A few weeks before we got married, I had a watershed moment with my soon-to-be-husband. I left the hair salon freshly trimmed and coiffed, and waltzed into my beloved’s kitchen. “Notice (flick) anything (flip) new (flick)?” I asked. The frenetic head-swaying gave him a clue that he was required to comment on some change, and after several moments of intent study he announced with some relief: “Oh! Look! You have a gray hair!” He looked genuinely confused when I receded into the bathroom, whimpering quietly. “Did I say something wrong?”, he called after me.
This, friends, was how I first discovered I was going gray.
Ten years later, my hirsute “salt and pepper” mix is becoming decidedly more “salty”. The question is, what to do about it? On the one hand, I have always loved the gentle softness of gray. My grandfather had a shock of arresting, white hair, and it was magnificent. Our faces soften with age, and I wonder if gray hair is not God’s way of softening the borders of our faces with these natural highlights.
For sure, gray hair is a sign of aging, and the Proverbs seem to welcome the maturity and honor which accompany the passing of years:
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. (Provers 16:31)
The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. (Proverbs 20:29)
But therein lies the rub. What if I’m going gray but I’m not “old” yet? What if I still kind of have some of the strength of youth (my inability to stay up past midnight notwithstanding), but don’t yet have the splendor of the aged?
In his teaching about speaking honestly without needing to make “cross my heart and hope to die” kind of oaths, Jesus made this passing comment about hair:
And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. (Matthew 5:36)
Au contraire, my Lord. Thanks to Clairol, for several months at a time I can make it chestnut, or mahogany, or natural honey brown. But should I? Is it vanity to color my hair and deny the aging process? Would I be rejecting the “crown of glory” that God bestows? Then again, I wear mascara more faithfully than I floss my teeth, which itself is a daily denial of my true eyelash color.
On the other hand, once you climb onto the coloring bandwagon, it is hard to get off. Hair grows, which means that no matter how permanent the dye, within a few weeks I would have my grey roots showing again down the parting on my head: a “skunk stripe”, as my Mom would call it. Touching up roots is a a big commitment in both time and money, and frankly – I’m in the “lucky to take a shower every other day” phase of life.
Then, there’s the added conundrum that my hair is not only increasingly gray, but that the gray hairs have a life of their own. They are WIRY. Little silvery antenna, angled towards the heavens like the old pair of bunny ears atop our TV. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for why gray hair grows out much more feistily than my original color, but I don’t know what it is. This much I do know: I bet if Albert Einstein’s hair had been honey brown, it would not have looked like this:
I am a collector of ridiculous words, and one of my favorites is the word “quaquaversal”. Apparently it means “pointing in all directions”. ( I learned this on the same night as I learned the word “diapnosophy”, meaning “skilled in the art of making dinner conversation”.) At the time, I remember thinking that I could find ways to use diaponosophy in a sentence (“I would love to invite the apostle Luke for dinner, he’d be a great diapnosophist”), but thought quaquaversal would be spectacularly unuseful.
No longer, friends. For the record, my hair is graying AND quaquaversal. My kindly Mother sent me a top of the range hair-straightening flat iron to kerb the unruliness (“Have a Good Hair Day, my baby”), but for now there is no remedy for the gray. I’m busy and I’m thrifty and I’m generally too lazy to keep up the work of dyeing.
And as we already know, it’s not like my husband particularly cares about hair color.