A Grey Area
Nadia Kabir Barb
Earlier today, my youngest daughter and I were curled up on the sofa having a tete a tete. The sun was shining and it was a luxury to be able to lap up the warmth of its rays. My daughter was regaling me with stories about her teachers in school when I noticed she seemed a little distracted and was staring quite intently at my hair. “Is there something wrong with my hair” I asked her. “Um...it's just that...Ammu I can see a few grey hairs!” came her anguished response. I wasn't quite sure whether she was reluctant to hurt my feelings or just genuinely surprised to realise that her parent was visibly growing older. “Is that all?” I replied with immense relief. “I thought you were going to tell me you could see a bald spot or a spider crawling on my head. Don't scare me like that; anyway finish telling me your story...”
Mark Twain once said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter” and I have to agree with him. I think we spend a lot of time agonising about getting older and how we can stop or even reverse the ageing process. But let's face it, no matter how hard we try, there really is not much we can do about it. Of course one can resort to face lifts, Botox, and plastic surgery or live in anticipation of a miracle cream that rejuvenates your skin, removes wrinkles and makes you look younger. However, it just seems like all we are doing is putting off the inevitable.
If we are forever chasing after the fountain of youth we become almost as tragic as the central character in Oscar Wilde's novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. In the story the very handsome Dorian Gray perceives beauty to be the only worthwhile aspect of life, and the only thing left to pursue. To try and stop the process of aging he wishes that a portrait of himself should be painted which would grow old in his place. He then proceeds to spend most of his life involved in acts of debauchery and excess but nothing is reflected in his face and he does not age at all. In his place, the portrait takes on the ravages of time and his sins. It is only when he is confronted by his own portrait now disfigured and old, that he tries to stab the picture and destroy the only proof of his transgressions. The story ends with Dorian's body being found with a knife in his chest, aged, withered and unrecognisable beside the portrait, which has reverted to its original form; the only way he can be identified is through the rings on the hand of the corpse.
There is a little bit of Dorian Gray in all of us where the thought of losing our youth sends us scrabbling for any possible antidote to halt the signs of ageing. Maybe we should stop obsessing about fine lines or grey hair and enjoy the wisdom that comes with experience and celebrate the advent of each year instead of mourning them.
I have to admit that growing older does have its downside. There are the little aches and pains that crop up and you find that your body does not always oblige you by doing what you want it to. But even that can be kept at bay by maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise. If someone suddenly waved a magic wand and offered me the chance to be twenty again I would probably decline. I look at the few flecks of grey in my hair and I know that at some point in the not so distant future I will give into the call of vanity and resort to dyeing or colouring my hair but right now I wear my grey with pride like badges of honour or battle scars. They keep a tally of each event in my life that I have experienced and make me the person I am today. Age brings with it advantages that youth cannot claim to possess and each year is like a stepping stone bringing us closer to understanding ourselves. It also brings with it a sense of self confidence and empowerment. There is never any substitute for life experience. Time is the best teacher of all and you learn to accept who you are and I think aged forty, people are more at peace with themselves than when they were twenty. I remember reading somewhere that 'at twenty we worry about what others think of us; at forty we don't care about what others think of us; at sixty we discover they haven't been thinking about us at all' and it still makes me smile.
Next time you look at yourself in the mirror ignore the wrinkles and see the laughter lines, tell yourself that the grey gives you character and the extra pounds that have crept up on you over the years makes you infinitely more huggable. Repeat after me, fabulous at forty, fantastic at fifty, sensational at sixty...
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