Two months ago I found a single grey hair in my head. It was only a few centimeters long, and was hiding one row over from where I normally part my hair. Almost before I knew it, I found myself walking to the kitchen to get the sharpest pair of scissors that I own out of the maintenance drawer– the one that also holds coupons, napkins from fast food restaurants, pens, matches, and other miscellaneous fix-it items– and then back to my bathroom to cut the hair right out of my head.
The irony that this was happening only a short time before my birthday wasn’t lost on me. This birthday serves not only as a significant reminder of my birth, but this year it’s the culmination of an imagined life. When I was young, four or five at the most, my mother took me to a work function and asked me to introduce myself. “Tell them your name,” she gently coaxed me.
“Gina”, I said.
“Her name isn’t Gina,” my mother laughed. “Well what is it?” her co-worked asked in that dumb falsetto voice that adults use when they clearly know the answer to a question. I was silent, so the co-worker pressed on with the second-most ridiculous question that they’re knowledgeable on. “How old are you?” she asked.
“My name is Gina, and I’m 29”.
It was the last time my mother let anyone ask that same set of questions that night without answering for me, which I still find funny to this day. Gina is the girl who came alive when I stood in front of the bathroom mirror in my bath towel. The girl that I pretended to be when I sang with a brush in my hands. Gina is coming out in a few days, and I’m not sure what to expect anymore. Surely she’d be proud to know that I’m still losing hours of time imagining a grand future in front of the bathroom mirror, but will she appreciate the choices I’ve made?
Walk with me through a grocery store, or a mall, and you’ll almost always hear me comment on someone’s grey hair. Sexy on men, dignified on women, the look grabs me no matter who it is I’m watching. Carefully maintained grey hair is a beautiful style, even mentioned in the Bible as being a statement and stage of maturity to be celebrated. But in my own life, my own experience, I just about made myself bald in one little area trying to cut out a single grey hair. I missed it, and accidentally cut the four hairs next to it. I tried again, missing several more times, never stopping until it was finally out. As a result, I shifted my part.
Although I want to look in the mirror one day and see a fifty year old woman with a head full of long grey hair, I don’t want to see her young heir. I don’t want to see the beginning of maturity, just the end result. Youth lives under the sea, floats on its back, waves to passing ships, and goes with the flow of the current. Adulthood lives on land, makes sure it has enough sunblock on and stays hydrated so it can maintain stamina and endurance on long hikes. I don’t feel like a fish out of water yet, but if I don’t acknowledge, accept, appreciate, and then congratulate myself on making it to my late twenties successfully I’m going to wind up being one of those people with regrets. Regrets. No, never, not me.
When they offered me the job, the first person I wanted to tell was my landlord. Not my mother or boyfriend, but my landlord. I thought it would be the perfect reason to slide into a conversation about staying in this building and gradually paying more each month as some sort of a deposit to buying this old house. He rejoiced with me over the phone, but I never mentioned buying the building because I had already started thinking that paying off the remainder of the smaller of my student loan bills was a better idea than paying more in rent.
Nobody writes songs about growing old and paying their student loan bills, but that’s my song right now. Nobody sings about cutting out sugar from their diet, or settling down in a healthy routine that will breed more self-discipline, but I know all of the words to that tune. I joined a friend for brunch earlier today at a cafe in our neighborhood, and I bounced thoughts about challenging ways to love your spouse better and the many reasons why I wasn’t allowed to eat the six or seven tarts imprisoned behind the glass in front of me back and forth. And then back again, to a rhythm that only I hear.
And perhaps even more disappointing is that I’ve already made plans for the generous salary I just received, and every single one of them is the opposite of exciting, adventurous, and cool. What insurance plan will I pick? Will I complete my dental work this year or next? Will I have the company match all of my 401k options, or just partially match?
So today, after meeting that friend, I walked as fast as I could to the nail salon and I picked the most childish pink I could find along the wall. I feel relieved after doing so, a bit younger without a doubt. There was an anxious rush at the end of last year to be a grown-up, get married, go on fancy adult vacations, and do whatever it is that fancy adults are supposedly doing. I mean, why do you think I grew my nails long in the first place? So he could put a beautiful ring on one of those pretty fingers, that’s why. And then without cause, or a tangible cause, there is now a sudden resistance to all of that. A rise, a big wave of ‘No, I Don’t Want To Be An Adult, Only Have the Things Adults Have’ just washed ashore.
Thank God I not a mere girl.
I am a mermaid. The best of both worlds.
Written to: “We Are Young” by Fun; “Still Fly” by the Big Tymers; and lots of Whitney Houston.