ROGUE GRAY ONE / by Justin Warren

The other day, I was minding my own business, applying a healthy gob of Mitchum’s mountain breeze extra-strength deodorant, when I noticed something that stopped me cold.

A gray hair. It was not on my head. But in my armpit.

For a few moments, I could only stare. My first instinct was to grab and pull, but the Bible says if you yank out a hair, it’ll grow back twice as long and twice as strong. Industrial strength underarm whiskers are a no-go. So I did what any sensible person would do. I grabbed a black Sharpie, pulled the offending hair taught, and tried to ink over that sombitch. But did you know it’s almost physically impossible to color your own armpit hair? My arms just don’t bend that way.

The clouds parted and a bone-chilling thought entered my head: This rogue pit-hair is a WARNING SIGN.

Confession: I’m turning thirty next month. Is this the beginning of the end of me? Could my heart give out soon? I mean, it’s been beating constantly for twenty-nine straight years, refusing to abide by the fifteen minute rest periods mandated by California labor laws. This tiny, barely noticeable hair overwhelmed me to haul ass to my laptop and bang out a will, clarifying which of my lucky unborn children will be gifted with my crushing student loan debt and which will receive my mint condition I Love Lucy DVD box set. I was thinking of my legacy.

I’m terrified of getting older, because I still struggle with the most basic adult skills. It was only recently I discovered that the shortest distance between “hangry” and mildly satisfied is simply eating a full bag of Italian-style croutons. If you clamp your eyes shut and down a gallon of Sunny D, it’s almost like eating real food.

If I haven’t acquired vital survival skills age twenty-nine, then surely it’s all downhill from here right? Can you teach a man-child new tricks?

Oddly, our culture throws gas on the “don’t ever age” fire. Women are bombarded with images saying you gotta always look like you’re Jennifer Aniston during her Friends hayday, dudes are pressured to trade their spare-tires for chiseled abs that have abs inside of those abs, and I’m always pretending that twenty-nine year old right hip joint doesn’t hurt “it’s just how all the cool black millennials strut in California.” Constant comparison sucks. It only leaves us feeling empty, longing for the days when Facebook didn’t exist.

I guess when I was thirty I thought I’d have more of my life figured out. But I still struggle with the same issues I had at fifteen. I want people to like me. I want people to notice when I’m gone and to invite me over. And now that I’m turning thirty, I still struggle to embrace the simple concept that I’m worthy of good things.

My wonderful mother, who has been politely kicking ass all her life, is sixty-seven. Whenever we hang, I’m always struck by how vibrant she is. She has a youth about her that is magnetic, and she reminds me that your life is what you define it to be. If you give up and watch life pass by from a LazyBoy, then it’s time to break out the Metamucil. But embracing that life is a constant adventure will only make every day feel like one. And that’s what keeps you young.

When the anxiety settled, I took another peek at my gray pit-whisker and saluted it. I accept it fully and welcome more. Because age is not something to fear. We’re all “in progress,” and every day I get on this earth is a chance to let the bad fall away and embrace more of the good.