I'm getting older. I turn 45 next week. That's middle age, folks, half-way between born and 90. There's no getting around it. From here, I start living the second half of my life, if I'm very lucky. At my age, my mother only had eight years to go before she died. It's sobering.
I'm at an age where I can't keep up with every new trend. I know Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, but only from watching Glee. I'm on Facebook, and I have a Twitter account, but I've never tweeted. I know the language, but I'm not really a part of the culture.
Take texting. I recently spent several days with a group of teens, and I was fascinated to see how texting functions as part of their pattern of communicating. It wasn't what I would have assumed. Many of them did text almost obsessively. But what surprised me was that it wasn't really distracting. Until I thought more about it. What I mean is that, a girl (it was mostly girls on the trip and girls with phones in their hands) would be chatting with me or someone else, glance down at her phone and receive and send a text without missing a beat in the present conversation. It didn't feel invasive at all. Until I thought about it.
So, this young woman was here, communicating with me, but she was also somewhere else, communicating with someone else. I didn't know who. I didn't know what they were talking about. I presume that person's ignorance was similar. He or she didn't really know where my companion was or what was going on around us. My texting friend was strangely divided, but it didn't show in obvious ways on the outside. She had created an illusion of presence. I guess we all do that in ways. I attend to a conversation, but I'm also in my head, composing a shopping list. Is this so different?
It feels different to me. It feels like a further step on a path that allows and even encourages a blurring of the distinction between what is immediate and real and what is mediated and imagined. It's like Google Goggles. Why have plain old reality when you can have internet-enhanced reality? This brave new world sometimes tempts me with it's bells and whistles -- I confess to having coveted my neighbor's iPad -- but it gives me pause as well.
That's one of the reasons I'm going grey. To be honest, I first made the decision, when I still had few enough grey hairs that I could pluck them out, because I know me -- I'm cheap and I'm lazy. I would never be willing to spend the money to get my roots done every three weeks, and it's a bother to do a home dye job (I've done it, for fun, in my younger days). I'd get tired of keeping it up, and then, when I decided to quit, I'd be really grey all at once. I wouldn't like that.
As I have seen myself aging in the mirror, I could have balked. I had a friend who said that she was all about going grey until she turned 45 and saw that old lady in the mirror. I have another friend who was grey when I met her. She looked fabulous. Now she has dyed her hair, and she still looks fabulous -- and she looks younger.
But she's not really younger, and neither am I. I don't mean to say that it's wrong to maintain the illusion of youth, but I cannot bring myself to do it. I need the reinforcement in the mirror, reminding me that I am getting older. I want to be present with the person I am becoming. Dyeing my hair would be a capitulation to my own augmented reality. I'm sticking with the real thing.