My hair has been bleached ever since my lack of Spanish walking into a beach-town hairdressers in Dominical, Costa Rica fetched me a copper-red head of hair back in 2008. A month later visiting a friend in the more sophisticated national capital of San José, she took one look at my flaming do, muttered, "I've got a hairdresser who can fix anything" and dragged me to her favorite salon.
I went willingly.
Explaining my error in color choice to slim-hipped Tomás, he sashayed around me sizing up the problem. "Dahling," he finally said. "We need to take you all the way."
And I've been platinum ever since.
Which means I rarely see my roots and have no earthly idea what my hair really looks like. Is that silver adding swans wings at my temples? Or is it dishwater dull grey? And how much of it is there? I haven't a clue.
There are other telltale signs of increasing years, of course. It's kind of hard entering your mid-sixties without them. My face and hands bear less and less resemblance to the face and hands I think I once remember. And little aches and pains after a workout stick around longer.
And let's not talk about the last time I got off a horse.
Which actually was only last month when I spent a week riding across the Drakensberg Escarpment in South Africa.
"Are you here on vacation?" one of the impossibly young, svelte, jodhpur-clad female volunteers asked as she cinched up my horse's girth--the equivalent of tightening a belt on a saddle.
Not really. I was working my ... hm. I would say fanny but discovered the word has decidedly other connotations in South Africa, so I'll just say I was working my butt off on a five and a half month trip writing two books as I went. So I said, "No."
"Bucket list?" chirped a Nordic blonde volunteer with Bambi-sized blue eyes.
And that got me.
Bucket list? Really? Didn't you have to be like a million years old to have one of those? But then I switched positions and realized that to her eyes I was a million years old. Turn about is fair play. God knows, at their age I thought people my age were ancient--although back then people my age looked and acted far older.
Sixty really is the new forty and all that.
But as I rode I thought about the whole bucket list thing and what it really means. Which is basically that during one's wage-earning adult years raising children like Bambi, it's standard practice to be responsible and not go haring off after every wild dream that comes to mind.
Or even one.
You put that stuff on the back burner. And then, after the kids are grown and off mildly and unintentionally insulting older tourists on another continent, if the 401K is still intact and the if house has held its real estate value and if the stock portfolio still exists there's time and maybe enough money for doing a few of the things you once longed to do and see and accomplish in life.
Which is a lot of ifs nowadays.
In contrast, I remembered one of the most fascinating, resilient men I'd ever met. His parents were hippies and he was raised in a tent on a north California beach. His mind was as unfettered as his feet and I never forgot him or the freedom he exuded.
Over the years I've met many adults and children of adults who made a different choice in life. Who stepped out of the rat race or who born and raised out of it. Some were dirt poor. Some were successful in the traditional sense of having lots of money and stuff. Some were inspired entrepreneurs and outrageously wealthy.
Most notably, each one was happy with themselves and life. And not one had a bucket list. Not one.
But back to Bambi.
Another thing I used to do when I was her age is judge older people when they finally did cut loose. I'd see the comb-over on the guy driving a flashy red convertible and older saggy women wearing mini-skirts and the latest trendy clothes and think, "Eeewww. How pathetic."
Now I'm not so dismissive. Now I don't scornfully think 'second childhood.'
I smile and wave and wish them well. Because if that's as close to freedom as they can imagine coming in their elder years, then all I can says is "Go for it."