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The Secret To Eternal Youth

Me after dying away the gray
Me after dying away the gray

My grandmother on my mother’s side turned 90 last year and for whatever reason, she never went gray. A mere decade away from becoming a centernarian, her hair is the same light brown it always was. Still a natural brunette at 66, my mom inherited the same genetic anomaly. I was keeping my fingers crossed the same would be true for me, but then a spider web of gray started cropping up at my hairline in my late 30s, which I now dye away every couple of months. A streak of gray might be ok in my 50s, but in my 40s, no way.

But the good news is, I’ve discovered the secret to eternal youth. But before we get there, let me first tell you a story.

A week ago my best friend and went to something called Vinyl Rausch. Once a month, two guys play three albums at Eiszeit Kino, a small, art house movie theatre near Lausitzer Platz in Kreuzberg. On their website, it says the reason they do this is because no one really concentrates on music anymore. These days we all create playlists, but the age of the album is more or less dead. At Vinyl Rausch, anyone who is interested is allowed to come and listen to the full-length vinyl albums they play back-to-back.

Anyway, my friend saw something about the event on FB and we decided to check it out. It was really an odd experience, sitting in a movie theatre, listening to an entire album by John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Burdon with around 30 other people. Occassionaly a picture of the musicians or the lyrics would come up on the screen, but for the most part we just sat in the dark, with no visual stimulation of any kind. I would say it felt like a “happening,” except one of the organizers always gave a too-long lecture between each album, complete with notecards and everything. Oh the charming Unlockerheit of Germans.

Besides my friend and I and one Asian American guy from San Francisco—I heard him talking to the organizer during the break—who left after the first album, everyone in the group was 50 plus, making me the young ‘un and my friend, who’s 37, the baby in the bunch. They were the LP generation and we were generation mixtape.

But being in such a group reminded me yet again of the secret to eternal youth, and here it is: hang out with older people.

Case in point: my husband is nine years older than me which means his friends, who have become my friends, are all older than me too. Every once in a while someone will ask me what year I was born and when I say 1974, they ultimately sigh and say, “Still so young?” Believe me, there are plenty of circles where “still she young” is not something people would say about someone who’s 43.

Do you know how long I can play this out for? I have years ahead of “What? No dentures yet? Lucky!” or “Ah, to have young knees again!” Years and years of being “young in comparison” until I start going to more funerals than birthday parties.

Oh shit, did I just remind myself of our fleeting mortality? Yes, yes I did.

My friend recently quit a job she hated and she got a pretty sweet severance package, which means she doesn’t have to work or look for a new gig until the end of summer (and then she’ll also get decent unemployment for quite a while, thanks to the kick-ass German social welfare system). To occupy her time, she set up an apartment swap in Tokyo for three months. She went there last year on business and loved it. The pictures she took were fabulous: her, a six-foot blonde from an affluent suburb of Detroit, grinning next to one of her new Japanese pals on a jaunt to 7-11 (7-11 is big in Japan) or feasting on a gigantic bowl of ramen. I’d never seen her looking so happy.

Between Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix, before the boring lecture started, she told me about the girl she’s swapping with who she met last year on her trip to Tokyo. “I was at a club and this gorgeous girl walks in, I’m talking crazy gorgeous, and she’s not Japanese but she’s speaking Japanese.” Apparently, the girl is Belgian and British. A couple of years ago she moved to Japan, learned Japanese and landed an amazing job at the UN.

“What is she, like 27 or something?” I asked.

“Of course,” my friend said.

What is it with these millenials? My friend and I have met plenty here in Berlin who actually look like their Instagram profile pictures and have lived all over the world. Some have interesting, high level jobs at an age when I was still delivering pizzas.

“Why weren’t we cool like that in our youth?” I asked my friend. Then again, we both moved to Berlin in our 20s, me at 25 and she at 21. We toughed it out (not many expats back in the day), learned German and carved out a life for ourselves here. Was that cool? Maybe. It certainly didn’t feel like it was. But then again, maybe these worldy millenials don’t feel cool most of the time either.

When the last chord of Eric Burdon’s Tobacco Road came to an end, Vinyl Rausch was over. My friend and I headed out into a still too cold spring and walked to our bikes, which we’d parked over by Markthalle Neun.

“Would you want to be 27 again if you could?” she asked me.

“Hell, no,” I said.

“Me neither.”

For both of us, our 20s were a time of boundless insecurity and buckets full of bad decisions. But then again, to have the body of a 27 year old, when bunions and gray hair are far off in an unimaginable future, a time when I lost weight as quickly as I gained it—I swear now all I have to do is look at a slice of cheesecake and a few new fat cells burst on to the scene, and those puppies like to stick around—yeah, I could live with that.

I didn’t really appreciate my beauty or my body when I was in my 20s. At the time, I thought being a feminist meant wearing tent-like dresses and never brushing your hair.

“Ok, I take it back. I wouldn’t mind having the body of a 27-year-old combined with the confidence and marvelously infinite wisdom of my 43-year-old brain.”

If I’m lucky, some whiz kid millennial or post-milliennial will someday create an app for that. 😉




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