Teri Vance: Embracing age as ever-giving birthday gift

Jason Gardner competes in the newspaper toss during the End of Bike Week Party on Friday evening in McFadden Plaza.

Jason Gardner competes in the newspaper toss during the End of Bike Week Party on Friday evening in McFadden Plaza.

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I had a birthday this week. I turned 44.

It’s interesting what happens after you turn 40. People start to dance around the topic of age, and once they find out how old you are, there’s this obligation to say, “You don’t look that old,” or some variation of that.

I’ve even found myself doing it. I was talking to a friend of my husband’s the other night when I found out she’s nearly 59.

I was legitimately surprised to find that out. She really does look much younger.

But I found myself struggling to communicate that. There’s no shame in being 59. Somehow, in our society, age has become on insult.

She looks great — not great for her age — just great.

But it’s not just about how you look. I’m always drawn to people who are courageous enough to pursue their passions, no matter their age.

I’d like to compliment people on the quality of life they live and their willingness to be authentic. Even if that sounds weird.

I have more than once been wished, “Happy 29th birthday,” with a wink. But I’m not 29. I don’t even wish I was. There were a lot of hard things about being 20 — not that there’s no hardship now, but I’ve moved beyond the lessons of 20. I’m happy to be where I am.

I have a Facebook friend who turned 47 this week. As is her tradition, she posted a selfie with no make-up and no filters.

It’s her way of embracing where she is in life and practicing radical self-love, with no apologies.

I stopped dyeing my hair almost a year-and-a-half ago. I started going gray in high school, and was always self-conscious about it when people would notice.

I highlighted through most of my 20s and by my early 30s was having to color regularly with the gray hair shining through. By 40, I was wondering when the “appropriate” age would be to stop coloring all together. Would it be 50? 60?

With the encouragement of my husband, I quit cold turkey in October 2017.

It’s been an interesting experience in terms of gauging other people’s reactions.

I admit, it’s taken me some time to get used to it. But it’s also been an adjustment for people in general.

While I have received many compliments (some people even think I dyed it this color), a lot of people are uncomfortable when they see it.

Gray hair equals old. And old equals undesirable.

More than one person has told me they’ll never stop coloring because they value their looks and youthfulness too much. The truth is, that’s fine. I’m not trying to convince anyone to join me. It’s a personal decision.

Gray is just a color. Age is just a number.

I’d like to focus my energy on living what life I have the best way I can.

There’s only one way forward, and that’s to get older. I’m OK with that.

Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at terivance@rocketmail.com.


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