grey hair

My morning routine requires a pair of tweezers, a blow dryer that closely resembles a handgun in both shape and sound, and a handful of products that are poisonous if ingested. It is a fairly violent regimen, heating and pulling on my hair and plucking the willful ones that have fled my scalp to grow on my face. It feels like a fight against my body—against nature itself: fluffing bangs to cover my enormous forehead, spraying my hair to be glued in the upright position, slapping some Spanx around my suffocated hips. I know what you’re thinking at this point. She’s one of those anti-makeup, no frills types. False. I am of the camp that enjoys the artful aspects of self-expression. Doing hair, even if it does require some work and even a little pain, can be much like painting a canvas. But there is something a little hostile about the multi-billion dollar market for anti-aging products and “correction” creams. I have products like these in my makeup bag that remind me that aging is to be avoided at all costs. It’s no secret that telling a woman over 20 that she looks younger than her age is an enormous compliment. Aging includes, after all, the breakdown of collagen and other components that make up your skin, so maybe it seems fair to categorize it as bad.

I found a grey hair. That’s where this is going.

I found a grey hair on the very top of my head—like a white string to pull on when my posture needs correcting. Except it’s only an inch or two long, so now I have a grey hair and bad posture. I’ve found grey hairs before. I’m only in my 20s, so I’ve always assumed it was nature’s mistake and promptly plucked them out of my head. I had the tweezers in hand while investigating my prominent, little hair when it occurred to me that maybe all the people behind the anti-aging (what a ridiculous idea—I will not age, I have decided) market are wrong.

Hollie McNish authored an incredible poem called “Cupcakes or Scones” about enjoying looking and acting like a woman in a very girlish, youth-obsessed culture. I had to wonder if I couldn’t just like being a woman with my single grey hair and my non-teenage but still beautiful body. The last five years have taken me so many places, do I dare deny myself a souvenir in my hair to reflect the journey? I have a strange, fond feeling of my lower belly. It has light stretch marks from where I was pregnant. The skin there is softer and different from the rest of my skin. It reminds me that I carried my daughter closer than you can hold any other person. I stared at my short, grey hair and wondered.

[Caution: “Cupcakes or Scones” does feature some topics that are not suitable for children, so listen at your discretion]

I recently watched an old screwball comedy that startled me with how entertaining it was: Cary Grant’s Monkey Business (1952). The premise of the film is that a chemist (Grant) experiments with making a youth serum to help subjects feel, act, and think younger. Upon finding success, he decides he doesn’t like the serum after all. Before the serum was discovered, the chemist and his wife functioned as a loving and selfless unit, beautifully quick to forgive. While on the serum, though, they become, yes energetic and playful, but also argumentative, selfish, jealous, and lacking in self-control, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. The chemist states:

“I’m beginning to wonder if being young is all it’s cracked up to be. The dream of youth! We remember it as a time of nightingales and valentines, and what are the facts? Maladjustment and near idiocy and a series of low comedy disasters… I don’t see how anyone survives it.”

I have to wonder if something about our aging (degrading) bodies does not aid in the positive aging (think wine) of our minds and hearts? If nothing else, they serve as a finite reminder that most everything in this life turns to dust. I need reminders to focus on the few things that don’t. I think that’s why I like my grey hair. So I put the tweezers down and left it there, which felt like a brave and lovely thing to do.