Sunday, August 31, 2008

What's So Great About It?

...youth, that is.

I was thinking about a couple of things today, one of which was youth; the other was of death. We're always on that continuum, no? Bear with me. I think I'm onto something.

Sitting along the sidewalk seating of a restaurant with my husband, sipping on a margarita (had to allow myself just a tad), I was noticing the women around me. The ones like me, teetering on the middle between youth and the rest of it, were well-dressed, bejeweled, and dyed. One of the women directly in my line of sight had a gorgeous blond-streaked 'do that was what I wish my hair looked like. I'm not sure mine can look that way, but I admired hers. She sat there with her late-teens/early-20s son and her balding, gray-haired husband. She was beautiful and probably got many of the "you don't look old enough to have a son his age" comments. Her husband kept looking my way. Maybe my glasses make me look smart...

When Anne Kreamer set out on her experiment of going gray at age 49, she undertook it as a social experiment. She even (with her husband's blessing, I presume) set up two accounts on a dating site. One account had a picture of her with her au naturale hair, the other with her previous chestnut dye job. She got many more hits from hunks on her gray profile. Maybe it was because she looked so natural. or perhaps it was because she exuded that aura of self-acceptance. She wrote a book about the whole thing.

Inside myself, I find that I'm always fighting that image I have in my head of older women. Doesn't it seem that our mothers, aunts, grandmothers were so old? Doesn't it seem they got really frumpy once they settled into motherhood and all that came after? What's the alternative? Working hard to stay stylish and sexy while cleaning the tub? (Erase that. I don't clean my own tub. I have someone who does that for me). Certainly I have my days of sitting in my office in my jammies until noon or of throwing on a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt, something presentable enough to get me to the mailbox and to walk the dog but nothing I'd wear to the mall. Working from home has its privileges, after all, but one of them isn't that you get to try new styles all the time. I feel that at least part of my battle with the frumps is that I have no one to dress for other than the UPS driver - and we only have a passing acquaintance.

So why do I need to look like the forty- and fifty-somethings in Montgomery County who are decked out to look good on the arm of their more natural-looking husbands? I don't need to, but I do want to hang onto my youth for a little while longer. Wednesday's the day when I'll get the blond streaks. I'd love to do the red again, but the upkeep! Too much.

I didn't really mean to get into the whole gray/silver business again.

What I noticed as we walked away from that sidewalk cafe was that I was feeling this urge inside myself, this little identity meltdown in which I wanted people to see who I used to be...this rocker chick with the guitar player boyfriend who danced to Led Zeppelin while the disco dollies sat it out, who dressed in flashy clothes and wore stilettos with jeans before it was popular, who loved hanging out in smoky clubs and listening to music - the louder the better. I wanted to feel that long hair I used to have brushing my shoulders as I shimmied away, to feel the stares of every man (and some women) on me as I passed by. I didn't want the other people walking past me to see me as a middle-aged woman in sensible shoes, which is what I find most comfortable these days - or worse! I didn't want to fade into the background, invisible. Maybe the balding husband was looking at a woman behind me, someone younger than his wife.

There's a price that goes with not growing up, though, and I've seen it paid.

Without saying too much, there is a person in my extended family who is going to be paying a very large price because of the actions of one of his/her parents. I wish I could be more specific, but you never know. From what I know, said parent required some drugs and used the kid to get them. The kid got caught. The parent is older than me and should know better, should be mature enough at this point not to still be acting like a child, should step up and take the blame. Said parent is far more interested in maintaining that illusion of youth and the never-ending party to worry about taking the punishment. After all, the kid has been in trouble before, what's one more incarceration?

It's more than sad.

On top of all this introspection, hubby and I watched El Cantante tonight when we got home with our stuffed bellies. The movie, if you're not familiar with it, is a biopic of Salsa sensation Hector Lavoe, who helped originate the musical genre in the 60s/70s but ended up mired in drugs and eventually HIV. You may think it's a familiar story, but it's still a good one. It's a story about the redemption that may never come. His inability (and his wife's inability) to let go of the never-ending party that so many were caught up in during that era cost them first the life of their child, then Hector's life, then Puchi's (his wife).

At what cost, eternal youth? It's an illusion. We can paint, dye, party, what have you...but we still age, unless we're Dorian Gray. Would we be satisfied with letting a portrait of us age while we stay young and beautiful? I think it would be the biggest seller the world's ever seen.

The shock of all the death in the movie was made worse by how young these people were when they left. Frankly, knowing that Lavoe died at 46, the same age as me, was a bit of a shock. It's the same age at which hubby's dad died of a massive heart attack. Really, isn't it a privilege to get older? What is the alternative? So we get a little frumpy. So we wear sensible shoes. For me that isn't about age as much as it's about illness anyway. We play the hand we're dealt.

But hey, regardless of all this insight tonight, I'm still getting highlights on Wednesday. That young woman inside me screams that she wants a little more satisfaction out of this life before the heart stops beating. Might as well look hot while doing it.

Peace - D

15 comments:

Akelamalu said...

I'm growing old, disgracefully. ((wink))

the walking man said...

O weary and wasted youth. Where have ye gone to? I woke up one day and visited my two brothers, one older by 13 months one younger by 26, and saw that not only had the male pattern baldness come upon them but they both had gone to gray with nary a chestnut hair left to climb back on the tree.

