K and I were in the car the other day and looking in the mirror while temporarily stopped I noticed something that horrified me to the bottom of my soul. Nestled there amongst the rest of my flowing, multi-colored locks was an evil little gray hair. I pulled it forward to get a closer look just to make sure I wasn't confusing blonde with gray. After all, my hair is a mix of everything from blonde to red to black, but this was definitely gray. It glittered silver in the late afternoon sun and something inside of me died.
That sinking feeling was a bit of surprise to me. I've never worried about going gray. The people on my dad's side start going gray early, but get this really nice pure white or gun-metal gray. I'd be happy with that hair. On my mom's side, they just don't go gray. They die in their nineties with more black hairs than white. Besides, I'm not a vain man. I don't mind looking old as long as everything works normally.
Going bald was my real coiffure-based fear. My hair line in the front has decidedly thinned and receded in recent years, and, unlike some, I don't have the head to bald gracefully. Andre Agassi, Michael Stipe, and Bruce Willis just shaved their heads and look cool with their baldness. If I go bald enough that wearing it a little long starts to look weird, I'll be forced to showcase my oversized ears and monstrously large head in all of its lumpy, misshapen glory. I've always liked wearing my hair a little longer because it minimized the appearance of my ears and evened out my cranium's natural lack of symmetry.
And yet I've been able to stoically watch as my receding hairline became more and more obvious while this little gray hair shook me to my emotional foundation. (Actually it was about 3 or 4 inches long. I've let my hair grow out again.) Perhaps it's the suddenness of the discovery of a gray hair already that size as opposed to the nearly geological creep of my increasing baldness that explain the difference in reaction. The color gave me no time to come to terms with my aging locks while the thinning crept up on me slowly, making me accustomed to the idea but never giving me enough of a change to be sure until recently.
I guess if I really do start going gray I'll get my hair cut again. There's something about guys with long gray hair that seems a little sad to me, but not as bad as the guy who keeps that fringe of hair making its last stand on the back of his head in a ponytail.