As I draw closer to being forty years old, I try to accentuate the positive in my life. Rather than lamenting the gray hairs that are close to overtaking my “natural color” (yes, I consider the stuff from the bottle that matches the hair of my youth “natural,” just go with it on this, please), I celebrate the fabulous, effortless highlights I get when I color my hair. I rejoice in the confidence that comes from knowing myself on a deep and meaningful level that could only be possible after spending more than three decades exploring the mystery that is me.
I find myself and my girlfriends delighting in our self-awareness and the fact that we are strong, independent women. We are intelligent women—wives, mothers, sisters, friends, CEOs, teachers, attorneys, consultants, accountants and myriad other impressive titles. Collectively, we have traveled the world, battled cancer, brokered million-dollar deals, molded young minds, survived the heartbreak of losing a child, weathered the devastation of divorce and the pain of a full Brazilian bikini wax.
We’ve found the strength to strike out on our own when our employers have failed to realize our worth and we’ve managed to come back from the edge when we thought we could take no more. Some of us have stared down the barrel of spinsterhood without batting an eye, knowing that our sister-girls will be there for us in our golden years and that likely, that will work out better since they will alert us to toilet paper stuck to our shoes, lipstick on our teeth and precariously perched wigs.
We have supported one another through unemployment, bankruptcy, major surgery, baby-mama drama and times when we just needed a friend and a good cry. I sometimes find myself in awe of the women in my life, in awe of their beauty, courage, strength and tenacity. It is then that I am reminded why women bear the children and not men. I’d be willing to bet that all children would be only children if that were the case and that children would roam the streets in marauding hordes—wearing plastic bags, eating Power Bars and drinking Red Bull for sustenance.
I think of my mother, who raised three children as a divorcée in the 70s when corporate America still saw females as secretaries, assistants and receptionists. My mother may have started as the secretary, but she broke the glass ceiling and became the general sales manager at one of the top radio stations in New York City, despite being female and black.
I look at my cousin, Leslie, who in spite of having been laid off in November and already being a single mother, became guardian to another cousin’s ten-year-old son upon his mother’s sudden and untimely death. I marvel at my cousin Cheryll who always has time and a kind word for everyone. Cheryll is my counterpart in planning and executing all sorts of family functions, projects and parties, in addition to being a deaconess at her church and a loving wife, mother and grandmother. She really has it together, and even manages to always have a deck of cards in case an impromptu game of spades should break out.
I have been blessed to have forged true friendship with women like Rochelle and Carmen. The former is my second mother; we worked together in the early 90s while I lived across the country from my entire family. She said I was the first person to befriend her in a new office; I only recall someone once saying that I looked like I could be her daughter and her deciding that I should become a part of her family since my family was so far away and I looked the part anyway. The latter, Carmen, has been my hero for many years now. She somehow managed to balance career, marriage, motherhood and friendship while battling and beating breast cancer. She never lost her sense of humor or humanity either, and she makes the world’s greatest salsa.
I reflect upon all of these amazing women and I say to myself, “Well you must be doing something right, you must be someone special too.” After all, the company you keep is a direct reflection of yourself, right? Well, if that is the case, then I must be witty, resourceful, powerful, sharp, maternal, spiritual, confident, gifted, loving, generous and beautiful too. I’d love to believe that—really. I’d love to look in the mirror and see that the duckling has finally come into her own as a swan and embraced the magic and wonder that is her. But then I find myself rolling on the floor in pain from having fallen off of the stool in the dressing room while trying on jeans and attempting to find an angle that doesn’t make my behind look so big.
Maybe when I actually reach forty years old I’ll become that swan? I won’t hold my breath.
Rachel Dachel is a freelance writer and editor, and creator and author of the blog Rachel-y Motivated Incidents.