4 Signs of Aging No One Warns You About
Picture yourself 30 years from now. Maybe you're imagining a slightly more wrinkled, less hot version of the person you see in the mirror every morning. Or maybe, like me, you forget what you look like altogether and picture yourself as the poor version of Old Lorraine McFly.
Now scrap whatever image you had in your mind, because you actually have no clue what you're going to look like 30 years from now. Nor do you know how you're going to adjust to the world around you. Even though it's happened something like 100 billion times to other people, the aging process is still a big surprise when it happens to you. That's because, like a skirt trapped in your panties after a bathroom visit, no one wants to talk about it. Here's what I've learned so far about the short march to nonexistence:
You Start Morphing Into a Gremlin
The first thing everyone thinks of when they think about aging is gray hair. What no one tells you is how, like butts, God did not create all gray hairs equal. At this point, my head has sprouted two different species of grays: "regular" and "head pubes."
Regular grays, if left alone to do their thing, lay like comatose angels sleeping quietly on a bed of hair, calming down your head and reminding the other hairs to be good and say their prayers at night. Someday, regular grays will stage a peaceful takeover of my head and silently turn me into an otherworldly being with a head full of God thread, or Emmylou Harris. Other than being the quiet sentinels of death, regular grays are fairly benign. Head pubes, on the other hand, erupt from your scalp in angry spirals of bleached crazy, completely oblivious to the fact that no other hair on your head looks like this. Take one hair from Phil Spector's "I'm Not a Murderer, Look at How Sane I Am" trial wig, glue it to the tippy-top of your head, and that's what a head pube looks like.
My posture, while never great, can now only be described as "C" ish. As in, my back makes the shape of the letter "C" unless I'm laying down or actively straightening it, which is never. In five years, my chin will graze the desk as I type. In ten, I'll be done with eating utensils forever, since my face will be resting on the dinner plate and why bother. In 15 years, I'll start wearing a mask on the crown of my head so that everyone will have someone to talk to while I'm in my permanent toe touch position. I'll start practicing carrying trays of food on my back so I can dress up as "Saddest, Oldest Waitress" at Halloween.
And wait! There's more! Every year, your eyelashes and eyebrows thin a little. One day, you wake up and you're Powder. My knuckle fat folds are tripling every night. Looking at my hands is like looking at ten tiny Shar Pei puppies.
I call these two "Pancho" and "Lefty."
I'm a redhead, so I've had freckles all my life. Now I'm getting mysterious white splotches alongside the freckles. So, reverse freckles. The Internet tells me that the spots are called idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis and that I shouldn't worry about them, but now I've got multiple colors of polka dots on my arms and legs and there's nothing I can do about them, other than connect the dots and hope it doesn't spell out a message from Satan. Add these new developments to the aging signs you already knew about -- wrinkles, or that thing where your ears keep growing longer and bigger while the rest of you shrinks and dehydrates -- and I fully expect to be an actual gremlin in a few years.
Insanely Boring Hobbies Take Over Your Life
Last month, I bought a truck of dirt. Why did I buy a truck of dirt? Because I suddenly needed six new flower beds. Why did I need new flower beds? Because my new plants from Home Depot needed to go in the ground before the first freeze. And why did I buy new plants from Home Depot right before the first freeze of winter? Because they were half off. Why was I at Home Depot looking at plants, when I knew fully well that it was about to be too cold to plant anything? Because looking at plants is what I do for fun now.
Ain't no party like a gardening party, cuz a gardening party is dirrrty.
What started with a window shopping trip in the plants section of Home Depot ended with what looked like six freshly-dug graves in my front yard, just in time for Halloween. It was like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but with more backbreaking labor and judgmental stares from the neighbors. If someone told me ten years ago that one day I'd spend more money on dirt than all my new clothes in a two or three year span, I would have said "Why? Did Old Navy go out of business?"
Digging graves is harder than it looks!
When you're a kid, you picture adulthood as an endless parade of work, bills, chores, and other boring obligations, and that's true. What you don't picture is shifting from the kid who likes to climb monkey bars and chase boys to the adult who loses her shit when she discovers the concept of "Tablescape" on Pinterest. Do you know how many front porch decorating ideas I've pinned to my wall? Do you know that when you say the phrase "front porch decorating ideas" to a child, the words come out like the noises the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons make? THAT'S WHAT I AM NOW. An adult in a Charlie Brown world.
For every year that you age, your commitment to lawn care quadruples. Your elderly neighbor isn't out at 6 a.m. mowing his grass because he hates you -- that's how he relaxes. I don't live in LA with my coworkers because I know I couldn't afford a house with a yard in LA. That's how serious I am about my old lady hobbies; not having garden space is a DEALBREAKER for me. The kid version of Kristi Harrison would punch the adult version of Kristi Harrison for being so boring. And here's the kicker: my friends are all on the same page. Ask five different women in their 30's what they'd do with some free pallets, and you'll get five different answers. Everyone I know has a pallet project in her pocket.
