It’s my birthday today. That’s right, I am now officially one year older (44!) which got me reflecting on my life and this thing called aging.
First of all, why do men always seem to age gracefully? I look at photos of my dad and I think he is more handsome today with his distinguished gray hair than he was in his younger years. Somehow wrinkles and gray hairs just make a man look MORE wise looking and handsome.
With the unfortunate exception being men who lose their hair. But even that works for them in today’s world. No more unfortunate comb overs - remember those? Today, men just shave it all off and go for the Mr. Clean look and it’s awesome.
Now, the hair for women is a totally different story. I inherited my Dad’s premature graying gene (thanks, Dad!), which means that I had gray hair at 30 and have been in the world of coloring my hair ever since. Most of my coloring is to cover the grays, but because they are becoming so “plentiful,” lately I’ve been incorporating lighter shades of caramel and blonde into the mix to trick people I meet.
“Is that a gray hair I see? Oh, surely not. It must be the light. Surely, it must be a grayish shade of blonde…” Sure.
I color my hair because I want to look my age. Because clearly my body must have forgotten that 44 is young, right? It’s betraying me with this gray hair.
Forty-four isn’t old. I only notice my age at all when I wake up in the morning and hobble my way to the bathroom the whole time trying to remember what exercise I must have done or item I must have lifted that left me sore and tired.
I look back at photos of my grandmothers from when I was growing up and THEY look old. But, they weren’t. They were probably my age.
But they look so much older. I blame hair color. Hair color just wasn’t what it is today. Consequently, women either let themselves go gray or dyed their hair with concoctions that left them with a vaguely blueish hue.
Today, we can choose to have hair any color in the rainbow. Twenty somethings are even dying their hair gray, for fun. Oh, to be young and silly! I want to pull everyone of them aside and, first, compliment them on a bold choice because, of course, they look adorable. And then, second, fill them in on what’s coming down the pipe in the not-too-distant future. You want gray hair? Never fear, millennial, your wish is your 30-something’s command.
In additional to hair color, I think we take care of our bodies more today, too. We eat better and exercise. We have miracle creams for everyone part of our bodies. All of which are keeping us looking younger.
But, I wonder, our minds are pretty much the same today and past generations, right? Maybe my grandmothers WERE my age in their heads. Even if they looked older, they probably felt 20. They probably dreamed like a 30 year old. They might have even been surprised when they looked in the mirror because their outside appearance didn’t match their internal youth.
I guess age truly is just number. When I turned 40, this truth was, admittedly, hard to embrace. I wasn’t too keen on the NUMBER.
But now, four years later, I find I am settling into myself. Yes, settling into my age. I’m aware that my 40 year-old self doesn’t need to be wearing a choker or cutesy clips in my hair like 20-something Christine did.
But, I’m also settling into a perspective of myself. A perspective of this season of my life….with middle school-aged kids. With a marriage that feels comfortable like your favorite sweatshirt – the one you put on each chance you get.
The season where relationships matter more than tasks and accomplishments. Where I’m realizing that life is too precious and short to waste on people or things that don’t bring me joy. An understanding that I only have one chance to live this life – no do overs, people, so I want to make the most of each day and each person I get to love.
I might need more sleep. Or sometimes wake up in the middle of the night for no good reason. (What’s up with that?) I might opt for comfort over cute when it comes to my shoes. And yes, I might spend more on hair color and wrinkles creams than I used to back in the day, but I wouldn’t go back to my 20s.
I’m embracing 44 and remembering to count my age in friends, not years.