By guest blogger Emily K. Grieves
I found six gray hairs on my head this morning. Actually I didn’t find them. My husband’s cousin did. We were standing on the street after dropping off our son at school when his cousin pulled up on his bike to chat a bit. He was looking at me in such a way that I thought I must be positively gleaming in the sunlight, not having showered, no make-up, without having styled my hair as usual, old funky glasses on instead of contact lenses – I was plain Jane after a late night and an allergy morning, dragging myself out of bed, dragging the kid out of bed and off to school. So the cousin nudges my husband, and says “Hey check out Emily’s hair.” My husband then looks, fascinated as if my tight schoolmarm bun (ubiquitous hairdo for the un-showered) had sprouted antennae, or as if a butterfly had landed on my head. Then they both start laughing, in a “neener-neener-neener” kind of way. Now granted, my husband is completely salt and pepper going fast to the side of salt at age 31, so he probably felt pretty righteous about it. But as I began to frantically pat at my hair, I could only think, what? Do I have a bat on my head? A spider? A cockroach? Or god forbid, a scorpion, this at the forefront of my mind because I’d found 2 scorpions in my house in the past 2 days, and for all I knew, a third had hooked itself into my bun. Then they leered at me again, and said you have gray hair! Six of them to be exact! I was like, no way! I’m only 41, almost 42, but the hair stylist told me just 4 months ago that it would be years before I’d have gray hair with my kind of hair and all… yeah, well, how did 6 gray hairs grow in a space of 4 months? What happened to 8 years?
I raced home, not alarmed, but incredulous, to look in the mirror. It took me a second to find the right angle of the light in my bathroom to reproduce the effect of the revealing sunlight, but sure enough, there were 6 gray hairs popping out of my hairline to the right of my part. My hair is what was always termed “dirty dishwater blond” so the gray kind of blends in, but it has that coarse texture that is so typical of the grays. This actually gives me hope that as my hair goes gray, I will finally have a bit of volume to my baby-fine, thin, flat hair. Now I want you to understand that I do not find gray hair alarming or distressing in any way. I stared at it in the mirror totally intrigued. I had a flash of how I would look with passing time with my hair changing a little bit more with each year until completely gray in some far away time of my life. I would wiser. I would look more grounded. I would look more responsible, more credible, more respectable. I would look more artistic, more creative. I would look like a wild wise woman, slowly making my way to cronedom and elderhood. I would match crazy colored glasses to my gray hair, big dangly earrings, and vivid wacky clothes just to make people look at me and notice my gray hair, my hard-earned new “wise” status. I would be one those “groovy” older women. Of course I mostly wear big dangly earrings already, but that’s beside the point. I think of women I know who have gray hair and while most women seem to react to the growth of it as something to be summarily covered up and hidden and dyed into oblivion, the women who surrender to their fabulous gray hair are some of the most beautiful women I know, and they fit exactly the picture of how I imagine myself with a full head of gray hair. They are women I admire, respect, look up to, believe to be wise, more grounded and mature in their creativity, their spirituality, their relationships, and their work.
Upon discovering my gray hairs, I went out to my garden for a bit and spent a while plucking seeds off my dried up cilantro – coriander, those aromatic little baubles that I can either plant to make more cilantro or grind up into cooking spices. Then I wandered over to my little bean plants I have been experimenting with and discovered a few dried pods on them, out which, wonder of wonders, came about 20 perfectly formed little black beans, way too few to cook, but plenty to admire, germinated and replant. As I rubbed coriander off the stocks and popped beans out of pods, I thought about how I would count each of my gray hairs over time, until there were too many to count, like an abundant harvest, a good crop, a sign of richness, of sustenance, of a full vibrant life. I will never dye my gray hair.
Image: Detail, “La Familia,” Acrylic on canvas, 2010, Emily K. Grieves