I’ve often thought one of life’s great tragedies is that we seem to inherit only the flawed traits from our parents. This is something scientists pursuing a Nobel Prize should explore … but only after they figure out what makes men like Harvey Weinstein tick.
The way I see it, the things that are wrong with our parents usually become the things that are wrong with us. I have a little toe that curls inward just like my mother. I have a mole on my neck like my father. I have poor eyesight like my mother. I have an addictive personality like my father and mother. And the list goes on.
Is it nature or nurture? We’ve all read about psychos who raised little psychos and big crooks who raised little crooks. On the other hand, I know parents who were successful in the eyes of the world, men and women of so-called great achievement, whose kids couldn’t hold down a job at Carvel.
As far as my genetic inheritance, one of the most troubling indignities is I started turning gray at 17 because of my mother. If that wasn’t bad enough, I joined the pitiable ranks of bald men in my 30’s, which means even the little hair I have is gray. To the day he died, my father had a full head of black hair. Was it genetics or the luck of the draw?
For a young man, it was a painful existence. I wasn’t old enough to buy a bottle of Budweiser legally or smoke a Marlboro, and yet I had enough gray hair to impersonate an aging British aristocrat on Masterpiece Theater. There’s no justice in America or in genetics.
For a while, I considered coloring the hair I had, but I would have looked like Pennywise the clown, so I figured I’d emulate Bill Clinton, James Woods and Richard Gere, who are proudly silver-headed … instead of adopting Donald Trump’s orange glow. (Not to mention that several studies have shown a possible link between hair dye and cancer.)
Unfortunately, my situation had repercussions for my descendants. My four daughters also suffer from the gray hair affliction, and it didn’t take long before they started blaming me, until I said, “Whoooaaa! Blame your grandmother!” However, they liked her too much to do that.
My mother started going gray at 16, back before all these new and exciting products for dying your hair, such as Kool-Aid, back when they probably used dye made from beets and walnut husks.
I’ve tried to encourage my daughters — all four of whom are going gray in their 20s and early 30s — to stop complaining and embrace the moment. Celebrities like Katy Perry and Zosia Mamet are picking up the dye bottle to get the trendy gray look. In America if celebrities do something, it must be good for the rest of us. Others like Helen Mirren, Glenn Close, Diane Keaton and Jamie Lee Curtis flaunt their gray hair instead of coloring it.
Is there anything more traumatic than spotting that first gray strand in the mirror at 6 a.m. while you’re brushing your hair? As my daughter Dana recalled, “I found my first gray hairs in high school. They were short and wiry and they grew like weeds along my hairline. I plucked them out and went on with my day. When I got to college, I remember a friend walking behind me, counting the grays on the back of my head in horror. ‘How can you have so many gray hairs? You’re still young!’ So I headed straight to CVS for a box of dye.”
Now she’s mostly gray on the left side, but doesn’t try to hide it even though she says she resembles a young Cruella de Vil. But the curse continues and the pace has quickened. At the tender age of 2-1/2, her daughter, Lennox, “can rattle off her numbers, name every color known to man and Crayola, and is ready for her first dye job.” They found a gray hair on my granddaughter.
“My husband is still in denial,” Dana says, “but I took the opportunity to celebrate who we are and the characteristic we’ve been blessed with from the amazing woman who came before us — my grandmother.”
Hey, let’s not forget your father!