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On the Occasion of the Arrival of my First Two Gray Hairs

On a recent weekday morning while running through the routine where I transform from slovenly caveperson to preening dandy in eleven breakneck minutes, I paused to admire the reflection of the man who my wife recalibrated her standards to marry. “All in its rightful place,” I thought, with all the self-satisfied nonchalance of so many movie protagonists unaware that they’re starring in a home-invasion thriller.

But then, just before putting a bow on my primping, I moved to swipe away some lint by my left ear. I brushed once, twice, thrice at what I assumed to be a particularly stubborn piece of flotsam or, maybe, a smudge on the mirror. But something far more nefarious was afoot. We -- as in, my dark hair and I -- had a fox in the henhouse.

Two rogue hairs, coarse as steel wool, had broken from the uniform downsweep of their surrounding locks, and were instead jutting out at 90-degree angles from my scalp. They were begging to be noticed, and given their stark whiteness, there was no avoiding the obvious: I had my first gray hairs.

These new grays -- and that’s part of the deal, referring to these hairs by the collective “grays” -- were not the first evidence that my halcyon youth was years (a decade?) in the rearview. A spring chicken won’t cough up a lung after a Turkey Trot 5K, or hurt his back following a rigorous unloading of the dishwasher, or shriek with nostalgic delight when a pimple appears on his face. I knew what I was up against.

What was different about the grays was this: up until this point, I’d been able to keep the creeping dilapidation of my body to myself. No one had to know about my physical foibles unless I made them public, which I’d been careful to avoid doing. But now my advancing age had planted a flag, and had chosen the most conspicuous possible place to do it. The details of my own fading youth were no longer mine to dictate.

So, by my estimation, I had three choices.

I could fight it. There is a segment of the male population who dyes their grays, and that’s okay. Also, my wife, mother, and many ladies in my life get way ahead of their grays, home budgets be damned, by having their “hair colored.” I’m too lazy and cheap for this. And the Just for Men aisle makes me sad.

I could ignore it. Men of my age routinely shrug off things that they shouldn’t -- blood pressure, college friendships, etc. Assuming I’m too busy with work, fantasy football, or the latest forecast for nuclear winter, my grays would take a backseat, as they should for any reasonable person.

I could call my dad. Finding no solace in my previous options, this seemed like a softer spot to land. My dad, now 68, is a man of many wiles and charms, and owner of an enviable head of grays. He’d surely set a course for my new silver head and me.

“My child,” -- it’s my favorite thing when he calls me that, by the way -- “I enjoy each of them, my gray hairs. Because I earned them all.”

And then he laughed off the various possibilities that may have caused his own grays: money trouble, the teenage shenanigans of his sandbagging kids, work stress, his parents getting old and eventually giving way to time.

“But you know, I wouldn’t trade it. Not for anything. And I know you won’t either. There are worse things -- you could be dead. Or bald.”

So that’s my choice. I’ll accept my gray fate, as Dad did, and as we all must eventually do.

But beware: there might soon be a silverfox in the henhouse.

September 2017

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