I’ve dealt with confronting ageing in the same way I deal with confrontation in other areas of my life; I’ve avoided it like the plague. I like the age I am now. I don’t want to think about getting older. I don’t want to think about my body changing. I don’t want to think about liver spots and papery skin and dentures. Instead, I live in the moment.
Or as other people might call it, ‘in denial‘.
This mindset of pretending it’s-just-not-happening-and-I’ll-have-this-same-human-body-forever-and-I-will-always-be-capable-of-solo-dance-parties-in-my-kitchen-and-I-could-climb-Kilimanjaro-but-I-just-don’t-feel-like-it-right-this-minute has served me pretty well so far for an attitude that I realise is, frankly, unsustainable in the long-term.
Up until this year, I didn’t use moisturiser with any frequency whatsoever. I also didn’t use sunscreen unless I was in 40° heat (that’s 104° for you in America). In terms of skincare or exercise, I lived a life of blissful ignorance. When it comes to spa treatments, I have never had a facial, and honestly the idea of a stranger stroking my face with gloop makes me stiffen with discomfort (I’ve heard people say that it’s relaxing, but I truly cannot fathom how that could possibly be the case). The only massages I have ever had are the painful, physiotherapeutic ones that feel like physical abuse and leave you bruised for the rest of the week.
What I’m getting at here is that although I’m grateful for my body and all that it does for me, I don’t exactly treat it like a temple. If my body must be an architectural metaphor, then it is a ramshackle treehouse on a desert island built from bits of trees and patches of moss. I need it. It’s all I’ve got. I could probably stand to make it a bit prettier, but for the moment it does the job. Yes, time is passing and I haven’t so much as given it a coat of varnish, but it still looks fine.
… And then yesterday, I found an unwelcome, uninvited squatter.
As I tried to french braid my hair in front of the mirror (and failed. Again. Seriously how do people manage those braids? They’re like wizardry! You need spatial relation skills I was never born with), I found a single, solitary strand of silver.
I looked at it accusingly. It was trying to disguise itself as blonde, trying to hide among my long dark hair. My eyes narrowed and I pulled it from my head and stared at it. Logically, I’m aware that since I’ve turned thirty I should have expected this sort of monstrous betrayal. It was only a matter of time. My hair – which in the past has been treated to such indignities as blue extensions, a quick magenta dye-job in a bathroom sink, and an extremely ill-conceived period of jet black permanent colour which took about a hundred years to grow out – could only hold out so long. AND YET.
I stood there, staring at this disloyal strand of hair and hissed, “Et tu, Brute?“
Before you say it, I know that it’s just one grey hair, and I probably don’t have to run out just yet to buy a teetering stack of Nice n’ Easy Age Defy in the shade Natural Dark Brown. Still, it was an unpleasant discovery. It was an unwanted, obnoxious reminder that I am, in fact, an adult and will at some stage have to consider things such as (down the line) hair dye and (hopefully much further down the line) dentures.
This morning, having internalised all of these unpalatable thoughts, I sat down at my desk and decided to start treating my body better. We’re in this together after all, body and brain. If I’m going to be a ramshackle treehouse on a desert island, let’s at least do something cool with it; swing from branches or something. I feel good about this decision. I felt a rush of energy run through me as I thought about it, and that seems like a good omen.
Although actually, now that I think about it, that might have just been the coffee.