I have a big birthday coming up. Yup, in less than a month I’ll be forty for real. Now, I refer to myself as a “forty year old woman” all the time, or as pushing forty, but soon I will actually BE forty. In a complete vacuum, I would be fine with it. Just a number and all that. I’m vaguely prepared for shit to start breaking on my body, but I can still do stuff I want to do.
I have a bad knee from a fall two years ago, so I have learned (for the first time in my life!!) how to do squats properly. Seriously, no one ever told me to think about sticking my butt back instead of focusing on bending my knees. Why did no one ever tell me that? They would say “don’t let your knees go in front of your toes,” but never explained that the way you do that is by pretending you’re dropping a deuce and trying not to get it on your shoes. But now I have a bad knee, so now I know. Still, I can still exercise just fine, and nothing else has broken down yet. I don’t need cheater glasses to read yet, although threading a needle is starting to become an issue. Maybe I need some of those old lady needle threader thingies.
Oh, and perimenopause is happening. So, that blows. Hot flashes, night sweats, and a raging bitch who inhabits my body from time to time. But whatev. Some black cohosh, a few extra showers, and control of the thermostat. I’m dealing.
But the social stuff is harder.
See, since my kids were born, I have been dying my hair funny colors. Fire engine red, pink, teal, most recently blue. Here is me with my blue hair.
|Not crazy blue, but definitely bluer than anyone else's hair at my kids' elementary school...|
It’s not really all that blue. It’s not like Thing 1 and Thing 2 blue. It’s just… you know… kind of blue.
Recently my brother told me my blue hair is ridiculous, because I’m too old for it and I’m a mom. But the thing is, I never dyed my hair funny colors before I had kids. I didn’t need to. I was going to Burning Man and attending parties that started at 11pm and traveling the world. But then I moved to the suburbs and had twins and bought a minivan. My body, although the same weight as it was pre-kids, was a new shape. A more… mommish shape. I was pushing a double stroller, and wearing yoga pants as regular pants, and my fabulous heels were all a half size too small, and I might have had puke on me at any given moment. I needed something to remind me that I was still me. So I started messing with my hair.
And I loved it. I still love it. But now with forty looming, I am starting to worry about what other people will think. Am I too old to have blue hair?
I embrace my mom persona at this point, and now that my kids are in school, they are less all-encompassing, so I can pursue things that make me feel like me again. I don’t need crazy hair anymore to remind me who I am. But I still want to keep it.
The biggest reason is that I like how people respond to me. People are friendlier, chattier. Toll takers, fast food drive-thru window workers, random people in the service industry… I can see them snap out of auto-pilot and make eye contact with me in a way that didn’t happen before. Random strangers talk to me on the street, primarily people who are NOT like me. Kids talk to me about my hair, asking why it’s blue. Twenty-somethings who would otherwise look through me as if I were invisible, compliment it and smile, sometimes leading into a longer conversation.
As weird as it seems, I have many more conversations with strangers as a function of my blue hair, and I love that. I love finding a connection where there would otherwise be two people on autopilot, just playing roles and not seeing each other at all.
In fact, the very fact that blue hair is wrong for "a woman my age" is the thing that’s magic about it. Because it marks me as something other than generic. Not for my own self-image anymore, even though that was the primary reason I started doing it. But now, because it makes other people stop for a moment to figure me out. And in that moment of stopping, there is the opportunity for genuine connection.
My blue hair might be silly. It is silly. It’s blue hair on a middle-aged mom. It’s ridiculous. And I’m totally keeping it.
Because also? I just like it.