Sometimes I think my mirror must have magical properties.
When I look into it – past the water spots and toothpaste spatter – I see the same person who greeted me during my high school days and showed up in college. She is the same woman who wore the bridal gown at my wedding … the same woman who got carded for an R-rated movie when I was 30. It matters not that I know this person peering at me from behind the glass isn't as youthful as I used be. Her hair is filled with silver now. She is wider in some places, thinner in others. But if I stand a certain way, hold in my breath and relax my eyes, the mirror still shows me what I want to see.
It should have warned me about honesty ... the unguarded kind.
Instead, it let me stride in to my son's kindergarten class on a beautiful Friday morning – overconfident in my youth and vitality, believing that I was no different from any other mother of a five-year-old, helping classmates color inside the lines -- and be completely demolished by a single question.
A question not even addressed to me:
“Hey, Champ, is that your grandmother?”
I tried to make jokes with the teacher. I tried to laugh it off, but I touched my hair -- my metallic laced, straw-textured hair – and I just wanted to cry.
It wasn't just the way I looked. It was the way I felt. The way I'd defiantly accepted the wiry silver hairs once they'd started coming. The way I'd admired other women who refused to cover their premature grays. The way I'd hoped to be admired as I aged into my hair color.
Yet, one word spoken aloud – grandmother – and all of those good, empowering feelings were gone.
For the next hour, while I helped children wrestle with their shoelaces, backwards Bs and a sticky soap dispenser, I wrestled with my pride.
As soon as the bell rang, I was staring blankly at the hair color aisle in the pharmacy.
“This isn't a big thing, right?” I reasoned, tipping a box of Soft Maple Brown into my shopping basket, which was dangling from the crook of my elbow below the shelf. “It's just a bit of color. A boost of confidence.
“Think nothing of this container of chemistry going against everything you've ever said about accepting aging with grace. … or beauty being more than skin deep.”
Even with the purchase, I couldn't let it go. I paced the floors with the unopened box, ruminating on this thing I was about to do.
“Do I look like a grandmother?” I asked people neither gormless nor honest enough to answer in the affirmative after regaling them with the story of the kindergartners I'd encountered that morning, whose mother, I'd convinced myself, was surely a teenager.
“Are you still going on about that,” asked Ittybit. She had emerged from her dance class to find tap shoes and instead found me droning on about looking into an AARP membership.
She was right. All this time I'd told her looks aren't important and here I was obsessed. How could she ever listen to me again? I wondered.
But it wasn't that. She saw a more practical problem with my predicament.
“I saw that box you bought at the drugstore. ... If I were you, I'd go to a salon. Let a professional handle this. Really, you don't want ME to be the one saying 'I told you so'.”
Only nine and she is already a grownup.
“You don't have a kid in The Champ's kindergarten class you haven't told me about, do you?”