When is the last time you looked at your nipples? I mean REALLY looked at them, not just a passing glance as you avoid looking at your own naked self in the mirror while you frantically towel off after a shower that you didn’t really have time for and that, frankly, you personally felt wasn’t necessary but you took it anyways because you have conformed to social norms that force you, grudgingly, to bathe at least three times a week?
Oh, you have never REALLY looked at your nipples? Yeah, me neither.
Is it not bad enough that our body hair betrays us as we get older by turning grey? And before anyone protests loudly and aggressively that there is nothing wrong with these grey hairs and that they, like wrinkles, are just happy proof of a well-lived life or something equally nonsensical – I agree. There is nothing essentially wrong with grey hair. I just don’t want any, in the same way that I don’t want purple hair or short hair or children. I like my hair how it is, and surprise hair seems unfair to me. Hair should be dependable and consistent. It should be the reliable news anchor of our bodies, the one thing we can rely on when everything else is breaking down and creaking more frequently and starting to sag and wobble a little more than it used to. It should be the Anderson Cooper of our physical selves, the voice of reason while chaos is ruling. It should say to us, comfortingly, “oh, you can’t bend down without grunting anymore? The Lego you stepped on yesterday almost killed you and you reacted like you had been shot? It’s ok. Don’t worry. I, hair, will not hurt you, I will not make you feel undignified, I will never shock and upset you. I will stay where I belong and you can remove me at your leisure. I will NOT BETRAY YOU”.
A few weeks ago, I angrily confronted Moe and demanded to know why he hadn’t told me I had SEVEN grey hairs. In his typical Moe-like fashion, he shrugged and told me something really nice along the lines of “you’re beautiful no matter what” and I logically got mad at this and went to have a three hour nap, which is my typical way of dealing with anything that makes me irrationally grumpy.
I wasn’t grumpy because the person I live with is a good, supportive person (although – to be fair – that seems like something I would get mad about under the right set of circumstances that I have totally skewed and distorted in my own mind). Rather, I was grumpy at ONE MORE THING to deal with. Is the grey hair a big deal? Not really, in the grand scheme of my confusing and contradictory life. But it felt like a little indignity. Not a big one, like in the dreams we ALL have about being naked at Madison Square Garden while everyone else is wearing a cape, but one that makes you realize abruptly and jarringly – “I am no longer young”. It is the realization that it is the beginning of new changes that are heralding in the part of your life where things ache and crack and throb for no reason.
I know a lot of women who are ageing gracefully. My mother, women I work with, my aunts, and Oprah.
I will not be one of those women.
I will dye things, and I will fill things, and I will probably always dress in a way that makes people say, “that dress is a little young for her, don’t you think?”, and “someone should tell that woman to cover her stomach up”.
I think this is ok, and I think we should allow ourselves this luxury. We punish women who refuse to give up their youth. We have all seen a woman who is just too youthful, too fresh, for the age we know her to be. And what do we say? Do we say “DAMN good for her! She looks like she’s 25 and I bet college guys picture her naked and that is fucking AWESOME”? No. We sneer at her, and dismiss her as someone who has “had work done”. We SHOULD be introducing ourselves to her, befriending her, and hoping that she is wealthy and likes to bring her friends out for weekly lunch and Botox dates.
It’s like we are expected to look at our youth one day, at the proper and respectable age, give it a firm handshake to say goodbye and thanks for all of the good times, and please step aside now because Old Me is right behind you and I would like to welcome her with open arms and I have to go change now into my sweatshirt with the embossed gardening scene on it and throw on my sensible, well-made yet reasonably priced raincoat and sturdy shoes and go to a restaurant and ask indigninatly why the music is so loud and the heat is up so high.
So, I am going to put off meeting this version of myself, and hang on desperately to my youth. Because it is mine to hang onto. Much respect to the women out there who have bid theirs goodbye, because I think each one of us should get to decide when it’s time to embrace the changes that come with ageing. And much, MUCH envy to the men out there who can be perfectly ok with their nipple hair, since they’ve had it since puberty and no one judges them for it and they don’t have to ever, ever know the pain and shame involved in plucking those hairs that should have never been there in the first place and are total traitors.