Millennial Life: Honoring the Time that is Given to You
I wanted to dye my hair when I was about 13. I was admiring the rave scene that was all around me in Europe, where we lived at the time. I begged for blue hair, negotiating down to perhaps just a strand, then down to temporary colors, then hitting the floor with an offer of just watercolors. One night I got a green light, so I took watercolors to a strand around my face, my mom took pictures and that was that. Wash it out, she said, telling me I could do whatever I wanted when I was older.
The color was about control, a fixation on how being more in control of your life might claim an inch toward entering adulthood. The wild truth seems that the more control I took of my life, the more the freedom went away as choices locked me into cycles.
"I've always been into wondering what adulthood would be like. I did not realize that by the time you finally realize you're an adult, there's no 'prime' of that," said Taffy Brodesser-Akner, the author and showrunner of the new series "Fleishman Is in Trouble," in an interview with NPR. "I always had my eyes on the prize of freedom, which I think is why the freedom that goes away when you make these adult choices was such a shock to me."
After a frenzied couple of years in college, the spark of dyeing my hair came back, but in that heyday of excess, it wasn't just the blue hair I wanted now. I wanted to go full tilt because I could. I took a box color black, ruined a towel and my hair.
For a few days, I moped around, realizing that I would never be goth, and went to the shadiest salon near my apartment that promptly bleached the life out of my hair. What was actually fried hair translated to previously limp-haired me as a perverse frizz of volume I had never had, in a shockingly pale blonde. I loved this new me that felt more authentic, and per Stockholm syndrome-y vibes, I felt compelled to maintain it.
In the movie "The Matrix," Morpheus explains to Neo that everyone has a residual self-image inside the computer program. For years, I meticulously crafted online avatars that looked like I wanted to look. My residual self-image might have come from my first awareness of myself in mirrors when I was about 3 and had a halo of short, light blonde hair.
The darker hair I grew into as I aged never felt like me. And I grew up in an era in which everything can be fixed, even things that might not need fixing. When I noticed my grays creeping into my roots during my early 30s, I marveled at their sheen against the darkness pushing against the blonde. Yet, I still told my stylist every six weeks to make them go away. It sounded like a joke, but it wasn't.
A few months back, I told my stylist, the best I've ever had, that I didn't want to dye my roots anymore. I told her I was searching for authenticity; she understood and told me something that sounded harsh but was incredibly freeing. "At a certain point, who do you think you're fooling?" she said. I'm only fooling one person that matters: me.
This week a cousin, born the same year as me, passed away. She will never be able to explore the full measure of adulthood, and it breaks my heart. It also makes me think about how I have so many blessings, even if it's just as simple as seeing my temples now shine white.
I've earned those grays. Whether through time, stress or genetics, they are mine. It's a chance I've been allowed that others do not get. I want to honor those experiences and those generations before me. And I want to look into my face in the mirror and know that I'm not fooling myself anymore. Maybe that's what becoming an adult really is.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at email@example.com. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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