In my corporate job, I travel to universities around the country to talk to computer science students about working at Google, a position you might call a ‘head hunter.’ While I don’t disagree entirely, on one of my campus visits I realized that I’m an entirely different type of Head Hunter.
At a posh New Haven hotel, cozied up in a seersucker bathrobe brushing my teeth, a reflection off of the bright overhead lighting caught my eye. I tilted my head, straining. There, I saw it again. A glint of silver, a bright strand reflecting light amongst its chestnut neighbors.
A white hair.
I nearly dropped my toothbrush, parting and lifting and searching my head. The hunt began. Locating the offender, my fingers slipped and slid around the strands trying to isolate it, finally getting a solid grip and yanking from the root. Holding it between my fingers, I took a closer look. It was long, white, menacing. I got lost in the mirror, parting and lifting hair for a good twenty minutes and four more snowy strands before I finally came to, looked myself in the eye and silently screeched ‘ENOUGH.’
But getting ready for events at Yale the next morning, I lost another 5 minutes to the head-hunt, only to falsely execute two sun-bleached blond strands in the frenzied search.
Over the past week I’ve been thinking about going grey, and aging more generally – how can I come to terms with finding these albino offenders, and not lose precious moments of my life each time I get ready? How can I accept, and (eventually?) celebrate getting older. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1) Appreciation. I’ve always had thick, chestnut colored hair which I’ve effectively taken for granted my whole life. On my 28th birthday I found my very first white hair, and couldn’t hold back tears. Now, a year and a half later, I’m more attuned to vigilantly locating any flashes of white in the mirror, but I have to ask myself: why I am not celebrating the fact the the majority of my thousands of strands are still their girlish natural color. I’m certainly wishing I was back in the position of newly minted 28 year old, having one less year before the inevitable snowy on-set.
While I might not be able stop myself from straining to find the silver strands, every time I’m in front of a mirror noticing my hair, I’m trying to give thanks for what I still have. I LOVE YOU BROWN HAIRS!
2) Acceptance. There’s so very little we can control, and luckily hair color is one of these things. If (KNOCK ON WOOD, KNOCK ON WOOD) I do really start going grey, I’ll just have to budget in a couple hundred dollars every 8 weeks or so and find a great colorist. It’s an easily remedied problem, and though perhaps terribly vain, not having salt n’ pepper at this age is important to me. So I can figure out a way to fix it.
3) Mûrir. I struggled with what to call this third point, and my first thought was “mourning.” As we get older, we do have to mourn the loss of our youthful selves. Losing ones hair-color (or hair) is a very real way we can mark the so-slow-it’s-almost-intangible process of aging. We face our mortality, and must be OK with the fact that never again in our time on earth will we have what we were born with. It’s gone, and never coming back.
Mûrir in French means ‘to ripen,’ and is used to describe fruit as well as maturing and getting older. Women become mûrie, or ripened as they advance in years, a much nicer description than us anglophones have in ‘aging.’
Eventually, I’d like to come to a place where finding a white hair is not a scary, anxiety provoking event that requires inordinate amounts of mirror time and neck craning to remedy. But instead a sign of my own maturing, ripening. To wholly embody my status as an adult woman, and the wisdom that comes with the advancing years.