I’ll turn 43 years old this week. That’s kind of a weird pill to swallow. My spirit doesn’t feel 43, but there are plenty of days where my body does.

My hair has taken a step past salt and pepper, leaning heavily on salt. In fact, I’m salty all over… chest, arm hair and even elsewhere. That part doesn’t really bother me. I mean I know I can dye it, but that seems wholeheartedly silly. I’ve never been that vain, or have I?

The part that bothers me most of all is that I hardly get checked out anymore, and on the rare occasion that I do get checked out, it’s usually by an elderly woman, or a gay guy. And I’ll take that. I’ll take it straight to the fuckin’ bank. I have no qualms with it. I say thank you. It feels good to be noticed for just being you. It feels nice when your mind’s eye picks up someone’s glare from across a store or at the gym. I remember that feeling. A stranger’s smile. That feels nice. I get it mostly when I’m out with my boys. They’re much cuter than me.

I never was one of the beautiful people, I don’t think, but I would say I was always cute. In my twenties I had long curly hair and mop chops. The granola chicks dug me, and I dug them. To this day I still feel more me with longer hair, but it’s thin as shit up top and that fade-away pony tail look just doesn’t work for me. I keep it much cleaner and get a hair cut every six weeks or so. Nothing too drastic. I don’t use gel or product. I’m just me, for the most part. But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I’m supposed to add some steps to my beauty routine. Maybe shaving once a week isn’t cutting it anymore. Maybe I need to stop wearing board shorts and flip flops everyday. Maybe I say I don’t really give two shits what people think, but maybe I give at least one shit.

Then there is the strange feeling of nervousness that comes over me like a panic attack when I do get checked out. It happens so rarely and all, and hardly ever by someone from the beautiful crowd. Several weeks ago I came home from the gym desperate to tell my wife about an encounter I had had to see if she thought I was being checked out. I was on the elliptical machine. It was the middle of the day. I was on my lunch break, spending half of it on this dreaded machine that slows down time like a black hole. I was in the middle of the row of cardio torture devices. There were at least four empty machines on either side of me. This is why I go to the gym on my lunch hour. It’s quiet. No grunting douchebags staring at themselves as they curl big chunks of metal.

One of the beautifuls walked down the aisle heading right toward me. I watched her ascend the stairs. Yoga pants, sports bra, long brown hair in a pony tail, toned flesh with lipstick on her lips. When she caught my stare, I immediately turned away, back to the TVs mounted to the ceiling. But she kept inching toward me. She walked right past the empty machines and mounted the stead directly next to me. She set her water bottle in the holder, put on her headphones and began her workout. Right there. Not a foot away from me.

I was puzzled. Was she checking me out? Did she want me to speak to her? Was she just positioning herself under the TV that was playing the house hunters show she wanted to watch, or was she purposely planning to workout next to me? Was it my sleeveless workout shirt that drew her in like a siren’s song? No. No, it was not. I knew it was not. But why was she working out next to me when there were so many other empty machines. Did she want me to stare at her to make herself feel better? But she’s one of the beautifuls. Surely my stare wouldn’t improve her standing amongst the elite people who walk the Earth with the gaze of thousands upon their backside.

My pace picked up. Now I was trying to show off. She seemed oblivious. I was so distracted with all of these thoughts that I ended my workout early. Then I ran home to tell my wife.

“Yeah babe, she was definitely checking you out,” my wife said after I rattled on, quickly recounting the entire interaction in the cardio zone.

“I’m crazy, I know. But maybe she was checking me out, right?”

“I’m sure she was,” my wife said, “why wouldn’t she. You’re adorable.”

And that’s when I realized that I may not be one of the beautifuls, but I sure married up. And that feels good. Everyday. So bring on 43, and before too long 50. It’s all good. I’ve got my partner. My family. My work. Grey thinning hair can be shaved off, but love and self worth lives in the heart.

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