (which I shall promptly dye blond) but slow down on the wrinkles m’kay? Because ready or not, here I come.