Im gray and Im proud

My hair is so gray it makes thunder clouds look bright and cheery. Being gray doesnt bother me. After all, at least I still have a full head of hair. I dont have to do comb-overs, shave my head or wear a baseball cap 24 hours a day to pretend that I still have hair. And its distinguished looking. Strangers might think Im a doctor or a lawyer or a high school graduate instead of the boob I really am. At least they might think that until I open my mouth.

Like many men, for years I thought my hair had magical, mystical Samson-like powers.

Whos going to get the promotion? Lets give it to the guy with the best hair.

Whos going get into this exclusive nightclub? The guy with the best hair.

Whos dating that supermodel? The guy with the nice hair.

Who should we arrest? The guy with the bad hair. Look at those mug shots. Bad haircuts, every one.

The great thing about having gray hair is that it freaks out teenagers. Gray hair bothers them almost as much as nose rings and tongue studs bother me. Sometimes I point at it and say, This will be you in 20 years.

Gray hair can be rewarding. Im always getting senior discounts at stores where all the cashiers are teenagers. Though Im still a few years away from qualifying for most discount programs, teens see nothing but the gray hair and figure I must be getting birthday greetings from Willard Scott. My wife, who is a month older than I am but still has black hair, gets carded when she buys beer or wine.

Teens would certainly be surprised to learn the accomplishments of many grayheads. Do they know that it was a person with gray hair that invented the light bulb and the phonograph? Not a teenager. Do they know that it was a person with gray hair who built the local shopping mall? Do they know that it was a person with gray hair who invented the cell phone? Maybe it wasnt invented by someone with gray hair, but Im pretty sure it wasnt invented by a teenager. Charlton Hestons Moses had gray hair, a huge impressive head of gray hair kind of like mine, I like to think. Powerful. Manly. Strong. Im gray and Im proud.

So Im immune to those commercials on television for hair products that color only the gray, gradually, so no one will notice. First of all, whos kidding whom? Sure, no one will notice if you work at home and your job is being a hermit. However, if you have a real job at a factory or an office, people will notice. They may not say anything, but they will notice. I worked at an ad agency once where a gray-haired proofreader named Brian took a month long vacation and came back as Betsy. No one said anything, but we all noticed that she was suddenly a blond.

My fantasy that my gray hair is an asset was cruelly shattered yesterday when a short, fat jowly man wearing a spectacularly ugly Hawaiian shirt two sizes too big for him came up to me at a picnic and introduced himself. He had a boil on the end of his nose with hair coming out of his nose and ears and a distracting piece of food sticking on the left side of his mouth, a tic in his left eye and he reeked of cheap whiskey. His hair however, was the same gray as mine and the same cut. It was spectacular. I cant tell you, he hiccupped, how many people mistake me for you.

Now Im wondering if theres a product out there that will make me go naturally bald? Slowly over time, so no one will notice?

Jim Mullen is the author of It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life and Babys First Tattoo. You can reach him at

Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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