my mom continued to colour her hair until a few weeks before she died. my sister had arranged her stylist to come to the hospital because, well, visitors. the only reason it stopped happening was because she was too sick to have it done any longer. i would sometimes dye her roots for her in between appointments and i always laughingly asked her how long she planned on doing it for. her answer was always the same, “until i can’t.”
it was funny as an adult to discover that my mom was vain and worried about getting older. to me, she was always old. isn’t that how it works?
as a kid, all the primping and plucking and prepping she did, was just normal. she was never over-the-top, she didn’t wear super fancy things, and she didn’t have a face full of makeup, so it never occurred to me that she cared all that much. she was just a mom. but when we’d have to run out to the grocery store or to the bank and i’d find her lining her lips or filling in her brows, i always wondered why she would bother. she was married to dad, she knew everyone in town, who did she have to impress?
it’s only now that i get it. it was never about impressing someone else. it was about feeling good. feeling attractive. feeling just slightly younger than your actual age. and the reason i really understand it is because i’m the exact same way.
i sure wasn’t worried about it in high school with my shaved head and my crimson stained mouth. i desperately wanted russ winters to think i was cute (he never did. sigh.) but i wasn’t going out of my way in any overt manner to make that happen.
my 20s were my favourite decade. i felt true love for the first time in my life, i got my first job in tv and i was a carefree hippy-wannabe that was never gonna’ get old.
i spent the better part of those years makeup-free and changed my hairstyle and its colour, based on feelings and whims. i had lots of boyfriends and i was pretty secure with my crooked teeth, the bump on my deviated septum of a nose and kinda’ felt like i owned my age. i wasn’t worried about turning 30.
until i turned 30.
the 30s is when i started to feel a bit of angst at the idea of growing older. i saw things shifting. lines forming. what was once a unique and charming half-mouthful of twisted-up teeth suddenly looked like an eyesore and quite truthfully, aged.
having anxiety didn’t help matters. i started fretting about the future in ways i never had before. (which probably caused those forming lines!) i was closer to 40 than i was to 20 and i did not like that one bit. so i did what every panicked aging girl would do. i fought back.
i fixed my teeth, i fixed my nose, i started doing yoga and using anti-everything creams. i was way less adventurous with my haircuts and although i tan very easily, i began applying sunscreen for the first time in my life. i was holding on to my youth by the skin of my newly-straightened chompers. 40 would not get me. it would not take me down. i would stare it straight in the face and continue to look like i was in my 30s for as long as humanly possible.
now here i am officially in my mid-40s. and as expected, i’ve definitely seen more changes. but they look a little different than i imagined them to. i’ve grown a maternal instinct that i never thought i’d have. i’ve drawn boundaries for what kind of people i want to have in my life. i feel empathy and compassion and kindness on levels far greater than ever before. my heart gives and receives love in giant-ass doses. being a mom takes selflessness to new heights and i’m a lot less worried about me, than i am about them. i’ve learned that there’s no shame or defeat in saying sorry.
sure, there are lines and spots and bumps appearing at a far more rapid rate than i would like. and you can be darn well certain that, like my mom, i will dye my hair until i no longer can. but i am trying hard to accept that my age is a lot less about a growing number and the wrinkles that accompany it, and way more about the person you want to spend your life being.
i mostly still feel like that girl with the shaved head but i’m slowly settling into knowing this new version of her and i want to feel proud for others to get to know her too. just when you thought life’s changes would only be on the surface, they go and surprise you with an internal makeover.
maybe this will be the year to grab groceries without a fully filled-in brow. we’ll see.