Today I realized that on October 8, and on every Tuesday thereafter, I will be able to get 10% off my purchases at Ross Dress for Less. Not that I typically shop there -- but Ross is wedged in between my two preferred discount stores, TJMaxx and Filene's Basement, in a local strip mall and, walking from one to the other, I couldn't help but notice the huge poster in their window that might as well have had Uncle Sam pointing his finger straight at my graying head. Speaking of hair, as usual at this time of year I've been thinking about coloring mine, which, to be perfectly honest, has stopped graying and is now shedding even that last little bit of pigment in favor of silver and white. The only thing that prevents me is the awareness that even the tiniest bit of root growth flashes like a lighthouse beam when it's silvery-white and nothing makes a woman of a certain age look even older than gray/silver/white roots.
Yes, it's almost my birthday and this year I complete my 55th year. I am officially on my way to 60. If I were not part of the Baby Boom generation, I would be leaving middle age and creeping up on elderly. Fortunately, that won't happen. Having more or less come to terms with the ugly realization that the only alternative to middle age is death, we Boomers don't intend to let it go that easily. None of us will ever be elderly, aged, senior, or geriatric, not even in our 90s. It may not be pretty, but we will be middled-aged for the rest of our lives. Middle-aged R Us.
So far my body is helping me out with this fiction, in spite of my total failure to get on the physical fitness bandwagon. My anti-bandwagon stance started early: as a child, the only thing I didn't like about JFK was that he made us do sit-ups. Seriously, there was some kind of presidential physical fitness initiative when I was in elementary school and all of a sudden instead of hanging out on the swings at recess, I had to do sit-ups and chin-ups and, most humiliating of all, girl push-ups. When this happened, in the second or third grade, I was already committed to a fully sedentary life of the mind and typically spent recess trying to sneak back into the classroom to read. (The swings were my back-up activity if the sneaking failed, since swinging was something you could do sitting down.)
I have, however, been feeling extremely achy and creaky, which is probably why the age thing is on my mind. The reason is that on Tuesday I fell. I was walking to a meeting on a long up-hill sidewalk that's broken every 15 feet or so by a set of 4 steps. On one of those sets of steps I somehow managed to get both feet off the ground at the same time. I don't mean that I jumped. Both my feet were just no longer on the ground. Since I was moving forward when this happened, I continued to move forward, but also down. My knees hit first, then my right hand and then my right cheek. I was flat out on the sidewalk with little stars and birds circling my head. I sat up and waited for the spots to stop swirling in front of my eyes, then gathered my scattered belongings and continued up campus to the meeting, where I received much sympathy and a bag of ice for my cheek.
The worst thing about the fall was that four young men were walking towards me when it happened. They saw me fall. They saw my belongings scatter. They saw me sit, dazed, with my hand on my cheek. They walked right past me and said not one word. It's true, I thought - the basis of every cozy British house mystery, that gray-haired women are invisible, is true. I ranted about this to my colleagues at the meeting, who were shocked. When I got home, I ranted about it to K, who was shocked. I've been ranting about it ever since and everyone is shocked. The experience has upset me tremendously, and not because today's youth are louts or because civil society is in decline or because it's the end of the world as we know it. No. I'm upset because I am now old enough to be well and truly invisible. If a gray-haired lady falls on the steps and no one over 30 sees her, has she actually fallen? Apparently not.
Now playing: The Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated