When you start going gray in your teens, you realize almost immediately the color of one's hair must have absolutely no correlation with who someone really is.
My mother found my first white hair when I was thirteen. I remember the moment as if it were yesterday, so frozen in time is it. Oh, my God, she said, in same tone she might've used if it were a louse, you have a white hair. A perfectly white hair. Just like Roey. She plucked it out and held it up, between her thumb and forefinger, so that I might see it, glistening in the light.
Just like Roey meant just like my mother's mother, who went prematurely gray in her 20's and with whom my mother waged what I fondly recall as The Great War of my Childhood. To be seen by my mother in any way to be like my grandmother was a fate to be avoided at all costs. But there it was... the damning evidence of my own genes, sparkling before my eyes. The realizaton that there was nothing that I was ever going to be able to do about this and that year by year my own hair would betray me fell around me like an albatross.
When white hair is weighted by a sense of parental rejection, getting upset about a few gray strands as a consequence of getting older seems almost laughable. It's not I don't sympathize; it's simply that by the time I was 18, my hair was so noticeably gray in places, one friend's mother asked me where I had it frosted. So if we were to talk about the "real color" of my hair, by my twenties, it was steel gray. The original color - the one I was born with and which I struggled mightly to hang on to through my thirties - was a dark brown so dark it looked black until the light shone on it.
I gave up when I turned forty. My hair is simply too white. Two weeks after a touchup, the white strip on either side of my part reminded me of a skunk. I decided to take the plunge and let it go. Maybe, I reasoned, my hair wasn't prematurely anything...maybe it had turned the color it was supposed to be right on schedule. And I was the one who was getting in the way.
So I quit. The adventure of that is another story all together because I didn't want to do the sensible thing and just cut my hair. (I've been avoiding doing sensible things all my life.. why would I start at 40?) But I don't regret it. Although my hair, like I myself bear some similarities to my grandmother, my hair is its own color, in the same way I'm who I am. How do you get it so white, a friend asked me, a long time ago, when the real color had finally grown in.
It's just the way it grows, I laughed.