Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Life Starts At 50

Maybe it’s because I’ve always liked to live my life a little outside of the mainstream. Maybe it was just my way of rebelling against my Dad. Or maybe it’s because I’ve just always felt comfortable in my own skin. But, since I was a teenager, I have always been fond of earrings, long hair and tattoos.

Well, now I’m 50 years old. And, the older I get, the more I am expected to “act my age.” But, the older I get, the longer I want my hair to be – the louder I want to listen to music (Yep … I’ll blast Lucero these days just as loudly as I blasted The Faces when I was a kid) – and … and here’s the big surprise … the more I want to do to help out my community.

Yep … long-haired weird-os, with tattoos and earrings can actually do good things.

In my “day job” – I often find myself working with folks who – shall we say – lean to the right. And a lot of these folks are really great to work with. But, let’s be honest here, these are folks who would like working with me a lot better if I would only “just cut my hair.” How do I know this to be true? Because they have told me … time and time again.

It happens all the time with my volunteering with the local chapter of Optimists International. OK … so I am basically about 20 to 30 years younger than the other members of my club. And, to their defense, they did grow up in a time where only women had long hair, only hookers & pirates had pierced ears, and only sailors or prison inmates had tattoos. But times change.

It’s fun to hang with the “old folks” as we help out the young kids with our Optimists International programs. And it’s even more fun to sit around at our weekly lunches – telling tales and listening to the perspective of folks on the far side of retirement. But it never ceases to amaze me that, more often than not, I hear comments about the way I dress and the length of my hair. And how much better I would look if I would only get a haircut. Really??? It’s 2011 and long hair on a man is still frowned upon??

And, just a few weeks ago, I got to work with a gentleman from my company who I respect. A man who has had a career of putting his life on the line for the safety of others. And we do work together amazingly and get along great as friends. But the humor for me was, on an almost daily basis, he lamented the length of my hair. He told my co-workers to buy me a pair of scissors for my next birthday. He told my wife & son that I was an amazing worker and a great guy – but couldn’t they get me to cut my hair?!?!

And funnily enough, it is when my boss … and/or the folks at OI … when they keep telling me how much better it would be if I cut my hair – that just makes me want to grow it even longer.

You see … folks with long hair, earrings and tattoos do great and positive things in this world every day. I got my first tattoo back when my Mom passed away. I was a teen-ager who was looking for a way to keep my Mom’s spirit alive … so I got a tattoo with her name on a flower on my shoulder. I’ve gotten a few others along the way. The most recent being when my son was born.

My hair and earrings … they change from time to time. And, truth be told, I’ve had short hair more often than not in the last ten years. But the older I get – it seems the more folks expect me to conform – to look like I’m running for a political office. And, I guess it’s just the contrarian in me, but I’m gonna let my freak flag fly for a while. I’ve put my earrings back in – and my grey hair is growing a bit longer.

And the best part is, even with my long hair, my tattoos and earrings, I’m still able to do my job well – and I still volunteer to help out the neighborhood kids.