I’ll never forget the day I discovered my first gray hair. I was at my mother’s house fixing my makeup in her bathroom mirror. Like a gynecologist, she had way too much lighting which revealed every blemish, extra chin, and oversized pore. My self-esteem was already plummeting when it came into sight: a single, lonely gunmetal strand.
Sensibility thrown aside, I went on a plucking rampage that ended with a clump of multi-colored locks in the palm of my hand. Some brown, one gray. Despite the bald spot and accidental mascara scribble tattooed on my forehead, I emerged victorious. Until a week later when Gunmetal Shock Mop’s evil sisters came to town.
My stomach hit the floor.
Was I going gray?
No, that couldn’t be right. I was only twenty-three!
Pluck. Win. Pluck. Win.
Take that, you attempted youth-snatching scoundrels.
As much as I’d love to say they never came back, one week and a day later the whole family arrived for a visit.
I was graying greying faster than Anastasia Steele.
I realized that if I kept plucking, I would soon resemble Sinead O’Connor. Plus, an old wife once told me that plucking causes more gray hair to grow. So I stopped removing the charcoal assholes, hoping that Bertha and science would get it right.
I was officially dealing with a psychedelic hairline after only a few days. And I had no idea what to do.
Baseball cap? No. I couldn’t wear one to work except on casual Fridays.
Shave my head? Hell, no. I freeze when it’s eighty degrees and I’m wearing a parka.
Change my name to Ethel and go into hiding? My kids always find me. Damn it!
So I did what any young women in this horrific situation would do: I called my mother.
“Ma! I’m going gray! I’ve been plucking and not plucking. Nothing is working. It’s coming in really fast. Is it something I’m eating? Am I not getting enough water?”
Of course, my mother had a calm and rational response, “No, honey. Your dad, his dad, his sisters, his brothers, his mother, her mother, her mother’s father, his second cousin twice removed from his great, great grandmother … they all went gray in their twenties. You must have inherited your father’s DNA. I’m over sixty and still have very few grays. I’m sorry you didn’t get your hair from my side.”
Geez, Ma, what a consolation.
After cursing my father’s bloodlines, I did the second best thing that any woman in the middle of a hair catastrophe could do: I called my stylist.
“Shirley, break out the nuclear-grade dye and expensive chocolates. I’m going gray. Be there in fifteen minutes!”
Two hours and a box of French truffles later, my lustrous, uniform locks were restored. Until four weeks had passed—and every four weeks until this very day.
Needless to say, Clairol (wine) now keeps me sane.
As for the struggle—
It has been said that you always remember where you were when you had your first kiss, started your period, and lost your virginity. I can safely say that you will never, ever forget the moment you discover your first gray hair.
Just breathe and remain calm. You might lose the battle, but Ethel is still a great name!