I’m the type of the person who looks for significance in almost everything, and usually I’m pretty successful in finding it. I can dissect nearly any seemingly unimportant moment to find a purpose — I love to find meaning in what other people find meaningless. And when it comes to moments of getting older, well, let’s just say that’s kind of my expertise. I have a pretty big fear of inevitable circumstances that we have no control over, but thinking about them from every angle really helps.
That said, I always knew that finding my first grey hair was going to be a monumental moment, like some sort of milestone that marked a new phase of adulthood. I even stopped dyeing my hair so that I could see when the greys started to peek through, lest I missed them under my dyed roots. I’m only in my mid-20s, but that was around the time that my father started going grey in his life, so I figured I should start to be on the lookout, even though it wasn’t necessarily something I was looking forward to.
Although I was waiting for this inevitable moment, I didn’t expect that I’d spot my first grey hair on New Year’s Eve, right before heading out to dinner with my boyfriend. I quickly jumped at the chance to delve deeper into this very clear, yet somehow still ominous, sign from the universe.
I plucked the offending strand, nestled almost front and center in the middle of my head, and examined it rigorously — yep, it was grey all right — and placed it in a vase in my room, saving it for later moments when I might doubt it had happened, or remember it incorrectly as blonde. Then, on the night of New Years Eve, while my boyfriend waited for me to head out to dinner, I went through a process almost grief-like in nature.
At first, I was in denial.
I thought, It can’t be a grey hair—it must be a blonde hair! I have light brown hair, I’m only 26, and just because my dad went grey young doesn’t mean that I’m to follow in his footsteps. There’s no way it’s a grey hair.
Except the thing was, it was undoubtedly grey. It was thicker and stiffer than my other hairs, and upon examination, it was apparent immediately that this was not another sun-streaked strand. And once the denial cleared, my mind kicked into overdrive, and I was full on panicking about this single piece of hair. It was precisely the sort of thing my anxious brain liked to look for meaning in. I couldn’t turn my brain off.
So it’s grey. What does this mean? Does this mean my body is going to slowly start manifesting its age in different ways more rapidly, or is this a process that’ll really draw out? First grey hair, next — crow’s feet? What even is a crow’s foot, anyway? And come to think of it, my dad definitely went grey right after I was born, something my whole family often joked about as a coincidence. Or maybe this is karma. Crap!
This is nothing new, me having existential crises about relatively mundane life events. (Birthdays are particularly intense.) So I figured, who better to reach out to in these dramatic moments than my best friends? They’d understand my dilemma, mostly because they’ve helped me get through a fair share of them already. They were supportive, in that they responded to my message, but they all pretty much shared my boyfriend’s sentiments and thought I was being ridiculous. (Rude.) I think this was largely because they’ve all had at least one grey hair so far, though, so I clearly texted the wrong friends.
Their collective response was sobering enough to snap me back to reality a bit, but not enough to end my quest for meaning of The Hair. They at least brought me to a point where I was able to look at things rationally, and with a bit more optimism.
Since I was well aware that there was nothing I could do to stop grey hairs from popping up, I figured I’d have to prepare for the inevitable, which was clearly creeping ever closer. All I knew was that this whole ordeal had to end with me dyeing my hair. Sadly, I just don’t think I’d be able to rock salt and pepper hair. This meant that once I noticed more of them, I’d start either dying my hair brown for the rest of my life or embracing my impending silver fox lifestyle and dying it grey or silver. I could also take it further and go lavender like 13-year-old me dreamed of doing! Although I’m not totally sure I could actually pull off a silver or purple hairstyle, they seem like the way more exciting options and are absolutely the ones I’m leaning toward.
There wasn’t really much I could do after I came to these conclusions. And once I had exhausted thinking through all the options and solutions, I finally relaxed and realized that getting older isn’t such a bad thing, after all. Plus, I removed the hair already — even though part of me regretted doing that because it could have served as proof or a conversation starter.
Maybe it was a sign of impending doom to be had in 2016, but I’d rather not think of it that way. Maybe it was physical proof that 2015 really did push me to the limits of stress (more likely). Ultimately, finding my first grey hair didn’t bring my life to a total standstill the way I imagined it was going to.
Regardless of my hypotheses on the significance of The Hair, I’m at a place where more greys wouldn’t be completely unwelcome, but they’d still be met with a heavy sigh and eye roll.
Nicole Ortiz is a writer and copy editor based in Brooklyn, NY. She loves smiling at stranger’s dogs, going on bike adventures, cuddling with her fluffy kitty, and will never say no to a warm cup of tea. She tries to make people laugh on Twitter, but mostly ends up talking to herself.