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i had my first strand of white hair at thirteen
it was an ordinary day
turned into an un-ordinary day
mom was combing my hair
i was daydreaming, blissfully unaware
when mom told me her finding
my heart screamed and screamed
how could this be possible?
it simply could not be!
i shook my head frantically
denial, denial
the light must have played tricks on her
i could not believe it for the world
my kind sister showed me proof
a photo on a mobile phone, a sympathetic “oof”
and that was when i thought:
i will grow old someday


an hour later, in school,
i was feeling blue
i cast glances of envy
at the classmates around me
gossiping and nodding
smiling and laughing
they were perfectly ordinary
they were perfectly happy
they did not have their first strand of white hair at thirteen
my teachers walked into the classroom
heads of hair like flowers in full bloom
radiating from head to toe
the very definition of “glow”
they were, compared to me, years and years older
not a strand of white hair on their shoulders
one thing’s for sure
they did not have their first strand of white hair at thirteen


looking in the mirror
i thought i’d see that strand of white hair clearer
i wanted to launch a vicious attack
but it was lost in a sea of black
a sea of black . . . like everyone else
into the crowd, it melts
but i was never normal
i was born different inside
i stepped away from the mirror
it’s okay to be different and have your first strand of white hair at thirteen

that consoling reassurance vanished with a puff
i thought i could be strong, but it proved tough
when an article appeared on the news
talking about that writer’s old-age blues
fading memory . . .
fading body . . .
old soul full of spite . . .
bare head full of white . . .
was this a sign of the end?
did i need to say goodbye to my friends?
was i going to grow old?
was i going to grow as old as mold?
i checked my skin for wrinkles
i checked my skin for a single crinkle
just in case
just in case
it’s not okay to have your first strand of white hair at thirteen


i came across an article about not wasting time
how we can be more productive and earn another dime
the writer said we should always remember
we won’t be living forever
we should focus on the life we are leading
instead of wallow in self-pity
that got me thinking
maybe getting white hair isn’t such a big thing
why should i wallow in self-pity and be a bore
when i could be doing so much more?
they say that the day you know you will die
is the day you start living
for me the day i knew i had white hair
was the day i started living
it doesn’t matter if you have your first strand of white hair at thirteen

Sim Ling Thee, 13