I might be nearing forty, but there is still room in my life for firsts. Doing it White-Girl-style, one does not simply take on firsts one at a time. Why not pile them all up into one week? The emotional roller coaster will be worth it!
I have held my driver’s license since I was 16 years old – a cumulative total of 22 years. In all that time, I have not once had a car accident. Last year, I had a minor incident with some garden blocks that fell onto the road from a delivery truck. The debris was not preceded by any warning cones, nor were there street lights to illuminate the roadway, so I drove right over them, which resulted in one of these blocks flipping up and wrecking stuff underneath. I got the green paper from the police, which is The Dub way of determining who is and who is not at fault in an accident. I was not at fault. Since this incident didn’t involve another vehicle, I didn’t really consider it a true accident. I didn’t hit another car. That is, until last week. I had just finished my workout at the gym, and decided that I would proactively fill my gas tank rather than waiting for when we are in a rush, on the way to a lesson of some sort or other, to make a panicked dash to the petrol station. I felt like the universe was working in my favour because it didn’t take long for me to get a spot at the pump, and after a short time I was on my way again.
To really make it clear how UNglorious my accident was, I have to draw out the scene for you. After pulling from the gas station, I made a slight merge onto a very busy street, but stayed to the very right lane because I knew that I would be exiting after just a hundred meters or so onto the off-ramp to the mall. TO THE MALL. It’s not even a fun stretch of driving that I would recklessly drive quickly over because I like the turn, or there is a bump in the road that makes your tummy tickle if you hit it just right. No. It was just a boring ol’ off-ramp to the mall, which I use to cut through as a short cut to home. As I was approaching said off-ramp, a car to my left signaled to merge into my lane. I felt like a generous god at that moment as I eased off the accelerator to make room. Yes, merge in – I muttered with a grand sweep of my arm – I will allow it. I had not returned my foot to the accelerator because I knew that we were headed to the off-ramp incline and the traffic was congested at the entrance of the parking. What is the point of racing to a stop? Not all people agree with me. Others think that it’s a good idea to make a preemptive complete stop in the middle of the road before even reaching the incline, let alone reaching the traffic congestion at the top. This is what the car in front of the car I let into the lane thought was proper driving etiquette that night. Dead stop when there is absolutely no reason. The car in front of me was able to stop, but I didn’t have the time to react. Split second really, and then bang and crunch. Ugh. It was slow enough, even, that my air bag didn’t deploy. How lame is that? No air bag. Just nuisance. And the real nuisance went on with his evening without a care in the world even though he caused havoc with his brake pedal. Gah!
We went to the police station and I got the dreaded red paper, meaning that I’m at fault. I made a sad face. The police officer made a joke about my age, clearly trying to make me feel better. He also waved the fine, which was kind of him. The worst part was, though, finding out that the couple in the car that I had rear-ended were on their honeymoon! They had just gotten married 10 days previous. I still get the sinking feeling in my chest and the heat spread across my arms when I think about. Shame. I feel so badly! Thankfully, no one was hurt, and we are able to walk away from the accident.
The second first isn’t nearly as dramatic for most, but for me it was a real hit to my ego. I got my hair dyed for the first time ever in my life. It’s been a source of pride, the one thing that I’ve liked about myself, my natural hair colour. When people asked me if I dyed my hair, I would proudly proclaim that it was my natural colour and people would ooh and ahh over the highlights that would naturally wink in the sunlight. I have been asked countless times what my secret is to such glossy, shiny and straight hair. No secret. It’s just natural. But then, the age that my face is not betraying as of yet, my hair began to show hints. At first, I was proud of it, too. It’s a badge of honour! I earned these gray hairs. Lola said they looked like silver thread. I was like a princess! Those little gray hairs are not full of the grace of a princess, though. They spring out and wave about in a wirey way, calling attention to the fact that I’m actually older than my visage appears. Stop telling everyone, hairs! Finally, I was fed up enough to ask for a recommendation from a friend for a hair stylist and then make an appointment. My hairdresser was super cool with tattoos and a cute Scottish lilt to her accent. We dished on Justin Timberlake and ripped Gwyneth Paltrow apart (she’s so easy to dislike!). Then she dried my hair and revealed the new cut and colour. I wanted to cry. It looked nice, don’t get me wrong! But it wasn’t MY hair colour on my head anymore. If anyone complimented me, I would have to tell them that yes, I dye my hair. It is not natural. I no longer have that card; the one that I held on for so tightly for so long. It’s a crumpled little card, worn on the edges, especially through the tender teenage years when there isn’t much to like about oneself in the midst of disastrous fashion choices and unfortunate makeup application. As I sat staring at myself in the mirror, that little card of comfort drifted slowly from my fingers. It’s not mine to hold anymore. The woman looking back at me didn’t have MY hair colour anymore. She did, however, have my humour, my determination, my maturing beauty, my intelligence, my wit, my love and my strength. She is still me. Just with some spit and polish, is all.