I usually feel impatient while washing dishes. I want to hurry through the activity so I can get to something more important, more interesting. I often have to remind myself to slow down, to pay attention to my breathing and “be here now.” It sort of works, but underneath, I still feel impatient because doing dishes is simply not that interesting. However, I have noticed that I wash my recently-purchased, fancy China with more tender love and care. I want to keep those objects of beauty perfect and untarnished.
I can’t wash dishes without thinking about my mother: the Palmolive soap she used, the gloves she taught me to wear to protect my hands, the lotion that kept her hands soft and moist. She’s always had beautiful, healthy-looking skin, and at 60, she still has a full head of naturally dark brown hair. Strangers used to mistake us for sisters when they saw us together. It’s only now that we look more like mother and daughter, perhaps because the grey in my hair has started to arrive.
Why do we celebrate weddings, birthdays, and graduations, but fail to celebrate the arrival of gray hair, or our first period? When my first period arrived, my Aunt Dana (my father’s sister) gifted me with a gold heart necklace, took me out to lunch, and told me what a special occasion it was. I didn’t understand what was so important at the time, but the love and care she extended did make me feel special. The arrival of my first gray hair, on the other hand, was not so special. I was riding in my friend’s convertible Porsche, top down, on a beautiful day in sunny California. While stopped at a red light, my friend reached over and abruptly yanked a hair from my head. Stunned and wide mouthed, I stared at her while she explained the reason I needed to remove gray hairs immediately upon sight. I pulled the first 50 or so, spending hours in front of the mirror until I realized how ridiculous it was.
I decided to appreciate the arrival of my gray hairs, thinking they might actually help bridge the gap of perception others have about me and my husband, who’s 19 years my senior. People know that love is indiscriminate, yet some women still look at us with suspicion and disdain, while men often grin or give Jeff a look of approval. In their minds, I’m a 20-year-old digger of gold or love pet. Sometimes I enjoy the look of confusion and disappointment that appears on people’s faces when I disclose my true age. People cannot stand to have their prejudices exposed or disproven.