I'm turning 40 next week.
I've been kind of down about it.
I'm sagging. Everywhere.
There is a copious amount of gray hair on my head.
My knees hurt almost all the time.
I groan when I get up of the floor.
I can no longer sleep on my right side because the muscles in my back seize up after five minutes.
I get up to pee like three times a night because I have the prostate of an 80 year old man.
And after I wake up, I can't go back to sleep.
I'm freaked out about turning 40.
I've been feeling a little down.
Or, at least, I was until this afternoon.
I was finishing up the last of my Christmas shopping this afternoon and a woman stared at me with the strangest look. I caught her eye as she said, "You hair. It's so...gray. Why don't you color it?"
My gray hair elicits very strong reactions in women. Take for instance, my friend Tina who used to do my hair before we moved: Tina wholeheartedly supported my grayness and looked for ways to enhance the thick brillo mane that I was born with.
On the other hand, the woman who now does my hair has a strong disapproval of my hair color. She spends the first ten minutes of every appointment quizzing me on why I chose to go gray. It's not personal, she's just reacting to a lifetime of fiction she's been fed about what a woman is "supposed to" look like. (If you've been under a rock for the last few decades, here's the short version according to the amazing Tina Fey: "Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”)
Anyway, for whatever reason, women tend to have very strong reactions to my hair. It's either, "Oh my gosh! I looooooove your hair!" or the opposite--like my "friend" in the store this afternoon.
First of all, let's be honest here: I DO color my hair. All the dark parts on top? Yeah, totally fake. A few years ago I looked over at Mountain Man's thick dark head-o-hair and thought, "He is never going to catch up with me." Every month or so, I get a mohawk of thick blackish pieces painted through my gray. When it grows out I touch up the pieces with mascara until I can get to the salon. Come to think of it, I kind of look like the Bride of Frankenstein but in reverse.
My point of this post is this: I was playing into the idea that 40 signifies my steady decline into old age and infirmity until this afternoon. Instantly, the creaky knees, hurting back and wobbly bits just melted away. Indignation rose up from my toes: I refuse to feel bad about aging.
I refuse to apologize about sagging breasts that fed two HUMAN BEINGS for a year--each.
I refuse to feel bad about my aching back that can lift heavy things, the crows feet that frame my eyes with a perfect record of every laugh, and I REFUSE to apologize for my gray hair, no matter how uncomfortable it makes some people feel.
But all I really want to say to that lady in the store this afternoon is this:
Thank you for igniting my fire again. Thank you for helping me see what a waste of time it is to focus on a number.
I am not a number, and neither are you.
Here's to the next 40.