What it's like to have a life crisis at any age - Part 3

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3 years ago

The Shameless MidPoint Crisis

I intended to grow old gracefully. Obviously, this meant letting my hair go grey. For someone in my position – an advice columnist – it was the only possible path. I was to move smoothly into the next phase of life looking like a nurturing hippy goddess with wisdom to spare.

I started to visit the @grombre account on Instagram, where beautiful women show off their grey hair. I loved their silver and white shades. I loudly admired other people’s grey hair on the street.

‘No,’ she said. Nothing more. ‘I just figured I was entering a new phase of life,’ I told her. ‘Phases of life are for others,’ she said. ‘People who need a narrative, like a kids’ book.’

And just like that, I ripped up my own book and replaced it with a question mark.

The question mark felt more alive, somehow. Inside my question mark, anything could happen, from this moment until the moment I fell off the edge of the flat earth.

I didn’t have to follow someone else’s script on how to grow older in a so-called dignified manner. It felt better to kick dignity to the kerb and follow my heart, however undignified it might look to others.

My new bottle-blonde hair might suggest to some that I’d chosen another script, something closer to The Real Housewives franchise: desperate women fighting age tooth and nail.

But I don’t recognise myself in those characters, or see myself engaged in some epic battle, so much as I now feel like my exterior is a closer match of how I feel inside.

To be more specific, I don’t recognise myself. That’s how I feel inside, too. My interior life is completely different to a few years ago. Now I’m in my late forties, I feel closer to the way I did when I was in my late twenties and early thirties: full of inspiration, energy and passion for being alive.

The neuroticism and insecurity of mid-career paths and early motherhood have dissolved. I’m adventurous again in every sense of the word. I want to travel the world and meander through my neighbourhood, making little discoveries, living in the moment.

I feel more powerful and more content. My blonde hair feels like an accurate reflection of this unfamiliar state of being. I’ve always preferred brown hair, but now blonde feels right.

It’s a tiny bit obnoxious, which I love, and it works with my face at this age. I can wear different colours – of clothes, of lipsticks. Suddenly fashion is interesting in a way it’s never been before. I feel like I’ve been given a new way of moving through the world.

For a while, all this made me paranoid that I was having a midlife crisis. I made fun of myself to make it clear that I knew how stupid I looked.

It didn’t help that reactions ranged from baffled to annoyed. ‘So, did you just have a margarita and say, “what the hell”?’ my brother-in-law enquired. ‘Why not just look your age?’ a close friend asked.

I don’t have an answer for that last question. I’m not interested in making any kind of stand – either for or against looking your age, and whether it’s appropriate or thrilling to do this or that.

Everything a woman does in our culture is encountered as offering a moral lesson or a cautionary tale: here’s how to be, how not to be; this is graceful, this is awkward; this is wholesome, this is vain.

Women are asked to be generous at all costs – to other women, to men, to the world – but never to themselves. The eye-rolls incited by talk of self-care is a direct reflection of how easily we refuse to make space for what individual women might want or need.

My primary intention right now is to free myself from all of that eye-rolling. I love where I am and how I look and I’m not remotely embarrassed by it anymore.

I see now that, in spite of our culture’s dominant story about what happens to women as they age – a story I’ve feared since I was in my early twenties – in my experience, women only become sharper and more formidable they grow older.

Women are asked to be generous at all costs - but never to themselves

I’ve felt more self-possessed and more joyful year after year. So maybe it’s time to stop listening to other people’s stories about me and write my own instead.

I guess if you need a simple book explanation for this phase of my life, you could call it my shameless phase, which you might view as a market correction for half a lifetime of feeling shame over every choice I’ve ever made.

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3 years ago

Comments

That's an interesting post/thought of you. I wait for my hair to get white. My own is dark. I doubt I will show more interest in fashion. I do not like shopping plus I live on the country surrounded by wolves and at periods in mud for weeks if not months. 💕

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3 years ago

Wait for the life phase.. mine is dark too. thanks

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3 years ago

Age is but a number. We go through different phases. In this life. Yes embrace that phase. Before I colored my hair different colors. Now just natural..

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3 years ago

Age is but a number. We go through different phases. In this life. Yes embrace that phase. Before I colored my hair different colors. Now just natural..

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3 years ago

Smiles.thanks Monskins

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3 years ago