Your Relationship With Music Gets Weird
Here's a fun fact: my kids have no concept of Will Smith as a rapper. If you want to make a 15-year-old boy laugh, play him "Parents Just Don't Understand" and tell him it's sung by the main guy from Independence Day. Explaining Will Smith's career path to a kid is like explaining cell phones to a cat. At some point, you just give up and quietly mumble, "He'll always be my Fresh Prince."
Chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool.
I only bring up Smith because, like me, he's gone from being a funny, charismatic black rapper from Philadelphia to one of the world's most bankable stars. Our kids are the same age. He got married the same year that I did. We're both tall black men. We're the same. And just like me, Smith is having to adjust to being unyoung and unfresh while his aggressively cool kids try to take over the world.
This is Willow Smith's world; we're all just living in it.
When it comes to music, one of two things happens as you age: you either atrophy or you aggressively keep up with the times. The atrophy path means you keep listening to the same music you loved in high school and college, and you never quite embrace anything else. Maybe you go backwards and explore your parents' favorite musicians or the more underground stuff from your heyday, but everything new sounds weird to you. Not just weird -- it's stupid and inferior to the music that you grew up with. You pity everyone who didn't grow up listening to Soundgarden and Oasis and Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins. You want to start up a nonprofit that delivers good music to today's underprivileged youth. You're going to call your charity "Sick Jams" and your logo will be something really cool, like Bart Simpson on a skateboard.
"The corn can is packed with Nirvana's demo tapes. The peas are Tori Amos covers."
That scenario works for most people my age. An unnamed coworker and his best friend who is also an unnamed coworker have no idea who Lorde is to this day. Mention Miley Cyrus to most women my age and brace yourself for an eye roll and perhaps a slap in the face. Some of us are just programmed to stay static in our music choices, or to give up on music altogether if we grew up in the '80s. You can only hear "Karma Chameleon" so many times before music becomes self-torture.
Personally, I'm not ready for the atrophy path. Which means I"m aggressively looking for new music. Cool kids, your songs are not safe from me. I'm stalking you on Spotify right now as I write this, waiting for you post a song that I can poach and claim I discovered. Because believe or not, new music doesn't reach your ears as you get older. It's hiding from you. Keeping up with music becomes a lifelong game of hide-and-seek, with the goal of finding just enough music to stay culturally relevant. Here's a cool trick: for a quick touchstone on what the kids were listening to six months ago, check out the SNL musical guest lineup. Iggy Azaela! Hozier! Kendrick Lamar! I kind of know these guys, so I must be cool. Quick question though: who's Prince?
Your Comfort Level With Voicemail Gives Everything Away
It's hard to believe now, but 20 years ago, I had my answering machine message voice down pat. "Hey, this is Kristi. Did you want to do something later? Call me back!" I had my friends' phone numbers memorized and could dial them in my sleep. I had an answering machine and looked forward to checking it after school. Today, voices scare me.
OK, that's an exaggeration, but it's a little bit true. Have you ever planned a cross-country rendezvous with friends without ever talking on the phone ahead of time? I have. That's what we do now. My kids text and call me a few times a day, usually because they want to go somewhere or need to get picked up, but the old trope of girls gabbing on the phone all night is over. At this point, you can almost guess someone's age by how comfortable they are at talking on the phone. Let's break it down with broad stereotypes:
Super comfortable: Baby Boomers. Not only did Baby Boomers grow up with answering machines, they took a while to get on the texting bandwagon. So Baby Boomers have had the longest number of years to get comfortable talking into machines.
Medium comfortable: Gen X. Clearly, texting and messaging are the most convenient ways to communicate with the world outside your home, but we were raised to talk to people. And some family members aren't on the messaging train, so we're straddling two worlds. Yes, I'll leave a voicemail if we're kin and we need to talk, but chances are I'll get ahold of you through Facebook or texting first. It's so much easier, right?
Baby comfortable: everyone else. God never meant for us to talk through machines -- that's why he invented fingers and keyboards. You can tell God never intended us to talk on the phone by the way he changed the sound of our voices when they're played back for us.
All that is to say that if you see a kid who's really comfortable leaving a voicemail, feel free to rip off her child mask to reveal the 45-year-old woman she really is. You'll be doing the world a favor.
For more from Kristi, check out 5 Cynical Marriage Tips Every Couple Needs to Learn. And then check out 27 Sex Myths You Need to Stop Believing.