50 Strands of Grey
Silver. Grey. White. Doesn’t matter what you call it — if it ain’t brown, it don’t belong on my head
Or so I thought.
This story begins a few months ago when I noticed a grey hair. It shocked me. I stopped everything I was doing, held the strand in my hand and told myself — I am hallucinating. Too much sun, I should go drink some water. Because at 32, I am not going grey!
A few months later, I found another one. Again, I almost cried, but then thought: statistically speaking, I’m not going grey. I have thousands upon thousands of hair stands on my head, if I find one grey hair, it does not mean I’m going grey.
But then I kept finding them the last few weeks. Hiding behind other strands. Pretending not to stick out. But they kept shouting out and making known their unwelcomed presence. I just kept finding them, tucked away under curls. At some point it dawned on me, if I keep taking them out and then finding more, I guess that means I’m going grey at the ripe old age of 32.
I mean I know I have had some stress over the decade (three decades?), but isn’t this premature? At some point, I told my kids to find every last white hair and pull it out. And they did. I had about six long grey strands in my lap when they stated mission complete. My kids thought it was fun until I burst out crying.
Why are you crying, Mom — did it hurt?
No dears, I’m just getting old!!
A wave of depression came over me. Could it be? Could I really be going grey at 32? Does this mean I’m approaching my 40s, then 50s and life is almost ending? Does this mean I better start embracing each day and smelling beautiful flowers, eat at better quality Italian restaurants and travel to Thailand? Should I appreciate my children’s smiles a bit more — because now I know, I won’t be here forever? Does this grey hair tell me that I am quickly losing my youth? Should I start applying anti-wrinkle cream at night, instead of my regular face cream? Does this mean I should stop wearing flip flops and only wear neutralizer sandals because my bones may be weaker? Should I take more vitamins? See a geriatric doctor? Start saving for a nursing home? I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to start thinking about retirement — I have been kind of overworked lately.
My head kept going in this direction. I was really going south with this idea that my days are ticking, I’m aging rapidly, and a few grey stands meant I better start living (more than I have until now) because any day now, I’m going to be all grey with dentures and then chances are, I will no longer be able to climb Kilimanjaro — or stairs.
But then I started seeing the silver lining, pun clearly intended, on this very dooming and melancholy situation. First, I started noticing, many of my friends have grey stands sticking out of their mitpachot. And I bet the ones wearing shteitels are just happy to be hiding them. Not friends who are 10 years older than me — friends who are my age! So, I am not the only one experiencing this. I took a deep breath. Then I began to realize, that grey hairs are testimonies. They are strands of wisdom, experience, and pride that I have walked through difficult times and came out stronger.
The grey hairs at the beginning simply represented losing something I was holding on to dearly — my youth. But this morning, when I found one grey strand amongst my robust brown curls, I smiled. I felt overcome with triumph. These grey hairs suddenly became loud statements of yes, I am getting older, and that’s just fine because it reminds me to embrace each day! I pulled it out — and stared at it — and instead of being sick to my stomach, I felt so at peace with the lanky thread in my hand. I have been through so much and quite frankly — if stress and grey hair are truly correlated — it’s amazing I made it to 32. In truth, these grey hairs that are stubborn to be noticed are not something I’m ashamed of. I’m even contemplating not pulling them out anymore. Maybe if I leave them, I am stating that I’m not fearful of getting older. Chances are, I have only lived 1/3 of my life (please G-d) which means I have a lot more to do — a lot more to accomplish — a lot more to change in myself and I need to work harder on being a better mother, daughter, friend, and person. If I need to do that with grey hair strands — or grey hair — I’ll still do it.
For now, I will probably still take a deep breath when I find these strands — simply because I am still in shock — but perhaps it’s not all that bad. I will simply await the day I find one brown hair in my grey curls and feel exuberant that I found a strand of youth.