I looked in the hated mirror of age and saw through the glare caused by my own skull, that I had nary a gray hair upon my head. Of course I was shaving my head at the time. (Bald gets the attention of women is a myth.) But to carry the story on, I let my hair grow...and grow...and grow some more, until now it reaches to my mid-back and LO! Not a gray hair to be found among them that still reside there.

My beard on the other hand, while the envy of every just learning to shave teenager...suffice it to say my beard has been to the party and it now likes to be abed by 9 at the latest.

Hilary said...

Somewhere there's a line between feeling good about how you look, and trying to fool yourself into believing you're still young. Make-up, hair dye, new styles and dressing up can all do wonders for self-esteem. I think my line would be drawn somewhere before cosmetic surgery. I'd love to lose wrinkles, flab and blubber but there's a point where we need to accept real life, and just leave the youthful appearance to the young. I'm sure your streaks will be smashing! Most important, you'll feel better. :)

Moannie said...

You know, it was feeling my mortality that led me to blogging in the first place. the bbbbbbirthday has come and gone and 74 is the same as 73 and ever backwards. It is the go in the girl and not the girl on the go, that matters. My hair has been mouse[natural] blonde, platinum, red black and brown and now it is white [back to natural]. Some one said that by forty-five we have the wrinkles we've earned and the face we deserve. If that is true, then the fact that the corners f my mouth still go upwards, means l have laughed a lot...and still do.
Thanks for your visit and kind words.

Daryl said...

I am all for whatever makes you feel good PERIOD

:-Daryl

Jo said...

Madonna just turned 50. Apparently 50 is the new 40. *heh* Well, who knows? I think the important thing is that we do things that make us feel like ourselves, whether it's coloring our hair, training for a marathon, or taking up painting. Age is just a number. There is no reason why we should define ourselves by a number. "Oh, I'm 50 now, I think I should go grey." If grey suits a person, then that's great. If it doesn't well, that's okay too. Get the blonde streaks.

Do you remember that ad, I think it was for Clairol? "If I only have one life, let me live it as a blonde!" Or redhead, or brunette. What the heck.

I would love to see some pictures once you have had the highlights done.

Lavinia said...

I love reading your silver/gray posts. I have a head full of hair that I don't know what to do with, so I've done nothing for a while and now its long and very inconvenient but I just dont' know what to do.....so it gets put in a braid or a bun every single day....

Does that make me look young? No, it doesn't.....but I find I'm just losing interest in the whole endeavour anyway...

I have been sitting on the gray fence for a while and so far the anit-gray is winning....

I like what you've written here...so well expressed...you've captured the gray angst of many of your readers!

RiverPoet said...

Akela - Disgracefully is the most fun way to do it! ;-)

Walking Man - My poor son has taken to shaving his head because he has inherited the baldness gene from his dad's side of the family. At least he won't have to worry about going gray. I love that your beard has its own bedtime!

Hilary - You're absolutely right! But you know, there is one cosmetic surgery I'd agree to. From 3 neck surgeries and a childhood accident (added to genetics), I have a very saggy chin. I'd get it fixed were it not so bloody pricey!

Moannie - I love this line: "It is the go in the girl and not the girl on the go." How right you are. I love your silver, by the way.

Josie - You're right. There's no right age or right time. I can recognize that it's not the right time for me to be completely gray, though. My sister is doing very well with her transition to silver, though, but she is 11 yrs my senior.

Lavinia - Ah, the "gray angst" is a good way to describe it. There seems to be no compelling reason for me to completely give up just yet. I think by continuing to blend the gray with light blond, I'll be able to gradually complete the transition at some point in the future. I still want to feel sexy when I look in the mirror, and I'm not feeling it right now.

Peace - D

Jay said...

I'm growing old disgracefully, too! LOL!

I think keeping yourself looking as young as possible and as attractive as possible is fine, if that makes you feel good and is also fine by your partner. Their opinions do matter, and making yourself feel good at the expense of their comfort or happiness is not good at all.

Plastic surgery is going too far, in my opinion, unless there's a good reason for it. You may be pschologically affected by the way you look, you may have lost huge amounts of weight and have spare skin - go for it, if so! Otherwise... waste of money.

Looks alone don't make you happy, being content with your lot in life makes you happy. If tweaking your look makes you more content or helps you over the transition, go for it.

Getting older is inevitable, and as a wise person once said, it's better than the alternative.

Employee No. 3699 said...

I'm 46 also. I haven't seen any gray yet, but I do dye my hair blond...I prefer blond to mousy.

I'm starting to get 'jowls' (Eeek) and 'drapes' on my upper arms (Ugh). Oh well.

RiverPoet said...

3699 - Honestly, if I could get the look Daryl has or even the woman shown on the cover of the book, I'd go for it. I'm just not there yet. I'm at that mousy part, so highlights it is!

Peace - D

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

l note Moannie, mentioned you and I in her last but one blog post...we were on the similar lines...

great post!!

tysdaddy said...

I took to wearing hats exclusively about four years ago. My hair is leaving the building . . .

RiverPoet said...

FFF - Great minds think alike! Moannie is one cool chickie...

Peace - D

RiverPoet said...

Tysdaddy - Nothing wrong with hats! I've bought myself a couple of nice straw hats this year to protect me from the sun. Hubby has taken to wearing a spiffy, casual woven hat, and my son carries a black, felt fedora with him for those times he wants to kick it up a notch. Not enough people appreciate hats, IMHO!

D