I had a breakfast meeting this morning and so I was out of bed while it was still dark outside, a little after 6am. I showered and shaved, I dressed and then looked at myself in the mirror.
I wore a fine pale grey suit, a blue checked shirt without a tie, and new pair of shoes the same colour tan as the belt I matched to it (look yonder). I looked well dressed, dressed with style, with attitude, with perhaps a few dollars. I looked into my face. To my surprise I saw my reflection as being handsome – by this I mean outwardly healthy, a good head of hair, a set of blue eyes showing both intelligence and confidence, a strong jaw, a well shaped nose, and lips with a sardonic curl to them. For the first time I saw the resemblance – as I’ve been told – to Colin Firth. That was all well and good – I exuded prosperity, well being and wit. And yet I paused as I looked into the mirror as I realised – again, for the first time – that I have become older.
I’ve always looked substantially younger than my years – people are occasionally out by as much as 15 years. I still look distinctly younger than my age, but I realised nonetheless that as I get older so to does my outward persona. In the last 18 months the few grey hairs on my head have multiplied considerably. It’s not obvious because I’m fair haired, and the greys look like paler highlights – in fact it’s not a bad look. It’s more obvious in the neat little moustache/beard combo. They grey is evident in the prickly hairs of my beard, again, not a bad look – handsome, after all. But it’s handsome within a context. I’m now becoming a handsome older man, rather than the youthful, still vibrant man in my 20’s and 30’s. I’ve entered another phase.
I wonder sometimes if I’m one of those men who suffer from the Peter Pan complex. There are ceertainly things I do, behaviours, attributes, that might suggest that. And typically of those in that thrall my sense of self, of vanity, remains robust. On balance I acknowledge the tendency, but thing I’m too self aware to be properly a victim of it. Which means, in effect, that I’m aware of the activities even as I undertake them. And I let myself off the hook for it. If I am to grey, then I’m not going to let it condemn me.
With all of this in mind I caught the train to the city. I was aware, and it was nice to know, that I was the most stylish in my carriage. I set off for my appointment with the heels of my shoes ringing on the pavement. At my destination I squared my shoulders and entered the office. In the pre-breakfast shuffling I shook hands, introduced myself. It was a given that I should control this, that I should not be one of those who fades into the background. I was personable, as I intended to be, as in fact I am by nature. It was important all the same that I should be. I looked people in the eye, I asked questions, I inflated myself, from ego, from habit, from alpha preening, and from the very pragmatic need to market myself, my business, and my ‘brand’.
Later in the morning I had another meeting, this time with a marketing consultant. The words flowed, how easy is this I thought as we connected. I knew exactly what I was saying, what I wanted, who I was. I was all in sync, and I remembered that. Part of me thought: this is what you are H. This is what you’re good at. Yes, and more too. I watched myself, both surprised and unsurprised. Surprised because I had forgotten, because I had wondered if some of this had rusted over. And unsurprised because this I have done before, and because the words always come to me, and because I’m damn smart and lets not forget that H. It was invigorating – I felt like a beast in the jungle following my primal instinct.
It passes. I’m out in the street again. I have a quick, over-milked coffee with a friend, check out a particularly beautiful sports jacket I may pick up, then took my well shod feet to the station and the trip home.In the afternoon I had a telecon with an accountant, but I would be in shorts. The display was over.
In the end the mirror doesn’t count. I’m inside that, I’m a set of eyes, a brain, that takes in the world independent of how the world takes in me. This my perspective, and unique. It’s important that what you see of me should be presentable, and even more. My vanity likes it, and my career depends upon it. But truth is that while I might be getting older and greyer the important stuff keeps on keeping on. I’m not going salt and pepper inside. The face, the body, shows experience, the years I’ve lived, maybe even some character; that’s present too in my mind and how I think, and most of it in a positive sense. Experience should equal wisdom. I may have acquired that. What I can say for certain that what I always had – raw intelligence – remains undiminished. I am not my face. I am my mind. This is me.