Stunned, I wondered if my DNA had somehow gotten mixed up in a weird blood transfusion, but then I remembered I'd never had a blood transfusion.
Unwilling to surrender, I pinched the gray hair defiantly, snapped it out of my head, then marched over to the trash can and watched it float down onto a pile of used paper towels.
A decade later, I climbed up a stairway behind my pastor. He turned around to say something, took one look at the top of my head and with a note of surprise in his voice said, "Well, you're certainly getting some gray hair there, aren't you?"
I nearly choked.
That very weekend I high tailed it to the hair salon and begged Teresa, my hairdresser, to pluck every last gray hair she saw--or color it, if the plucking would leave me mostly bald. Teresa wisely chose the latter, and after passing the hair color initiation, I began the coloring-your-hair-at-home adventure.
And suddenly, fourteen years passed. The silver I tried so hard to cover began rudely shining through just eight days after each coloring. I wrestled with the reason I colored my hair now. What started out as a desire to look my age somehow morphed into something I had to do to "look beautiful".
But who defines beauty?
I started to think that I had imprisoned myself in our culture's relentless and unrealstic beauty ideals. And while I'm all about being healthy and taking good care of myself, coloring my hair began to feel like pressure to be who I wasn't. Besides, I grew weary of handing Loreal hush money every three weeks.
Finally, I broke free. I made the bold decision to stop coloring my hair this past September. While I wish with all my heart that I still had beautiful brown hair with auburn highlights, the reality is I don't. And if I desire to embrace authenticity, I need to accept reality.
At this point I've outgrown the awkward stage where I felt compelled to announce the obvious to everyone right away. "I'm growing out my gray," I'd tell people I hadn't seen in a while. I guess I'm growing comfortable with the transition.
Now, when I glance in the mirror, it's always a surprise. While I can't claim to love the gray that's taking up a quarter of my head, it feels oddly liberating, like I'm allowing a more authentic me to emerge. And though I won't say I'm best friends with my gray hair yet, I can honestly say I don't resent it any longer. And I think that's a good start.
How about you? Is there something you're resisting that you just need to accept? Is there a new level of authenticity you'd like to embrace?
Check back for occasional posts on what I'm learning as I go gray.