Oh boy. Where do I begin? How about where lots of stories begin?
My fun lighthearted proposal was to document a year of introspection, travel, body sculpting, adopting new health practices and rituals combined with serving my community and volunteering. I’d call it “Extraordinary 40” as it was to coincide with the year I was and am turning 40. The hope was to cultivate a positive “bring it on” attitude toward being an aging woman in a society where aging women lose relevance.
There. Did you catch it? That last sentence has the fear.
I was afraid of losing my relevance.
Midlife Crisis (noun): An emotional crisis of identity and self confidence that can occur in middle age. (According to Google.)
Okay. I hear that. I researched further to discover that some symptoms of midlife crises include changing jobs, leaving your marriage/family, buying a sports car or a dramatic change in appearance like shaving your head or dying your hair.
About three weeks ago I paid a professional to…wait for it…make me a blonde.
Oh, friends, I was going to write about how liberating it is, how fun it has been to look different, how confident it makes me feel, and all the heads I’ve been turning! I mean, relevance-shmelevance: THIS BLONDE IS on FIRE!
But, just this once, let me spare you from vapid journalism and instead dig a little deeper into the meaning of crisis. It’s time to expose some roots. (Get it?)
Crisis (noun): 1. A time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger. 2. A time when difficult or important decisions must be made.
I’ll admit that having so many chemicals on my head for that many hours was pretty difficult and probably a little dangerous. Deciding to go blonde in the first place was, like, seriously months of debating with myself and with my stylist. Months! Not an easy decision to make.
That being said, a crisis is no joke. A crisis cannot be about going from brunette to bleach blonde when you’re a somewhat educated size 4 fairly attractive and articulate white woman days away from turning 40 who can afford to live in Manhattan and pursue a career in the arts. It just can’t.
More on crises later. Now I want to talk about rebellion.
Rebellion (noun): the action or process of resisting authority, control or convention.
Now we’re talkin’. I think I’m having a Midlife Rebellion and I feel pretty good about that. (This is not a new concept apparently, so I can’t take credit. I did identify it before looking it up to see if it’s a thing, though. It’s a thing.)
I’m rebelling against the idea that dying your hair is dumb and a waste of time and money not to mention that it may look desperate. These are things I can hear my mom saying. I’ve never ridden on a motorcycle because my dad threatened to disown me if I were ever caught doing so. Same with tattoos and gratuitous piercings. I love my parents (who are no longer living by the way) and know they meant well, but come ON! I’m almost forty-freakin’ years old! I wanna have fun, dammit.
Now before I devolve into a petulant whining teenage version of myself (not cute) I want to talk about crises again.
I’m about to turn 40 in a world that is in crisis. There is no Midlife Crisis for me. The only crisis I am in is the crisis that we are all sharing and I have a choice to put my attention on this “time of intense difficulty, trouble and danger.”
Speaking of having choices, to be able to choose whether or not I engage in a time when “difficult or important decisions must be made” is a result of my status and privilege.
The ability to choose implies that I can likely move forward with my bleach blonde head and finally book that Broadway show I’ve been dreaming about with stars in my eyes for goodness knows how long without being directly affected by what’s going on.
Choosing implies that what’s happening in the world and in American neighborhoods is potentially not my problem and doesn’t need to touch me if I choose not to look at it.
The reality that I have a choice at all proves that no matter how many tattoos I get, or bottles of bleach I go through, or motorcycles I feel I need to ride over this second half of my life, I, in fact, have very little to fear.
I was afraid of losing my relevance when there is a large part of the world’s population and our own nation’s population who have never been given any to lose. How dare I?
In just a few days I am turning 40. My BIG 4-OMG! I am going to celebrate and over-indulge, make love, listen to live music and walk real slow so people can admire my ridiculous amount of sex appeal and self confidence. And when those heads turn, I’m going to laugh. In your face, society. I’m making Midlife Choices!
Over the next half of my life (presumptuous, I know) I will continue to rebel against the conventions that have been presented to me by my parents and society at large. I will likely make bold and perhaps even desperate looking choices with my appearance. I will try lots of new things and will probably even wear a helmet sometimes.
But I’m planning on taking my rebellion a little further. I’m going to take the “action of resisting authority, control or convention” on a larger scale but I’m going to start small. I’m going to start by listening; listening without judgement to the people who are actually fighting for their relevance. Whatever step comes after listening, I am prepared to take. Listening is the best chance I have at maintaining my own relevance and of maybe someday earning the name of my proposed project, “Extraordinary 40.”
I still believe in introspection, self help, nutrition and cultivating confidence. I’m going to need these fortifications if I am choosing to be a part of something bigger than my own personal fear of extinction.
My midlife marks the time for listening, engaging and rebelling.
No more fear.
Featured Image: Cindy Sherman self portraiture art