3/9/2013 10:00:00 PM Column: Days of looking cool like Elvis are over
Casey Martin Courier Columnist
As I wade ever further into my 40th year, I'm starting to come to terms with an aging body. Granted, it's still pretty youthful, at least to the outside observer. However, I'm going gray, a fact that I currently cannot hide. I'm just trying to decide if I like it. Should I change it? Am I that vain? Am I that willing to cling to youth with both hands, hands that I will use to squeeze the bottle of dye on my head?
I dunno. Maybe.
It doesn't come as that much of a surprise that I'm now very gray. My first gray hairs appeared when I was just a teenager. By the time I reached my mid-20s, I had a stripe of gray over my left temple. And I loved it at the time. Since the rest of my hair is very dark brown, I called the patch of gray my "skunk stripe." In fact, at the time, I had hoped that the rest of my hair would go gray very quickly. I have an uncle that was entirely gray by the time while he was in his 20s. I thought I could rock that look.
But it didn't happen that way. The gray patch got increasingly wider throughout the years, but overall, I remained a stunning brunette.
At that tender age, I rarely thought about hiding my gray. After all, I was a young man, and my gray made me seem older, more sophisticated. Well, except when paired with a "No Fear" T-shirt. Still, I did experiment with coloring for reasons other than hiding my age. Once in college, I dyed my hair black for a very, very good reason: Because Elvis did. Yes, the King of Rock and Roll dyed his hair black, and I decided that would be the coolest thing ever.
It really didn't look much different, since my hair was so dark anyway. But a few friends noticed and thought I had dyed my hair in order to hide the gray.
Nothing could be further from the truth! I loved my gray! I just was emulating Elvis. Not his prescription drug habit, or his enthusiasm for karate, or his fondness for capes, but by having my own locks as black as pitch. I still liked my gray. I just wanted a vacation from it. That is, I was vain, but not vain about my age, just about my looks.
Still, I gave in to peer pressure and went natural again. And after doing it only about three more times just for the heck of it, I never dyed my hair again. (I lied when I said it was once. I really like Elvis.)
Throughout my 30s, the gray started slowly coming in. My wife, who cuts my hair in our garage with a pair of 15 dollar trimmers and an old towel wrapped around my neck, loved to announce "Man! You're getting so gray! Right here on top!" So, along with my skunk stripe, I apparently had a gray yarmulke as well. (I couldn't see it. I just took her word for it. And the hair on the garage floor backed up her claim that, yes, I was become positively platinum.)
Then, the gray started showing up in my goatee.
(A brief aside. For some reason, men of my generation have adopted the goatee/mustache combo as our very own. Technically speaking, this is called a "circle beard." My daughter loves to point out my circle beard. I think that term sounds stupid, so I stick with goatee. And the reason so many men of my generation have adopted the circle beard? Because we got fat, and the beard hides chins two through seven.)
When that started happening, I began to lose my appreciation of my gray. It was no longer a novelty of a young man, but evidence of a man approaching his middle ages. The evidence was now on my face.
A few years ago, my wife and I had a family portrait taken of us and our four daughters (in fact, my picture that usually sits atop this column was taken about the same time). My goatee was mostly black. In the years since, it is now almost entirely gray. Not content to just stay on top of my head and my chin, my eyebrows are starting to gray as well.
And the sides of my head have gone almost entirely gray, and the rest of my head has a substantial gray covering as well. I wouldn't estimate it at 50 percent, but I'd say a good 38 percent of my hair is now gray (give or take).
When one realizes how very gray they've become, one has two options: 1) accept it as part of life and move on, or 2) grasp on to youth for as long as feasibly possible. In these circumstances, "feasibly possible" is "when you look utterly ridiculous being an 80-year-old with jet black hair."
I'm left perched on the horns of my original dilemma: to go gray or not to go gray. I must say, I still look distinguished with my gray. It doesn't look bad. But it does have the rather unfortunate side effect of making me look my age.
Nevertheless, I will take comfort in the words of famed novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton. who said, "It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart." I bet he was bald.