"Hey, I like your hair!" said a colleague I ran into at school today. "Is it more...golden? Golden brown? Than it was?" she asked, a mite apprehensively, clearly worried about whether I'd be more offended if she noticed, or more offended if she didn't.
"You mean 'less gray'?" I responded. "Yes, it is less gray than it was." What I failed todraw to her attention is that I also now have bangs. Do you know why I have bangs and golden-brown hair?
Because I am vain, that's why.
Here's the problem: I am not old enough to have wrinkles on my forehead and gray hairs liberally scattered throughout my mane. Yeah, chronologically, I'm the right number, but my internal image doesn't jibe with that. When I catch a look in the mirror, I keep expecting to see someone with brown hair and smooth skin looking back at me, not this.... middle aged lady. Look, just because I saw The Breakfast Club in its original release and remember dialing four-digit phone numbers doesn't mean I'm antiquated, does it???
Waiting to have kids til my late 30s helped prolong my self-deception about my age. It's easy to think you're younger than you really are when you're discussing toilet training and sleep patterns with people ten years your junior. When I was pregnant with the girls, I worked with a woman about my same age who'd gotten married and had kids just out of high school, and I remember being amazed that we could be so close in age and yet at such different stages of parenting. Now all three of the young teachers on my team are expecting babies, and I'm the grizzled veteran of the parenting wars. My kids are in that indeterminate span of time known as "school aged;" or, "wait, what grades are your girls in again?", and when people are surprised, it's because they've mentally estimated that my kids should be around high school age or thereabouts, not in the primary grades.
I met up with some friends from grad school (WHICH WAS SIXTEEN YEARS AGO, BTW) over the summer. I complimented my friend Jessica for appearing almost Dorian Grey-like in her lack of aging. "It's because I've gotten vain," she promptly responded. "Look at this," she said, pushing up her bangs to show her (largely unlined) forehead. "I asked the hairdresser if I should get bangs, and she went snip. So now my bangs hide my forehead." Huzzah! I thought. Here was the answer to the disparity between how old I look and how old I think I am! Bangs! Much cheaper than Botox, and less painful than plastic surgery! So when I got my greys , um, recalibrated, I talked my hairdresser into giving me bangs, despite her obvious reluctance. I had to promise to use loads of goop on them every day so I won't look like a gone-to-seed dandelion, but I got my wish. Now when I look in the mirror, instead of seeing a middle-aged lady with grey hair, I see... a middle aged lady with golden-brown hair and bangs. Progress!