I found my first gray hair today

I found my first gray hair today.

I was doing my make-up and standing in super-close proximity to the mirror. There it was, growing out of my side parting. At first, I thought it was bleached from the sun, although I haven’t spent that much time in the sun lately. My never-been-dyed hair is a fairly dark brown, with some dark blonde sunlit strands in between. In the summer, the hair around my forehead and temples lights up further to a golden yellow color, like a strange little halo. When I saw this particular hair, I thought, for a hot second, that this hair further marked the beginning of spring. But it didn’t. I held it between my thumb and index finger. This hair was, upon close examination, silver-colored, and a little too curly-wiry in comparison to the surrounding ones. This baby hair was (is) undoubtedly my first gray hair. 

It would be easy to make a bunch of seemingly profound yet at the same time incredibly mundane observations about this one gray hair: that it doesn’t mark spring and new sunlight, but rather my own emerging aging process, the passing of seasons in my own life and whatnot.  Those statements sound too grandiose for me, too much like a parody of the earthy hippie lady type that I love but happen not to be at all. Still, I turned 24 last month, and maybe I would have been annoyed at this gray hair under normal, non-Corona circumstances. I can imagine my old self, an old self that I didn’t know would evolve so much over the course of a week and a half, thinking: wasn’t I too young for gray hair? Didn’t I have better genes? My mom didn’t sprout any gray hairs until a few years ago, and she is at an age where so many women have been coloring their hair for decades. (She still hasn’t, by the way, and it looks great.) Her grandmother’s hair was close to jet black at seventy years old. Of course, we never know what we’ll look like in the future, and this gray hair was my first tiny confrontation with that reality, flowing in an imaginary breeze. 

I had expected to feel some anxiety around this first sign of aging, but I didn’t when I actually saw it. What I really felt when I pinched that hair between my thumb and index finger was a sense of real, joyous wonder, a feeling close to relief. I almost giggled to myself, and by myself. I have not gone insane, not yet, even though I am currently living through a crazy time. We all are. A very close family member went to the local clinic yesterday. It turns out that he most likely has Corona. The doctors there couldn’t formally test him: testing materials are very scarce and reserved for life-threatening cases here, which, thank God, this isn’t. Still, they are sure that he has it, having been really ill and breathing shallowly for days now. My family all over the world is hoping and praying that he will not need hospitalization. 

I started feeling sick right after Purim myself. It is highly likely that I recovered from Corona just a week ago given my symptoms. Still, they were mild and flu-like. When I felt better again, I thanked God for my immune system, my good lungs, my physical strength. And today, I thank God for my new little gray hair, even though I never thought I would only such a short time ago. Today the mirror confronted me with my own mortality in the middle of a global crisis, and I was able to laugh about it from a genuine place. I may now show a visible sign of aging, but I am still young and well in a time of Corona. That is a cause for celebration.

About the Author
Rivka Hellendall is a graduate student of English Literature and Jewish Studies at the University of Amsterdam and a freelance journalist for the Dutch Jewish Weekly news magazine. She enjoys great cappuccinos, reading, traveling to Israel, and creating community. Her Dutch Ashkenazi heritage allows her to relish the custom of having a dairy dessert only one hour after a meat meal.
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