Nothing can prepare you for finding your first gray pubic hair. Honestly, how can you prepare for something you've convinced yourself will never happen?
If I hadn't been so tired, I would've remained willfully ignorant of the inevitable. I sat on the toilet to take a time out to practice my breathing during a particularly long day of just getting by: meeting deadlines, sending emails, networking networks, planning a dinnertime nap, penciling in a panic attack, tending to friendships that were on life support. You know, all the boxes you need to check before embarking on another poor night's sleep.
All of it was enough for me to hang my head in exhaustion and that's when I spotted it: a ghost hair in my personal patch.
It appeared out of nowhere and in spite of being transfixed by its translucent poetry, I stood up quietly and with my jeans around my ankles, I plucked it from the rest without ceremony.
My parents were those parents who didn't believe in school taught sex education. Instead of letting a six grade teacher tidily explain to me and eight other chubby girls in training bras why and how our bodies were changing, they decided to take the task into their own hands which meant ignoring it.
...I stood up quietly and with my jeans around my ankles, I plucked it from the rest without ceremony.
To this day, I've never heard my mother use the words "vagina" or "penis" to describe or acknowledge the area between my legs. When confronted with a sex scene on TV, she'd turn her head away and make a kissing sound that sent shivers down my spine. She'd quickly change the channel; if it was a particularly juicy episode of 30-something, she'd tell me it was time for bed.
This woman was never going to tell me that pubes changed color because how can pubes exist if I don't have genitals to grow them on?
The hair on my head began to gray around the age of 15, just as the trauma of being a teenage girl really started to sink in. After a year of successfully avoiding becoming an object of affection or even mild infatuation, I tossed the mini-skirts I'd hoped would help ease my uncomfortable transition and cozied back into my worn corduroys and t-shirts. As a last ditch effort to encourage a more feminine lifestyle, my mother suggested we nip this thing in the bud and color my hair. After all, the new Delia's catalog hadn't come yet and I might change my mind about things.
We bought one of those highlighting kits with the plastic caps you're supposed to pull thin strands of hair through in order to apply color to a thousand wispy pieces for that fun, sun-kissed all over look. I sat in the middle of our living room with a towel around my shoulders and my arms wrapped across my chest. The TV blared as my mother yanked thicker and thicker strands of my dark brown hair through the cap and painted them with bleach-scented dye.
The box said to leave the color on for no longer than 20 minutes; 30 minutes if your hair was dark and particularly resistant to change. An hour went by. My scalp began to burn. By the time I'd removed the cap and washed my hair, my thick, dark brown mane had been bleached into inch wide, white streaks. My mother said I looked like a witch. Or just really old. Either or, she let me know that neither that terribly attractive.
To be honest, I kind of liked it.
There's no room for gray hair, let alone gray pubes, in our society. Marketable beauty trends skin deep and it's a privilege shared only by women under 30. Sure, it was trendy for teens to gray their hair for a season or two, but c'mon, they looked like Dark Crystal muppets, not grown women.
...a single gray pube doesn't necessarily worry me from a desirability standpoint, although it bums me out.
Sex and the City covered this issue during their final season. Samantha Jones scratches her mons pubis over brunch and declares that bush is back, according to her sensitive, young boyfriend, Smith Jarrod. But brunch ends and Carrie impishly wanders back to her apartment, Charlotte miscarries, Miranda breaks up with her black boyfriend and Samantha finds a gray pube while examining her new look. Panicked, she dyes her bush, it turns red because box dyes, she shaves it off and then lies to Smith about being a busy woman and busy women don't have time for pubes.
Instead of preparing each other for our oncoming gray pubes and supporting each other when we find them, we're taught to be more sensitive to the patriarchy and tidily shave'em off because men are taught to want pussy they could never legally have sex with. Men want 11-year-old vaginas on 18-year-old bodies.
We do this to ourselves and the best we can do is put a token gray haired lady in ads for products that promise us we'll look years younger.
Or we just lie to each other about our fading bushes.
In a world where women continue to allow themselves to be taken in by bullshit ageist messaging, a single gray pube doesn't necessarily worry me from a desirability standpoint, although it bums me out. For me, a gray pube means time is passing, and it's not the pube I'm afraid of.
My new year's resolution was to make the most out of my time. This generally means trying to slow it down. To find I was fading meant time was taking from me more than I was it and what else was on its list?
So far it's too soon to tell, I guess. I've been doing more with what I have, refusing to put up with less than I deserve and all that empowerment bullshit that sounds like bullshit because it is, especially when you Tweet it.
The fresh crop is still dark; not even a whisper of a white one and to tell you the truth, I'm not ready to find another. But I am ready for quite a few other things.
Illustration by Jim Cooke
A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.