In September 2015, I will turn thirty, will leave my twenties behind. The new decade can’t come quickly enough. My whole life so far, I’ve been older than my years: watching black and white movies, making friends with older women. Thanks to my Old Lady Friends, I know what to look for in a retirement home and what to expect from your doctor when you hit sixty-five. A lifelong old soul, I am, in my mind’s eye, already fifty years old, or sixty, sometimes seventy, and I have seen more than my twenty-nine-year-old eyeballs have actually observed. In short, I’ve spent these first twenty-nine years of my life anticipating growing old.
Even so, my life so far has been riddled with all the things a woman my chronological age faces: condescending professional scrutiny, mansplaining, sexual harassment and the risk for worse. But facing thirty means greeting a new beginning: in January I suddenly swelled with confidence and like a woman preparing to give birth I confronted the new year and the looming milestone with strength and weight and not a little bit of fear about the new frontier. It’s time to expect to be treated like an adult, I thought. It’s time to call things like I see them.
Then I found my first grey hair.
I made the discovery while I was picking up my first pair of prescription sunglasses, one result of a routine trip to the optometrist, who found I might have glaucoma.
Far from being concerned about the grey, I was reassured. Finally, I thought. Keep on coming, I thought.
Not that I have any illusions about the experience of growing older: I know, from my Old Lady Friends, that with age comes doubt—the doubts of other, younger people, who think grey hairs signify old-fashioned notions and an inability to hear or see or to accept change. Most people my chronological age have trouble understanding my love of older people. I have to explain that I don’t mess around with generational categories that often cause more misunderstandings than connections. I have to explain that I am hungry for the history that comes with continuing to live.
When my eyes started to fail me, I squinted at my own future, the years that lay ahead. Even if I lived into the next decades, would I be able to see them? Would it all be a blur, like a badly preserved old movie? Was time running out for me, before I even hit thirty?
The silver strand that made itself known at the storefront optometry shop seemed to shake its wise little head, a stand-in for all my Old Lady Friends, for the likes of Julie Andrews. Life’s not over yet, it said. You’re nearly thirty, it said. Now you can handle anything.