By Scarlette Quille
I have always looked younger than I actually am. I have a big head, chubby cheeks, dimples and I am short. I have relied on genetics to protect me from looking my age, my spirited personality prevents people from labeling me things like “mature” and “sophisticated.” Life has not been simple. I have 99 problems, but looking old isn’t one.
In fact, I have spent the majority of my life blissfully unaware of the horrors of growing old. I have been naively paddling down the River of Life in an ignorance canoe. If I had only known what kind of peril my cherubic face and diminutive stature was in when stepped into that canoe, I am sure I would have turned on my adorable heel and headed straight back to the womb. I have managed to paddle for over 30 years at a leisurely pace. I saw other travelers along the way, they warned me about the dangerous terrain that lies ahead waiting to rob me of my youthful glow. I picked up some essential gear in my twenties and I was able to navigate Baby Weight Canyon, Saggy Boob Gulch, and The Divorce rapids, with little more than sunscreen, push-up bras, make up, and maybe a bit of booze here and there.
By the time I hit my mid-thirties the river was more like a large body of water with a barely noticeable current. My peers began to speak more openly about their aging experience. One of my co-workers told me how she keeps tweezers in her car to quickly remove errant chin hairs while waiting for her children to be released from various activities. I began to check my chin on a daily basis. I would read things on Facebook posted by individuals my age who claimed they were too old to party all night because their fragile aging bodies couldn’t handle the hangover. I rolled my eyes. Seriously? That can not be an age thing, those people are weak.
I received a call from a good friend a couple of weeks ago she was in crisis. She called to confess to me that she had actually considered using a dazzling beaded necklace as an eyeglass holder so that she could just hang her glasses around her neck like a Grandma. She was profoundly disturbed and yet something in her soul is telling her it’s the right thing to do. She is a bit ahead of me on her river journey and she tells me that when you cross the 39.5 year mark on the river it starts raging again. The weather changes, and predators appear out of nowhere. I felt like I had just been told a bedtime story by Stephen King.
On one hand I have no idea what she is talking about with the glasses. I have perfect eyesight. My man—who is younger than me—has reading glasses, I have never been completely convinced that he actually needs them. I have always thought he was using them as a prop to start some sort of role play where he is the sexy college professor and I am the college student that doesn’t know where to put a comma. Sometimes though I see him reading a paper and then blinking and holding it at various distances from his face in order to focus on its contents. For a brief moment I am hit with the reality and a cold chill runs down my spine. After that I quickly find him his glasses, because … you know, the professor thing.
Smugly, I have continued on with my life because I can handle hangovers, and have no need or interest in bejeweled eyeglass lanyards. Again, somehow I have managed to maintain homeostasis. If I only knew last month what lay beyond the next river bend.
I woke up on a Tuesday. On paper it was like many others. I had a few days off of work, and I had spent the previous day spring cleaning. I was purging my home of all the ridiculous shit that I put in plastic bins and forgot about, I was going to finally get organized. I was going to let go of all the things I no longer needed, and resurface from this quasi spring break lighter full and full of energy. As I got out of bed, every bone in my body started popping. I felt like I had played in a rugby tournament the night before.
Why was I so sore? Why did I need to hit the Ibuprofen before I could even brush my teeth? Who the hell gets sore from spring cleaning? What is happening to me? I picked up my hair brush, and started separate the formation of sleep dreadlocks, when I noticed something on my scalp. There was a patch of hair, that shone brighter than the rest. It was reflecting light into the mirror affecting my ability to easily assess what it was. I leaned closer to the mirror. What in the hell is that in my hair? My heart sank, I saw my hair’s life of platinum glory flash before my eyes.
I had a patch, not just one, a whole patch of silvery gray white hair. And there were other patches to be found, a stray one here, a cluster there. I cursed the heavens, my children, my ex husbands, surely they are to blame. How could I have not seen the signs? Thinking back there were plenty of them. I mean I took up crocheting, I thought it was just a trendy hipster thing to do. I was spending spring break cleaning—I thought it was because I would feel refreshed, like I had actually taken a vacation. I spend an inordinate amount of time admiring my plants and considering weather patterns, I thought this was because I was becoming more in tune with nature.
No. The truth was right there on my head gleaming back at me like a comet going across the sky into the depths of the unknown. I am aging. My canoe is going straight for 40 Falls, and it’s going to crash and bust over the wrinkly rocks, and fragile bones that lie below.
Left with no other options, I put on a hat and started paddling backwards and straight to the drug store. I needed a hair dye personal floatation device. When I got to the drugstore, a place that I usually buzz in and out of for perscriptions, I saw my future hemorrhoid creams, reading glasses, brittle bone vitamins. I resisted the attempt to stock up made my purchase and got the hell out of there. Vowing never to speak of it, except for in this column, because some of you may not have a map of the river or cool hats.
I now know why there is a liquor store next to Super Drug.
‘Til next time Sandpoint,