July 26, 2012


The gray hairs of POTUS. Then and now. Image credit.

I believe in evolution. Now, this isn't to say I believe we came from monkeys or anything like that. Let me tell you about evolution and what I've learned/come to terms with recently.

Last week, I attended a conference for work, wherein I was surrounded by scientists (aka really smart people) all week. I was the dunce in the room and half the time, I didn't know what they were all talking about (something about the human genome, and enzymes, and that one virus- the name of which I can't remember right now, etc, etc). I sort of zoned out during one of the speakers, because I  didn't understand what he was talking about! So I read a science-y booklet about the NIH instead. It was fascinating! So many amazing things!

I was particularly struck by a little sidebar about evolution. The example they used was about hair cells. This isn't the exact scientific explanation, of course, but here's the gist of it. Take your hair cells (melanocytes? Science-y friends, help me out!). All their lives, they've been told to produce dark brown hair (for example). But one day, as you get older, your cells evolve. And the message changes. They are now told, "Hey, stop with the melanin already!" (PS Melanin is what gives your hair and skin its pigment.) So instead, they start making gray hair, or even white hair.

Friday night, in the middle of the night in Keuka Park, NY, I blow dried (why isn't it blew dried?) and flat ironed my hair. This is a process I repeat at least once a week. It usually takes me about an hour, and it allows me to become very closely acquainted with nearly every single hair on my head. Like, really close. Over the past year, I've occasionally found a gray hair or two as I engage in my weekly ritual. Friday night was different. I found a significant (to me) number of these little hairs. Of course, I ripped them out immediately!! When I got tired of pulling them out, I decided it was finally time to admit to myself (and to the universe) that my hair is evolving. I have gray hairs on my little dark brown head. (Like... more than 5 of them.)

I freaked out a little (OK, more than a little). And then I thought about how my hairs have evolved and thought, "Hmmm. Has the rest of me evolved?" And I waxed philosophical for about a half hour while I waited for Sara and Lee to get to KP. I'd like to think that those little hairs have been earned. My mom says stress gives you gray hairs. And I thought of the things in my life that cause me stress. Grad school. Personal trials. People trials (dating, friendships, or otherwise). Spiritual growth. The anxiety of not knowing what to do with my life. And then I thought of the blessings I've received from my life stressors. Increased knowledge and faith. Hopefully someday, a Master's degree and greater employability. A sense of self and an awareness of what I want/don't want. People skillz. Greater faith. etc., etc.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit (online, at that) that I felt terribly grateful that my five little hairs were in one of my underneath hair layers, so you couldn't really see them. I will also admit that I wasn't a fan of them, even after thinking about all of those life lessons. So, yep... I'll probably keep pulling them out when I see them. I thought about how different it is for a man to gray than for a woman. (I mean, just google "Obama gray hair" and see how much is out there about him! It's crazy!) A man is distinguished, wise, and handsome (My mom said so). A woman... Well, I don't know, but I sure don't feel distinguished, wise, or handsome (Maybe I should ask my mom? Except she's been dyeing (dying?) her hair since she was a teenager (I guess it's what cosmetologists do), so... maybe she's not the one to ask.). Perhaps I'll come to terms with these little guys one of these days (but really, I'll probably just pull out the rest of them?), but for now, I guess the reality of my life is that it's... evolving.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I've started finding a grey hair or two (always in the same place), but I've been surprisingly unconcerned about it. My mom started going grey at 19, so I guess I'm thankful that I haven't had to worry about it until now. Plus, I can always start coloring my hair again. Luckily we live in a day where is isn't considered scandalous for a woman to color her hair!


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