I first noticed the gray hair in my beard a couple months ago. It's on the left side of my face, attached to my jawbone, a barely-detectable dot of silver amid a sea of black. People don't see it unless I alert them to it. Even then, I've had it mistaken for a speck of salt. Because I'm apparently such a violent eater that I splash specks of salt all over my jawline.
It stands alone now. Lonely. But the loneliness is misleading. It is not at the wrong party. Its just the first to arrive at a party that will eventually house hundreds of his twins. Over the next decade, more will come. And in a yet to be determined amount of time — maybe 15 years, maybe 20 — the total gentrification of my beard will be complete. The grays will have staked their claim, erecting Starbucks' and yoga studios and causing traffic jams with their bike lanes and gallery crawls, while the blacks will never return.
The gray dot is just the latest evidence of the fact that I'm getting older. There are others, of course. I will probably never dunk a basketball again. Actually, let me stop waffling. I will never dunk a basketball again. Never, ever, ever, ever. It is just not going to happen, which makes me sad my hypothetical son(s) will have no proof of dad dunking because YouTube didn't exist when dad was catching oops. I've also had the (mis)fortune of having people who were freshman the first year I taught high school English approach me in clubs and offer to buy me drinks. One asked to dance. I dont remember how I replied. Because my ears starting bleeding. And, I'm someone's freakin husband now, which means concepts like joint taxes and couples date night and bulk toilet paper have become a part of my lexicon.
Still, I've embraced this aging process. One because I have no choice. Either get older or die. Unless you're Pharrell or Angela Bassett, of course. But also, I feel like I'm exactly who I'm supposed to be and exactly where I'm supposed to be. I couldn't say that five years ago. Shit, I couldn't have even said it two years ago. But I can say it now. This might not make much sense, but..it just does to me.
Which is why I don't completely understand why I'm sitting here typing this while wearing a pair of $200 basketball shoes I'll never actually play basketball in. Or why I'm also wearing a pair of 511 black Levis, easily the slimmest pair of jeans I've ever owned. Or why the last three pair of jeans I've purchased are 511s. Or why I — the guy who wrote a 600 word rant a couple months ago that ended with me calling Bobby Shmurda "fucking retarded" — went to a party a couple weekends ago, saw how turned up everyone got when "Hot Nigga" came on, and decided to spend $1.29 of my own hard-earned cash to download it. Or why I still drink juice from the container, despite the fact that my wife hates it and it actually takes less energy to pure the juice into a glass than it does to curl a two gallon jug of oj and steady it so it doesn't drip my nose. Or why, when the 2015 Chargers finally go on sale, I might attempt to trade mine in for one even though I know it would be the worst financial decision I've made since the free t-shirt.
Now, there are three possible — and somewhat overlapping — reasons for this series of decisions. First, I'm a nigga. And since I'm a nigga, I'm prone to do nigga shit and want nigga shit. Like wanting a car with a 700 horsepower engine just to take me from Barnes and Noble to Crazy Mocha to wherever else my writing-ass ass is working that day. I should ride my bike everywhere. Or maybe just want a nice Camry or Acura. Or even a horse. Not something called a Hellcat. But I do (want one) and I am (a nigga) so that's that.
Also, I do make at least a peripheral effort to stay somewhat fashionable. Especially with suits and shit. And if I left the three button look behind in 2008, I can leave the baggier jeans behind as well.
That said, I wonder if something deeper and more insidious is going on. Although I feel (relatively) young and think I look (relatively) young, I'm a half decade away from officially being middle-aged. (And, as a Black man in America, I'm practically elderly.) I'm closer to 50 than I am to 18. I just might very well be experiencing a mid-life crisis.
I doubt it, of course. I don't consciously want to be younger. I'm happy with who I am, where I am, who I'm with, and where we're going. But perhaps a part of me got married, acknowledged it as a measure of grownassness, and tried harder to hold on to a vestige of my youth. And maybe my mom's death last year has made me more conscious of my own mortality. I remember when my mom was the same age I am now. I have pictures of us together, vivid recollections of how she dressed and what she looked like. I remember wondering if I'd ever be as tall as her, and doubting I'd ever be as tall as my dad. And it wasn't that long ago. And now she's gone.
I don't have any answers. At least not to any of these questions. But I do know I feel a bit too young to be having a crisis, and a bit too old to do the Shmoney Dance. Which places me exactly where I'm supposed to be.