I walked into the bathroom to take a shower, just like every other morning. I looked in the mirror, just like I always do. But something was different—something glinted in the light as I turned my head. I inched closer to the medicine cabinet, and sure enough, glaring against a chestnut backdrop, I saw it—a single, wiry, gray hair.
I always wondered how I’d feel about getting my first gray hair. What would go through my head when that age-old physical sign of mortality finally reared its head? Turns out, it’s a bit complicated. Here’s how that internal upheaval panned out in 26 thoughts:
1. Observant Me: Wow, that gray hair is like three times as thick as the rest of our hair. Dang.
2. Vain Me: And it sticks straight up off the top of our head. What the hell?!
3. Self-Assured Me: It’s all good! Gray hair makes people look wise and distinguished.
4. Mentally-Still-22-Years-Old Me: NO! NO! NO! WE’RE ONLY 22! WE’RE TOO YOUNG FOR THIS TO BE HAPPENING!
5. Vain Me: We have to dye it! Immediately!
6. Lazy Me: We’re not going to dye it. That requires way too much work and maintenance.
7. Organic Me: Plus, all those chemicals. Ew.
8. Pragmatic Me: Calm down. Everyone gets older. It’s just part of life—no worries! Plus, isn’t gray hair “in” right now?
9. Vain Me: Oh, shut up, Pragmatic Me. Nobody likes you.
10. Intellectual Me: You know, gray hair is considered a sign of wisdom and honor in some cultures.
11. Vain Me: Are you sure about that?
12. Pseudo-Intellectual Me: Umm…I think I read it somewhere.
13. Vain Me: Yeah, that’s what I thought. That’s it. We’re dying it.
14. Tightwad Me: Do you know what it costs to get your hair dyed at a salon? If we’re going to dye it, we’re going to have to dye it at home.
15. Organic Me: With henna!
16. Lazy Me: Umm…not happening.
17. Vain Me: Umm…totally happening.
18. Mother-of-Daughters Me: What message will we send our girls if we dye our hair to look younger? Don’t we want them to be happy with the way they look naturally?
19. Devil’s Advocate Me: Yes, but we wear makeup. Isn’t that the same thing?
20. Mother-of-Daughters Me: Dang it. I knew we were going to screw them up somehow. Toss another quarter into the therapy jar.
21. Weary-Mom Me: Screw the kids. It’s their fault that we have gray hair anyway.
22. Vain Me: You guys, we are wasting time. Don’t you think there are more gray hairs where that one came from? This is just the beginning. We have to do something. Stat.
23. Annoyingly Optimistic Me: Don’t think of it as gray—think of it as our superhero silver streak! Or glitter! Or tinsel!
24. Vain Me: Oh my God.
25. Existential Me: Speaking of God, you know gray hair doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. It’s just hair, and your body is going to grow old no matter what you do. The soul doesn’t age.
26. Vain Me: Argh! I hate you people! Whatever. You want to look like an old lady, fine. I can wait. You fools know I’m eventually going to win this fight anyway.
And there it is. The war between acceptance and defiance, pragmatism and vanity, laziness and willpower, the physical and the spiritual, all wrapped up in a single, solitary hair. I really didn’t expect to feel so conflicted about it, frankly. Vain Me tends not to hold that many cards in my life, but that first gray hair really lit a fire under her. I also didn’t know she felt so spiteful toward Pragmatic Me. Sheesh. Vain Me can be a real witch-with-a-B.
In the end, I went with the path of least resistance and plucked it out. I know there will be more to come, and my crazy inner selves will duke it out then. When Literary Me once again puts forth the eternal truth: “To dye, or not to dye? That is the question,” maybe Vain Me will finally, somehow, get her way. I wouldn’t put anything past that woman at this point.
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