I caught myself recently trying to pump up someone (“you’re a powerful badass; your legs look healthy and fantastic”…) who’d expressed offhand insecurity about their 60-year-old, non-youthful legs.
For I’ve not always been blessed with a good relationship with my body so it pains to see someone mid-rant about theirs. Growing up, I had the equivalent of several Lucille Bluths interrupting my healthy self-image. My formative years were peppered with commentary on how thin I wasn’t and my other offensive diversions from perfection then I ended up married to the male version of the Arrested Development matriarch who’d eventually come to evacuate our union for a younger, skinnier gal (who owned 50 pairs of jeans but I digress), and it wasn’t until my 40’s that I finally invoked the rage needed to detoxify from such high-quality critical bullshit. Because if nothing else, these types of people excel at their work. They’re very thorough, like all catastrophes.
And so sporting my well-earned pair of DIY big balls when I heard my friend looking down at her 60 year old legs, my 51 year old self stood there hearing my mom, my grandma, and my ex-husband telling her what an ugly piece of shit she was and I swooped in ready to beat them down with a tire iron like a thug.
But I quickly apologized.
Because part of being an ally to badass women is standing down and not assuming your squad needs further instructions. For sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and we just need to let that grief out when looking down at the same legs we’ve had for an entire life in sudden realization they’re not actually the same fucking legs at all.
The other night out of the jungle of middle-aged breakdowns, the bathroom mirror exposed itself by flashing my shockingly-grey-haired bun to me and from the kerfuffle of feelings wasn’t my mom or my ex-husband: it was me.
Quarantine has not been kind to my hair. It seems as if the melanin got word that none of us can get our hair colored and wanted to send me a big fuck you because I’ve gotten quite a bit more gray the last few weeks. I don’t have saggy legs but I’ve always loved my dark hair and while I normally don’t color my hair, I’ve always enjoyed the prospect that I could. My appearance is really the only fiction I can write.
And women are trained to feel shame/embarrassment for so many things by society, and I know this. It’s not just our moms and the toxicity of a Culture that acts as if it’s an auctioneer, its that women get it from so many sides we don’t even know how we feel. To be empowered: “love your gray hair and reject the societal pressure” (or “do what you want to feel beautiful!”). But what if we don’t love our grey hair yet don’t necessarily want to color it either? Is there space for us to empower ourselves via the culture of our own morphing wants and needs? Part of my evolution has been making space for my long game, where “look at this fucking saggy ass shit?” isn’t an indication of self-worth but rather a normal vent about watching the body I/we love undergoing the aging process.
And the other night, while I vented in the mirror to Clawed—my volunteer therapy animal—I took about 30 selfie’s trying to get a good look at the extent of it. And I didn’t like it. I don’t like my gray hair. And I don’t have to. I can be a crazy grey-hair-hating bitch without redirecting my own agency to force myself to be something else. I’m gonna feel the feelings, and be myself. Look at my gray hair and Understand that this is how we say goodbye to things. We start to miss them until suddenly one day we don’t even notice them anymore because we’ve somehow moved on.
And I don’t know how the universe works but things show up. And before long–in that same mirror–I was smiling and giving Clawed hugs.
For suddenly, I thought: Look at this cat? Standing here the entire time while I exclaim to the mirror my stressed out, unwelcome surprise. Sitting on the counter, leaning up against me, in various poses of listening. Moving closer to my face with his own when I leaned down to rest my arms on the sink, as if giving me a pep talk in his own supportive way.
And just like that, I wanted to thank him for his friendship. And turned on the faucet at his preferred strength so he could get a drink.
[This is kind of a fictionalized version of real events simply because I’m meshing two different time periods together; the experience with my friend and the kitty go back to last year but the gray hair I’m currently enduring is unfortunately happening right now in every single mirror of my home].