The day after my 30th birthday, the hardest part was opening my gritty eyes from crying. Despite my close friends’ efforts to celebrate my reaching the third floor, the feeling of failure was hard to shake.

Still, I got out of bed and drank a liter of water to wash down the wine residue. I then sat on the toilet to think about the misfortune of being an “adult.”

As I looked down, a bright and even delicate surprise awaited me.

It had the strength of Gandalf The White’s staff. Glowing like an Expecto Patronum, there was the missing nail in the coffin of my supposed youth.

It was the first gray hair on my pubis.

Gray hairs as a rite of passage

In case my references to Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter haven’t made it clear, one of the problems with reaching 30 is shaking off the Peter Pan complex.

Read, remembering that you’re the adult in the room of your life.

And if a gray hair on my pubes didn’t put an end to my complex, nothing would.

When I managed to close my jaw, I immediately called my mother and aunt, who, by that time, lived together.

After laughing at my panic, they cleared their throats, ready to change the subject. But I wasn’t going to let it go so easily.

I asked them when it had first happened to them, if they had it, or if it was even normal. The two women in their late fifties looked at each other sideways and showed discomfort at the subject.

It wasn’t modesty, exactly. It was more like a spiritual stiffness to acknowledge that there was something below the navel.

“When we were your age, we already had several children,” they said with a chuckle. “Do you think we were looking down there?”

And that’s when I realized that, in our Latino culture, the limits adjoining the pubis delimit a mythological space conceived solely and exclusively for procreation.

Let’s not even think about pleasure.

I understood then that, for previous generations, the rite of passage to adulthood was delimited by motherhood, even if you were not ready for it.

For women who decided not to become mothers, navigating the gray hairs — up or down — is a whole new field of work.

So, I ended up smiling at my new life partner, to the point that today I get scared if I can’t find it. My gray hair on my pubis — and its sisters that came later — are testimony of years that pass, of stories that are written, and of traditions that, with affection, I have decided to break.