I was at work the other day when I spotted an exceptionally unruly strand of hair poking out of the top of my head. That I could spot this stand of hair above all the others competing for chaos on my head was something of an achievement to behold, so it was with a warm sort of admiration for this daring strand that I decided to get a closer look. That admiration soon faded when I found myself looking at The First Grey, a single strand of grey hair so cunning that it lived in a world that defied the laws of physics as we know them. Upon the sighting of The First Grey, I had expected a degree of ceremony and I found myself holding my breath expecting someone to pop out of a corner and hand me a gilded plague officially proclaiming me to be “over the hill”. But instead of marking the disappearance of my youth with fanfare, all I found myself surrounded by was an eerie silence and the stark realisation of how alone I was. I leaned in closer to the mirror before me and pulled at my face bearing an uncanny resemblance to the popular Edvard Munch painting. I felt like I could stand that way for an eternity and it would still not be long enough to figure out how my youth had slipped through my fingers. How did I manage to get old without even noticing it? Somehow in all of my finite wisdom, I had never realised that I would age, or rather that I would grow old. I thought it was something that only happened to other people.
The version of me prior to The First Grey, would have expected me to face The First Grey with laughter and with the usual shrug of the shoulders sort of nonchalance. It wasn’t as though I subscribed to the notion of being “too old” for something, it wasn’t that I even felt “old” myself. But the version of me five seconds after The First Grey, was feeling decided uneasy. Logic be damned, I was getting old here and I could no longer talk of aging in abstract terms. I felt like I was losing something, like I was losing something beyond my youth, I was losing my relevance. Even in thinking it, I was shocked and annoyed by how fickle I sounded. Wasn’t I the woman who never truly cared about her appearance or was that just the arrogance of youth? The First Grey scared me and the fact that it did, saddened me. I wondered if I should let go of my face and cling to something more substantial. I felt the unmistakable pull of aging dragging me towards a place I dared not go and my impotent, yet unavoidable reaction, resistance. It was a dark vortex that would etch lines into my skin and steal plumpness from places necessary to inject into places previously unknown. I thought there would be more, you know. More to my life when I faced The First Grey. Wasn’t I supposed to have figured out things by now, like how not to look up the word “hegemony” every time I come across it? Wasn’t I supposed to have read all the books in my library? Wasn’t I supposed to know what I wanted to be “when I grew up”? I have always faced the world with a sense of curiosity that has both served me well as well as been something that I’ve been proud of, but now I see ambivalence in its place and wonder why it is that I don’t know more. Why it is that I don’t have more answers.
Time, this thing that I have always thought I’ve had enough of all my life, seemed to be vanishing before my eyes. Time was playing a cruel trick on me. But even so, it was also time that would break me free from my bitter reverie when I realised that sighting of The First Grey or not, I could not simply spend the day bemoaning the evitable, locked away in the bathroom. I grabbed hold of the wiry strand, wound it around my finger and yanked hard enough to bring tears to my eyes. Walking towards the door, I tossed the strand into the bin but not before I had the time to notice that The First Grey seemed thicker, stronger and shinier than my usual hair.