I saw a new picture of an old friend on Facebook last week. I’ve known him for ages, and see him every so often, so it wasn’t like the picture was a big surprise. It must have caught me off guard, however, because all I could think was, “Dude. You look like someone’s Dad. When the heck did that happen?” I almost posted my reaction to his page, but thought better of it and kept the revelation to myself.
Getting older is like being the frog in slowly heating water. It’s a slow and gradual process, so slow that I don’t see the changes on a daily basis. I’ll see a new wrinkle here, a little sagging there, and I won’t even mention the real color of my hair these days.
For a while, I didn’t mind letting the silver show. After all, I had the face of a fifteen year old. When I booked honeymoon tickets for my husband and I, the agent (tells you how long ago that was) said he couldn’t sell tickets to a minor. Once we got back and set up house, the rate of gray escalated logarithmically. Clearly it is husband’s fault. His hair loss, however, is hereditary. I’m not taking the blame for that one.
Recently my son saw a snapshot of me when I was in college. It was a Polaroid taken during my quasi-anorexic days, when I had masses of hair and contact lenses. He was sort of dumbfounded. I know it didn’t fit in with his image of me. The image looked strange to me as well, as if it had been shot through a Vaseline-covered lens. It is me, and yet really isn’t. Like the photo, that version of me was fuzzy and unclear, struggling to stay inside the lines.
I’m not sure when the balanced tipped and I found peace with myself. That happened slowly too. Now, when I look in the mirror, I just see what I see, not what I wished were there. I’ve found new lines and filled them in. When I grow out of those lines, I will do it again.
My son looked at the picture for a while, then told me that I look exactly the same. He’s a smart child. I buy all of the groceries. So I showed him one of my husband. “Ha!” he said. “Dad–you had hair!”
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph by Noah Wood © 2005 Creative Commons