The night before Thanksgiving, I found out that two of my friends are expecting. That brings the current number of my pregnant friends to seven. Seven.
I received Katie’s text with a photo of the ultrasound as I was in the hair salon, dyeing the underside of my hair bright pink. I’d had a particularly frustrating day at work and so I did what any mature 30-year-old woman would do: I scheduled an impromptu Angry Hair Appointment at a salon I’d never been to before. When the receptionist pointed out Lizz, the girl who was going to be my colorist, I cheered inwardly. She was covered with bright tattoos, and her hair was a My Little Pony-esque rainbow of aqua and navy. Perfect.
“I want to go pink,” I said fiercely as I plopped in the chair.
“Oh, yes, I see some pale pink in here already. More of this then?” she said.
“No. Brighter. I had a bad day. I’m bored with my look. Give me PINK. Oscar de la Renta spring/summer 2013 runway pink.”
“So more like that then?” she said, nodding at the person blowing out her hair behind me. And that’s when I saw her. She was blonde, with a huge chunk of spectacularly bright pink hair.
And she was pushing 70.
It hit me then: Oh my God. I am having an almost-mid-life crisis.
Lizz saw my face and, in the way that only the best hairstylists do, whispered something that was at once fantastically bitchy and supremely kind: “Don’t worry. I’ll do it differently. It will look cooler on you. Trust me.” So I sat there for over three hours, getting a shade of pink painted on my hair that I haven’t seen the seventh grade, when I dyed it with Manic Panic in the mall restroom. I sat there so long that I missed the 6:30 train home, and then the 7:30 train home, thereby also missing the dinner J. and I had scheduled with friends at their country club.
OH MY GOD. I AM OLD ENOUGH TO SPEND A NIGHT OUT HAVING DINNER WITH FRIENDS AT A COUNTRY CLUB.
To quell my panic attack, I popped next door and bought myself a fantastic pair of vintage sunglasses that only slightly resemble those worn by Colombian drug lords.Then I called my friend Katie to squeal my congratulations. As my friends were moving on, I was apparently regressing, all the way back to angsty adolescence.
I asked J. about it in the bathroom that night as we brushed our teeth before bed, because that’s when I always ask him my most loaded questions.
“Do you think I’m having a quarter-life crisis?”
He laughed and his answer made me consider divorcing him on the spot: “What, are you going to live to 120? It’s more like a mid-life crisis, and yes.”
Then he told me—after I nagged him relentlessly—that I’ve changed a bit since we’ve been married. He never thought he’d be married to someone with pink hair, to someone who considered spending $500 on a pair of shoes practical, to someone who completely panics at the idea of having kids. It got me thinking: How much can someone change in a marriage? And if you don’t change together—at the same time or at the same pace—what happens?
Or worse, what happens if you both stay exactly the same?
“I like the hair,” my friend who belongs to the country club said the night I missed dinner. We were upstairs in her bathroom staring at it. “In fact…” she leaned closer. “I’ve secretly wanted to get a tattoo. Just a little one—a Roman numeral seven, since my husband’s the third, and my son’s the fourth. But super-small, like on the inside of my wrist or something, and only for maybe six weeks. And then I want it to go away.”
So maybe it wasn’t just me. Thank God.
I wonder how J. and I will change. What happens if someday I decide that I really do want to live in the city? I’ve always wanted to zip around in a cute little Vespa. Or maybe J. will want to retire in some pastel condo in Tucson, and I’ll want to stay here. Maybe I’ll want to work in New York, and maybe J. will want to go back to school. So when does compromising for each other turn into compromising yourself?
J.’s gotten used to the pink hair. He’s still not crazy about it, but he’s happy he can pick me out of a crowd. He didn’t even mind that it permanently stained our monogrammed towels and pillowcases. He’s also gotten used to my job, which sometimes compromises our marriage, as I’m often not home in time to do much more than kiss him goodnight before he goes to bed, much less eat dinner with him. And he’s gotten used to the 30-year-old version of me, just like I’ve gotten used to the older version of him—a little bit different, but mostly the same. I guess in marriage there aren’t really any guarantees. You go into it a little bit blind—who knows where you’ll be or who you’ll be in ten, fifteen, fifty years? You kiss each other goodnight, hope for the best, work at it all the time, and pray that neither one of you ever ends up wanting a pastel condo in Tucson.
Have either one of you changed—or has your relationship changed—since you’ve been together? Do you talk about what this means for marriage?