Wiry and coarse, I discovered it one morning when I emerged from the shower. Like a defiant toddler, it stood straight as a board, arms crossed daring me to acknowledge its unexpected arrival. And I did, quickly grabbing a pair of tweezers to swiftly remove its unwanted presence from my thick head of honey blonde hair.
Except, as any woman will tell you, there is no such thing as one grey hair. Oh no, these infuriating intruders travel in packs, peppering your part and creeping into your cowlick without any regard for your vanity or self esteem. Messengers of time, they fortify their position with surprising speed. It’s been a little more than ten years since I found that first grey hair, and though my stylist does her best to banish their existence, millions more have managed to find their way into my unruly mane.
After countless dye jobs and scalp massages, expensive salon visits and sophisticated styling products, I think I’ve finally realized the reason behind my premature greying. It’s simple, really.
You can’t erase experience.
When I look at my hair in the mirror, I’ve come to understand that every one of those grey hairs contains a memory. A mistake, a heartbreak. A broken promise, a lesson learned. Each grey hair is a reminder of where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and how I’ve changed. There’s one for my first kiss and one for my first all night bender. One for every lie I’ve ever told my Mother, and every unreturned phone call. I’m lucky I’ve got thick hair, because I’m sure there’s one there for every curse word I’ve ever uttered and each tear I’ve ever shed. Sure, I can pluck them all out or douse them in jet-black hair dye, but it’s just a temporary fix. Over time, I know they’ll grow back. The color will fade after a handful of washes and the grey will continue its incessant march forward.
After ten years of dying my hair like clockwork every six weeks, I missed my last appointment. My stylist had the flu, and I was forced to push my hair treatment an additional two weeks.
And there I was this morning, staring in the mirror, face-to-face with my past.
I was, quite literally, staring at my roots.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked at what I saw. What used to be a few hairs had become the majority. One look at my head and you’d have no idea that I’d just celebrated my 28th birthday. Instead, you’d think I was rounding the bend to retirement, indulging in early bird specials and demanding my senior’s discount.
I was shocked, certainly. But it didn’t take long for that despair to turn into something almost akin to pride. There’s a grizzled grey hair up there that represents my divorce. There’s a cluster that captures every emotion I felt when I made the decision to move out west. There’s a grey hair for every glass of wine I’ve shared with my best friend; one for every heartfelt goodbye and unexpected encounter. There’s one that reminds me of worn leather jackets, another that’s as taunt as the strings of his beloved old guitar. To be perfectly honest, after 28 insane years of life, love, loss and laughter, I’m surprised that my whole head isn’t whitewashed with memory.
That being said, I look forward to the day when I’ll no longer require the dye. The day when every single hair on my head will have been transformed from its original golden luster to a stark white statement of experience.
Until then, I’ll continue to watch as my memories manifest themselves in my mane. And to every balding eldery individual who’s ashamed of their receeding hairline, know that I salute you.
Something tells me you’ve had one hell of a ride.