Last Friday I had this really great day resuscitating my dissertation, and today I plan on breathing a little more life into it. After all, I am freaking thirty-two, and it's time to get done with this so I can go on to law school. Ha ha ha. You thought I was going to say so I could finish with school finally. What folly! Not being in school! After all, I am in about 28th grade, so why would I want to stop now? Besides the market for an English PhD is too abysmal for words. Still, I started this damn thing, and I actually like my topic and think it's compelling. It was Partner's clever metaphor that gave me the boot; she said to me, "This year, why don't we try for two
births: our child and your dissertation." So helpful. I don't know that I am serious about law school, but I am such a politico -- Oh blah blah-- That's not really what I want to talk about.
It's just this: I remember being at the hair salon at sixteen, and my stylist saying, "Oh, you have a grey hair! Should I pull it?" and I, horrified she would deny me this maturity, gasped, "NO!" but it was too late. Grey hair gone. At sixteen, I probably looked twelve, and at twenty, I probably looked fourteen. I have always looked very young. When I turned twenty-one, I took my passport out to the bar since I hadn't gotten my license renewed and I didn't want any trouble with the authorities. No luck there. This was the conversation:
Bouncer: "Why is your passport green? US passports are blue."
Me: "It's the Benjamin Franklin commemorative edition."
Bouncer: "The what?"
Me: "The Benjamin Franklin commemorative edition. Look at the back page, there's a little bio of him as a statesman."
Bouncer: "C'mon, girl, where'd you get this made? You've been taken."
Me: "Seriously! I am twenty-one today! Don't ruin my birthday!"
He let me in, but I think he thought he was doing me a favor. I showed him all sorts of id with my name on it, my student id, my international student card, my library card, but in the end, the bouncer thought I was just a clever thirteen year old, and if I did that much work for a fake id, I deserved a drink.
People in restaurants used to think that my youngest brother was my older brother. I am ten and one half years older than him.
Two years ago, I went to a local antique market with Partner and my parents. It was early morning, and I had a baseball cap on. My dad said, "Four adults, please" and the ticket seller said, "No, she's not thirteen yet," pointing at me. It was great. It was the week of my thirtieth birthday. How thrilling! The seller was mortified when I told her how old I really was. She thought she'd insulted me or something crazy like that. (No, lady! You made my decade!)
I always said I'd be happy to be carded still at thirty. And I was, even if it was a little exasperating. And then I came down with a case of hubris, I said, outloud so all the bad little aging demons could hear me, "I'll be happy if they are still carding me at thirty-five." I mean, okay, a little bit of a reach, but I didn't say forty
, even if that's what I was thinking.
I haven't been carded in a long time. For me that is. This summer while in the South, one bartender wouldn't serve me, even though I was with my parents, who vouched, reluctantly, as this revealed their ages too. But since then, a veritable desert of "Can I see your id?" Oh sure, at my local grocery store they do it, but only because they were busted for selling to minors and they are required now as punishment to id everyone. It's not fun to be asked when the seventy-three year old buying cooking sherry in front of you was asked first.
I have inspected my face-- are there more wrinkles? Not really-- I suppose a little crinkle around the eye, but I love those crinkles. They're there because I smile a lot. What's giving me away? To me, my hair looks the same, but maybe it's not.
Last week I was drying my hair, and guess what? There is quite a bit of grey. I mean, I can see the grey even when I am not up close, running my fingers next to my scalp in search of the little buggers. And the texture is different. Right now, if I let my hair air dry, it goes kinda wavy. The greys look like they want to curl right up (which would be totally cool with me).
Hmm. Grey hair.
My matrilineal line is a hair-dying line. My grandmother had her hair done every week, and I never saw a grey hair on her head. Never. My mother is also very much about having her hair dyed. She was blonde for a long time, but then took a turn toward a reddish hue, and is now a chestnut blend I would say. It always looks good, the color, I'll hand that to her. But even though this has been my experience with hair color, I spoke out against it. "I'm just going to be totally grey! None of this hair coloring bullshit! I want to be a crone!" My mother just smirked and nodded. (Age is usually a secret in my family, so to say I wanted celebrate getting older, smacked of something akin to hypocrisy. For example, my grandmother's date of birth was different on every document she had, and none of them was correct. I was the only one that knew how old she really was. My parents tried to get it out of me for her funeral, but in the end, we ended up only putting the year of her death on the headstone. I wouldn't let my Gramma down!)
I asked one of my dear friends, let's call her Irish, about this. "Irish," I said to her, "Should I color my hair? It's looking more grey than ever." Now, this was a telephone conversation, and she hadn't seen me for about a month. There was no hesitation: "Yes." A one word answer from Irish, with no embellishment, and just so you know, both Irish and I are serious talkers. My mom once told me she didn't know how we were friends because she couldn't imagine how either of us could get a word in edgewise.
So, here I am. Thirty two and not being carded. And my hair is going grey. And I am still in school, contemplating more school, with no baby that I desperately want, and signs that used to be off in the distance that I was getting older, are coming at me with increasing speed, like I'm going downhill on a bike. And that's really fun, mind you, going downhill on a bike, but depending on the hill, it can be pretty damn scary too.
I'm going to the bar tonight for a post-dissertating drink. I think I'll take my id, just in case...