Have you ever set a goal? One that felt so out of reach, so unattainable, that as you pumped yourself up to attempt it you could hear the theme song from Rocky playing in your head like a backbeat? And as you valiantly marched towards the obstacle you repeated the mantra – “If you can dream it, you can do it” over and over again until you actually believed it? I did that today.
Let me start at the beginning.
So, not recently (at all) I entered my forties. And when I did, I told myself, “that’s OK, age is just a number. If you take good care of yourself then no one will even know how old you are.” (Which for the record is impossible because I tell everyone my age, then get disappointed every time people aren’t shocked. So, if I ever tell you my age, please feign surprise – you can count it as your good deed for the day.) At any rate, I have been humming along pretty well in my pretending to be ageless self, until a few weeks ago.
It was then that something dreadful came to my attention – the middle part was back in style.
You know that hairstyle. The one where you are supposed to look like you effortlessly rolled out of bed and tossed your bountiful hair into the wind and it fell perfectly down the center just because it wanted to. The one that frames your youthful, never a double chin (even when you are laughing hard) face like fresh line-dried curtains. The one that, of course, would never show off your gray roots, because, seriously, what are roots? The one that you, yourself, could pull off back in your twenties, when you could actually just roll out of bed and look effortless instead of now, when just rolling out of bed means your teenage children will pretend not to know you at the morning bus stop. That hairstyle.
Back in my youth, I rocked this look myself. I parted my dark brown hair down the center and barely dusted on any make-up, before bounding out into the world like a dream each day. But now, the prospect of trying this style again felt more like a nightmare. You see, I am over 40, with fine, limp locks and a round face. In other words, my chances of reaching symmetrical loveliness are not good.
But, I am still a woman of determination. So, when this terrible news came to my attention through the glossy images of grocery store waiting line magazines, I set my goal right there - I would find a way to pull off the middle part too! I would reclaim my youth. I would not be defeated. And so you know, I do not take goal setting lightly. I am a researcher. I am strategic. I plan for success.
So, I didn’t just go home and pull out the brush. No. I googled “Middle part over 40!” and “Middle part for fine, limp hair!” Which came up with a bunch of images of younger people wearing side parts, because even the internet knew this was a bad idea. But I did not give up, because if you can dream it, you can do it! So, instead I dug in deeper. I began studying the middle parted women around me, like a hair anthropologist. Did curling for volume help? What about slicking it back for sleekness? Did highlights make a difference? There were so many unanswered questions.
After my research was complete, I was finally ready. I decided that today would be the day. The day that I would be a Proverbs 31 woman, and laugh without fear of the future (or the mirror). Today was the day that I would attempt the Over 40, Fine, Limp Hair Middle Part Extravaganza. I texted my friend, “My life goal for today is to try to wear a middle part like all the cool people do.” (It’s important to have accountability when attempting goals.) She did not sound hopeful that I could pull it off. (Also good to have friends who give you the hard truth.) But I was undeterred, so I pulled out the brush, and with the precision of an expert swordsman, I delicately parted my locks right down the middle. The theme of Rocky blared in my head. I began to look up towards the mirror. Alright, youth, here I come…
This is what happened next.
Do you remember the Newhart show from the 1980’s? (If you can’t pull off a middle part anymore then you probably do, but for all rest of you, I will kindly fill you in.) The Newhart show was about a bunch of quirky people who liked to hang around a small rural inn in Vermont run by Bob Newhart. And while most of the characters were funny, the quirkiest by far were Larry, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl. And the reason I am telling you all this is because when I looked up at the mirror, after humming Rocky and dreaming the impossible dream, I was met with my reflection. Or what I like to call, the perfect look if you are answering a casting call to play Larry’s other, other brother, Darryl.
Then I burst out laughing.
And then something even stranger happened. I was happy that I hadn’t reached my goal. I had failed miserably and I couldn’t wait to share the news. So, with joy, I grabbed my phone and texted my friend an update. “Bad news” I said. “My middle part experiment has made me look like this. (Larry and the Darryls). Do you know who they are?”
“Oh, yes.” She said. “My dad loves them.” Of course he did. He was retirement age. This conversation wasn’t making me feel any younger.
“Then he’d love my hair today.” I texted. We laughed and laughed.
And as I spent the rest of the day wearing a hat, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much better my day had been because I had failed at the best possible thing. I had failed to become someone who I wasn’t. I am not in my twenties anymore. I am not a celebrity with expensive hair extensions. I am not someone who can pull off any look like a dream. I am just me, just as I am. And to be honest, it kind of felt amazing to realize I was OK with that.
And so as I sit here now, two things are running through my mind. One, why don’t we make shows like Newhart anymore, those quirky Vermonters were pretty hilarious. And two, sometimes failing at things is good. Sometimes it even makes you feel surprisingly great. And I truly hope that someday you fail too. I hope you miss the mark at all the best possible things. I hope you fail to compare yourself to others. I hope you fail to feel less than celebrities with fabulous hair, clothes, and stuff. I hope you fail to worry about who you used to be and instead love the you that you are now. And most of all I hope you fail at trying to be someone who you are not. Because at the end of the day, we can dream things, and we can do things, but the best thing we ever can do is just be ourselves.