Earlier this week, as I glanced in the mirror on my way out of the bathroom, I noticed a new wrinkle.
You might not even see it, this wee crease alongside my mouth where my cheek dimples when I smile one of my big, joyful smiles. But I did.
It's not as obvious in the morning, but it becomes more obvious as the day wears on - each time I giggle to myself at a great pun, or share a laugh with my colleagues, or grin like a maniac when someone in the car next to me catches me out doing my best Beyonce impression on my way home, my wee wrinkle becomes ever-more comfortable in its new home on my face.
This new one is my third. I've named him Rip van Wrinkle. He joins the Wrinklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, who hang out between my eyebrows (thanks to my propensity for frowning when I'm deep in thought). Why did I name them, I hear you ask? Well, I feel like if you name something it lends an air of familiarity, taking the sting out of it. They're nothing to fear now. I've stolen the power from my wrinkles by giving them ridiculous names. Plus the puns make me laugh when I think about them, which can't be a bad thing. I'd name my grey hairs, too, but there are now too many of them to count.
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I found my first grey when I was 24. Every time I saw it I felt like it was traumatising me on purpose, giving my 24-year-old self the middle finger, laughing as it said "haha, you're getting old". I spent the next seven years frantically dyeing my hair as soon as my grey hair and its buddies started to show.
I stopped dyeing my hair about a year ago. It's currently the most natural colour it has been since I was about 12. Truth be told, it was initially a money-saving measure as we worked towards buying our first home (then started paying a mortgage). But then, after a while I just got lazy. Not dyeing my hair is just one less thing for me to think about. It just stopped being a priority.
I've lived and laughed and learned. I'm still learning to love my wrinkles and grey hairs.
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But that doesn't mean it's not something I still think about. It's more complex than just laziness. Every time I see one of those greys glinting back at me, I reconsider. The mental conversation usually goes along the lines of "Maybe I should cover those greys. There's quite a few now. Ughhh, I just can't be bothered. I'm still working my way through Vikings on Netflix, I'd rather watch that than spend a couple of hours dyeing my hair. And really, what does it matter? I'm in my 30s now. It's only grey hair, maybe I should just be one of those people who rocks it? Yeah, that's the answer. I'm sticking it to the beauty industry and its ridiculous, youth-worshipping standards. Whoop. Now, where's the remote?"
I doubt many men have ever hopped on a train of ageing thought like this. I probably ride that railway at least once a week. That's how well I've been trained in my nearly-32 years by glossy magazines, the fashion industry and all those other not-so-secret messages we, as a society, constantly feed women. I tell myself I'm choosing to age gracefully, but even that term is loaded.
Think about it, when we talk about women ageing gracefully, we're usually talking about stone-cold foxes like Helen Mirren or Monica Bellucci. Jaw-droppingly beautiful women. And good on those natural beauties for embracing what God gave them, but they are not the norm. And we normal folk shouldn't be held to that standard.
The standards are the problem. Every day women are bombarded with messages about amazing ways to get a beach body, or to buy a zillion anti-wrinkle creams, or that we should resemble size 6 models. Like most of the population, I've not been a size 6 since I was about 14. My body is not that of a 14-year-old and that's perfectly okay. It's seen much more of this glorious life than a teenager has and has the scars and wrinkles and grey hairs to show for it.
It's time to change the conversation and change the standards. We need to stop putting youthful looks on a pedestal and embrace the bodies we've got. I want to look my age.
I've lived and laughed and learned. I'm still learning to love my wrinkles and grey hairs. But every time I choose Netflix over dyeing my hair, there is a little part of me that rejoices in accepting myself as I am, Rip van Wrinkle and all.