The One Gray Hair

It’s easy to write letters to our younger selves. It’s easy to say the words we wish we’d heard when we were younger. How often do we write a letter to our older selves?

A few weeks ago, I made a discovery. Hidden in my hair, just above and behind my right ear, is a single gray hair. This is the first undeniably gray hair I’ve found. The first one that is definitely not just a sun-bleached blonde traitor in a sea of brown. No, this one is definitely gray.

I froze, straightening iron poised in the air. I squinted at my reflection and considered pulling it out. Immediately, that thought was followed with, “what for?”

My mother’s hair is beautiful. It’s thick, but pin straight. The light color of her childhood darkened into strawberry blonde as she grew older, then streaked artistically with gray. She never colored it, never highlighted it, never low-lighted it, or whatever that’s called. And yet, when the gray first became apparent, an acquaintance asked her where she got her hair professionally frosted.

My father’s hair is also beautiful. It’s thick with the loose, wavy curls. His hair was dark, almost black, and in old photographs he looks rugged and mischievous. I don’t remember it being all that gray, but then I left for college and every year since his darkness is taken over by silvery white. He’s far more salt than pepper now, but it all happened so fast.

When I decided to leave the gray hair where it grew (slightly crimped. Why are my gray hairs crimped?), I did so to say, I love you, to my parents. Because they are two of the most wonderful people I know. Because, let’s face it, I’m probably directly responsible for a third of those gray hairs. Because I want them both to know that I think they’re better now than they’ve ever been before.

I hear rumor that our culture fetishizes youth. That we should all want to be young and beautiful forever. That seems sort of silly to me. The passage of time will bring age to me, wearing down my bones until I shrink and stoop. But it will also bring wisdom. It will bring gray hair, but it will also bring laugh lines and crow’s feet that, I think, will be there own reward.

To my older self, to the person I will some day be:

Don’t color your hair. Don’t make a fuss over fine lines and wrinkles. Find something more interesting to spend your time worrying about.

To my one gray hair:

Welcome. It’s about time you showed up.

To my parents:

Happy (belated) anniversary. Sorry for all of the gray hairs.