January 25, 2010

Growing Older, With or Without Grace

I am not going to grow old gracefully.

I thought I was. Really, I thought I wasn't that vain. No plastic surgery, no nip and tuck, no stomach stapling. No coloring of the hair. And yet, here I am with a head full of artificially red-and-blonde hair, hiding the gray revealed by the too-honest glare of the lighting at The Hair Place.

You'd think hair salons would be more careful about lighting and other environmental effects. Aren't we supposed to feel good -- pretty -- when we're there? Isn't that why they are -- or used to be, in my mother's day -- called beauty parlors? Ah, but perhaps that harsh light is carefully calculated to drum up business. It was, after all, during the lengthy process of a professional manicure that I, with nothing to do but stare into the mirror opposite me, noticed just how gray I had become.

Of course I immediately made an appointment to get my hair colored.

Covering up the gray brightened my face, but truly, if my "gray" was snow-white or a lovely soft silver, I would let it go natural. I have these visions of myself as one of those women with long, gray braids down their backs, but then I also have romantic fantasies of living off the land, composting, wearing natural fibers, and bringing home supplies in hand-woven Free Trade bags.

Yeah...not gonna happen.

But if I were one of those women, I would grow old gracefully. I'd ignore the lines and creases I see in the mirror -- even the ones that make me look as if I'm constantly frowning. (My mother was right about that whole face-freezing thing; it just took longer than I expected.) But I'm not one of those women, and so I use Age Perfect moisturizers. Age perfect: a nice way of saying skin care for middle-aged matrons. But here's the thing: middle-aged I may be, but all I know about matronly is how to spell it.

Not that there's anything wrong with being matronly. It's just that I don't even know how to be a grown-up yet. How can I be getting old(er) when I never got the memo about how to be an adult? Shouldn't I be wiser by now, and not just older? When will I have all the answers? When will I stop comparing myself to others and seeing only what I'm not and never will be?

Forget the snow-white hair. Perhaps I should just ask for a little self-acceptance and grace.


  1. Hi Barbara -- this is one of my favorite song quotes from Ani DiFranco:

    "Lately I've been glaring into mirrors,
    picking myself apart.
    You'd think at my age
    I'd have found something better to do
    than making insecurity a full-time job
    making security into an art.
    And I fear my life will be over
    and I will never have lived unfettered
    always glaring into the mirror,
    mad I don't look better."

    I try to remember that every time I look in the mirror and say negative things. Because you're gorgeous, gray hairs and all!

  2. This was my favorite line:

    (My mother was right about that whole face-freezing thing; it just took longer than I expected.)

    I have two deep frown lines on my forehead that I'd love to have filled in and frozen smooth, but then the rest of my face wouldn't match my forehead, so I'd have to get the other lines filled in and so on and so on.

    For the record, I don't think you look or act matronly at all.

    BTW, we all really miss you on Tuesday nights. I hope you come back soon!

  3. Thanks, Rachel! And thanks for the song--it's perfect. I particularly like these lines:

    "And I fear my life will be over
    and I will never have lived unfettered"

    Here's to living unfettered.

  4. Kelly--When I did community theatre, I once had a woman tell me that I would never have wrinkles because I couldn't make my forehead crinkle, and she claimed she didn't know where to create age lines with make-up. She was aging me for my role as Mrs. Frank in _The Diary of Anne Frank._ She was not exactly being kind when she made this remark, and of course she made it in earshot of others. Now that I have wrinkles, I sometimes want to say, "Ha! Take *that*, Stephanie. The laugh's on you." Except, of course, it isn't. :>

  5. My wonderful hair guy and I just covered up the sprout in front we like to call Jay Leno, but they come back! Quickly! Of course there is nothing physical that can compare to my mental aging...where are my keys? my dog? my children?

  6. I love this: "...the sprout in front we like to call Jay Leno." Perhaps Conan O'Brien could have used a wonderful hair guy.

  7. Your writing was so interesting, had to read the rest... I started the hair dye thing and now I am looking as young as I can for as long as I can. Besides, it is not how old you look but how young you act that counts..."young" looking is really a frame of mind. People are attracted to energy...happy energy, smile and you always look younger.