He had just come over for a quick hug while I was working at the computer.
“Mom,” he said, “You have gray hairs right near your ears.”
He didn’t need to tell me.
I had spotted them the day before, when I pulled my hair back into a ponytail to walk the dogs.
I noticed that the hair near my temples looked unusually streaky blond. “Face framing,” the hairdressers call it.
But as I leaned closer to the mirror and turned my face to the side, I could see that it was not face-framing blond highlights that had caught the light. It was gray hair.
My shoulders sagged like everything else on my forty-four year old body does now.
Why was this gray hair different?
I’ve been coloring my hair to cover gray on the top of my head for at least ten years. When I noticed my first few strands of gray, I chuckled about it and brushed it off. I had plenty of time to worry about being salt and pepper, being old(er). I was 34 and life was good.
A few months ago, I noticed that the strands at the top of my head have started to be more of a bumper crop. I realized I couldn’t wait 10 weeks between hair appointments anymore, and moved on. No big deal.
That the gray hairs have taken up residence on another part of my head should not be a big deal, either.
But they are.
They’re a very big deal.
After Boy Wonder made his astute observation, I walked over to the nearest mirror.
I thought, I’ve entered a new stage of aging.
I don’t really know if there are official stages to aging, but it feels like I’ve entered a new one. One I don’t like.
I’d like to be one of those sunny-dispositioned midlifers: the ones that say things like “embrace your age and your wrinkles and your cellulite! They’re a sign of a life well lived!” and “You’re only as old as you believe yourself to be!” That tell you not to sell gray hair short.
I’ve tried mightily to make that attitude adjustment, but I can’t help but feeling more Eeyore than Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm; more Debbie Downer than Diane Keaton or Meryl Streep or Betty White.
I’m only as old as I believe myself to be? Is bullshit, thankyouverymuch.
On the inside, I believe I’m seventeen. Better than I was at seventeen, in fact: I’m full of wisdom and knowledge of my own feminine wiles, waning as they may be.
On the inside, I believe I can still rock a side pony. Wear funky eyeshadows. Pull on a miniskirt. Be totally legit busting some moves to Ke$ha.
But the truth is, I feel a little ridiculous doing most of those things. And I probably look ridiculous, too. I’ll sport the side pony at home and blast Ke$ha when no one’s listening, in places where my face doesn’t defy my true age. I said last year that I’d become the walrus, and it’s kinda true.
These are painful pricks at my ego, tiny needles that jab me every day and prevent me from embracing these changes that I cannot stop, I cannot permanently hide, I cannot ignore.
Most of these jabs are tolerable. It’s not the living in the now that makes aging so hard. It’s the fast forward effect.
I think about the fact that when Little CEO is my age, I’ll be 81.
I think about whether I’ll be cool enough for her to want to take shopping when she’s seventeen. Or will I just seem prudish and way too uptight?
I think about how I want to be a fun grandparent, and then wonder if I’ll even be alive to see my children have kids of their own.
I know these are things I shouldn’t think about. I know it’s pointless.
All I can do is hope that someday, I come to a place of acceptance: this is how it was meant to be.
I call my hairstylist and tell her to change my appointments to once every four weeks.
Because the gray hair isn’t going to get me down yet.