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Embracing the gray - Joel Hall

In February, I had my two-year anniversary at the Clayton News Daily. I never wrote about it because I was too busy writing other stories.

Until now, I have not had the time to be introspective about it. Over two years, in some ways more obvious than others, this job has really aged me.

I've had gray hair on my head since the age of 18, but over the last year, the gray has really been coming through.

I'm not talking about a few stray hairs. No, I'm talking about Will Smith in "I Am Legend" gray.

I noticed recently that the cowlick in the front of my hair has developed into a noticeable tuft of salt and pepper, with more salt than pepper.

Aside from the late Pat Morita, Don King, and Frankenstein's bride, I can't think of any other famous people who have, at times, sported noticeable patches of gray hair. There was a time in which I could easily pluck out all my gray hairs in one sitting, but doing that now would take an entire afternoon, and leave me significantly bald.

The only choice I have now is to accept, and embrace, the fact that I am getting a little bit older, and perhaps, a little wiser.

Gray hair, like everything else, comes with it's advantages and disadvantages. There is no way I am going to pass for a student at the movie theater anymore. Unless I someday enroll in graduate school, I'll be stuck paying for movie tickets with my first-born child, like everybody else.

The gray hair also doesn't go over too well with the under-25 crowd. I'm only 26 years old, but I began going gray before many of my friends. If I haven't shaved my head, and I'm at a party where not everybody knows me, I occasionally get looks that seem to say, "Who brought their English professor along."

If I'm wearing a sports coat because I'm coming from work, that only makes the situation worse.

I can't say gray hair has never come to my aid. Whenever I am interviewing people or being interviewed, people seem to take me a little more seriously.

The ability to appear "seasoned" has gotten me an audience with some very important and powerful people. While I may never be as famous, rich, or popular as some of the people I have sat down with, I have been in the audience of politicians, movie stars, world-renown musicians, and even royalty.

Whenever I grow my hair out, it tends to engender a little more favor at stores, restaurants, and other public places. A couple locks of gray here and there seem to let people know that I'm not there to start any trouble. My service also tends to be better, because people assume that I have money to spend.

Anderson Cooper, star of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360°," is known for being a relatively young man, who sports a full head of gray hair. He joked that "gray is nature's way of whispering, you're dying."

However, Cooper's advice to young men going gray is to give in to it and enjoy the fact that you still have hair. Eventually, if you still have gray hair by the time you are old, the only people who will really take notice are other old guys who are bald.

While I may look like Desmond Tutu by the time I'm 50, I can at least take comfort in the fact that I'll most likely be able to make it to that age.

The Bible describes a head of gray hair as "a crown of splendor" attained "by a righteous life." I can't say that I've made all the right choices, but, perhaps, all this gray is a sign that I am doing something right.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.