Mom always said gray hair was nature’s way of softening our features as we age. Then again, Mom was a bottle blonde.
I was around 18 when my first gray hair appeared. I say gray only because everyone else does. This hair could have come from Santa’s beard. Had it had the gentle, natural wave everyone admires in my hair, I might have just brushed it under. But Mother Nature wasn’t so kind. She made this single white hair stick straight up à la Don King. I promptly pulled it out.
Six months later I plucked another. Then another. And another. By the time I reached my mid-30s, I was fishing out a dozen a day. In my quest to avoid looking old and gray, I was starting to look old and bald. That’s when I got highlights.
I’ve always seen aging as a must to avoid. Pete Townshend can hope to die before he gets old. I take my theme song from Peter Pan.
Behavior-wise, immaturity’s been a breeze. I held off on my first date until college. Being a painfully shy student at a Catholic girls’ high school made it pretty easy. Even after escaping the nuns, I took things slowly. I didn’t marry until 31. I didn’t give birth until 35. At 41, I have yet to bake a pie or cook a turkey. Isn’t that what mothers are for?
Back in the days when I wasn’t quite so determined to stall the hands of time, I rarely spent my free moments doing anything more strenuous than flipping the pages of a book. When I hit 40, I suddenly felt the need to prove I had the physical prowess of a woman half my age. I’ve never had much luck hitting balls, so I took up running. I started paddleboarding in my late 50s. By the time I’m 80, I suppose I’ll be ready for T-ball.
The physical signs of aging have been tougher to beat. I picked my first battle against Mother Nature at 13. Other girls were starting to get their periods. Not this girl. I took perverse pride in being an outsider. I’d managed to escape other trappings of adolescence – acne, breasts, a propensity to sleep until noon. I knew I could escape this one. I didn’t. But I am still waiting for the breasts.
Around the time I reached 25, I spotted the first wrinkles creeping in around my eyes. There wasn’t a thing I could do about it except hang around with a bunch of heavy smokers who had deeper wrinkles. Which I did. I suspect that same reasoning at least subconsciously influenced me to choose a husband with hair grayer than mine.
By the time I could see the crow’s feet without a magnifying mirror, cosmetic companies had developed a cure. It’s cream laced with acid. The acid causes a mild burn that’s supposed to make wrinkles miraculously disappear. What the package didn’t say is that the acid would make my eyes water so much that my mascara would bleed to my chin. Now my only hope for waking up with a smooth, wrinkle-free face is water retention.
For all my fighting, I have won a couple battles. One was overweight. I spent my 20s struggling to flatten my stomach and trim my thighs. My 30s were leaner, but still not ideal. In my 40s, I finally got down to the size I was sophomore year in high school. I even have the hollow cheekbones I longed for in my younger years. Now people tell me my face is too thin.
Should I ever lose sight of my mission in life, I have plenty of reminders to snap me back to reality. Like women’s magazines. A recent article in Health caught my eye with the headline “Feel Great in Your 30s, 40s, 50s.” The article informed me that beginning around 40, women lose a third of a pound of muscle a year and gain at least that much in fat. That’s supposed to make me feel great?
I know there’ll come a day, say in 30 or 40 years, when I won’t give a damn about muscle turning to fat, wiry, gray hair, dark circles and crow’s feet. So make sure the undertaker does a bang-up job.