Open Letter to My Greys

Dear Grey Hairs,

It’s nice to see you.

No, seriously. I’ve been waiting for you.

Most people express horror in meeting their pigment-free hairs. Not me. I’m excited. I’ve always felt like a fraud. A little kid sneaking into high school. A tween who tricked her way into college. A teenager posing as an adult in jobs. An adolescent playing house and pretending to be married.

A friend and I always joked that ordering furniture was the milestone after which you became a genuine grownup. I ordered an armchair, a rich purple velvet and gold brocade lounge-singer-y armchair in 1998.

Still no grownup.

Once I had children, though, I felt pretty damned grownup. Paying the bills wasn’t a ruse any more. We needed heat. Buying groceries wasn’t for fun. It’s really really seriously to feed small, growing, helpless creatures. And seriously, lactating feels pretty damned mature. (Let’s ignore for a moment that 13 year old girls can do this. Don’t interrupt my revery, grey hairs. This is for you.)

It was after having children that you, my sweet greys, arrived. I rejoiced. I even thought about having a potluck in your honor. You’re invited to a “Welcome to My Head, Expired Hair” Extravaganza. Please bring a side dish or salad.

Since you first appeared, you’ve been reproducing REALLY quickly lately.

Maybe it’s the sleeplessness.

Maybe it’s the constant struggle to stay patient in the face of such blatant illogical hysterics as those acted out by tiny people.

Maybe it’s the worry. Not just the “oh my word, please don’t fall down the stairs” worries, but also the “will the world be cruel; will he be bullied; will he follow the wrong crowd” worries. Even the “will he tell his therapist this” worries.

Maybe it’s the total lack of breaks. Maybe my hair pigment decided to go on vacation.

Whatever it is, dear greys, I honor you. I totally dig seeing more of you each time I look in the mirror. Sure, that’s about once a week on average, since I just don’t care rarely have time to check my appearance. But you are coming on fast and furious.

And I dig that about you, grey. To the point that I’m promising you I will not color you. I will not hide behind chemicals, greys. I can’t afford it, honestly. I respect you too much. So much, in in fact, that I’m willing to risk the British spelling in defiance of the American disdain for gray. For you, my rime, are the evidence of my adulthood.

Grey means I’m old. Grey means I’m free to stop trying to look young, act young, feel young. With grey hair I’m allowed to complain about my aching back, refuse to go out late because “I just can’t do this anymore!” With grey hair I can stop trying to keep up with technology and can adopt slightly antisocial behaviors. Because we have enough friends, don’t we, greys.

With you, grey hair, come all the possibilities for what I can do and be when I no longer focus on the nonsense I’m supposed to as an American woman. No longer caring about being “nice” and thin and measured and muted seems quite freeing. I can let go of the trying to look in favor of trying to be. I can finally nurture my eventual curmudgeon.

And I owe that release to you, my greys. You are the wind beneath my withheld flying fig newton.