Expat Magazine

45 Shades Of Grey

By Gail Aguiar @ImageLegacy

45 in greyscale

Now that I’ve been 45 for a few months, I can start talking about crossing into that threshold called “pushing 50”.

40 was a big year, I don’t think I could ever top it and I won’t even try. I’d embarked on a major life project which I named The Turning 40 Series, starting in February 2012 and completed successfully in February 2013. The details are behind a password but anyone can request it. If you’re at all curious, by all means ask.

It wasn’t just the Turning 40 Series that made that milestone year extraordinary. Paulo and I became a couple while traveling in Quebec, we started the paperwork process to get married, I had to consolidate the parts of my life scattered between the USA, Toronto, and Vancouver, wind down my photography business and my part-time job, and then I moved to Portugal. All of this happened while I was 40. And then I got married on my 41st birthday.

As exciting as Year 40 was, I never want to repeat it! But what about 50? In the five years I’ve had to think about it, not one epiphany yet. No matter. I’ve been rather preoccupied the past few years with the process of starting all over again: new husband, new home, new country, new language, new friends, new work, new lifestyle, new ways of thinking. It all feels less new now but still very experimental, still very much trial-and-error.


The photos above were taken with my phone in November, after I chopped off a fair amount of hair. I’ve been cutting my own hair since early 2014, which comes with a bit of a learning curve, but it’s hair — it grows back. Anyway, I’m showing these pictures because by the time I took these pictures, I’d stopped dyeing my hair for a few months, after three years of hair dye. It was while we were in Israel last year and bits of dye were showing up on the pillowcase that I decided I was done with hair dye. The other reason is that I find chemical hair dye too damaging. I don’t know if my hair is drying out from the chemicals or age or both, but either way, the texture is more brittle now and reducing chemical use from the body is always a good idea. An alternative is henna, which I haven’t used since I was a teenager, but that was before gray hair. It would be more of a challenge these days to get the shade right — back then, I didn’t care if the shade was natural or not, but now I do. My natural hair color is somewhat unusual, it’s a dark brown that goes reddish in the sun but I’ve never been able to find a shade that matches it.

Since the photos above, I’ve turned greyer as the hair dye grows out. The interesting side-effect of letting the gray grow freely is that I notice when people who haven’t seen me for a while notice it. I think only one person’s mentioned it, but if I were a man it probably wouldn’t get a mention at all. There’s a double-standard in society when it comes to grey: most men don’t care to cover it up, while women are more self-conscious about it. Even my mother-in-law dyes her hair, and she’s 67.

I’m probably in a very small minority of people who aren’t trying to look younger, or be mistaken for a younger person. I state my age freely, whereas other people are cagey about it.

(But Not Game of Thrones Greyscale)

While I was researching the word greyscale, I had no idea it was anything but the photography/computer term. That’s when I discovered it’s a Game of Thrones reference, a fictional disease where people turn to stone. That’s definitely NOT the greyscale I’m talking about here.

Middle Age

Is 45 middle age? Some sources say yes (45-65), others say no. This 2013 article says Brits don’t reach middle age until 53 (really?), according to a study commissioned by Benenden Health with a sample size of 2,000 men and women. The article ends with this list:

Top 20 signs of middle age

1. Losing touch with everyday technology such as tablets and TVs
2. Finding you have no idea what ‘young people’ are talking about
3. Feeling stiff
4. Needing an afternoon nap
5. Groaning when you bend down
6. Not remembering the name of any modern bands
7. Talking a lot about your joints/ailments
8. Hating noisy pubs
9. Getting more hairy – ears, eyebrows, nose, face etc.
10. Thinking policemen/teachers/doctors look really young
11. Preferring a night in with a board game than a night on the town
12. You don’t know any songs in the top ten
13. Choosing clothes and shoes for comfort rather than style
14. Taking a flask of tea on a day out
15. Obsessive gardening or bird feeding
16. Thinking there is nothing wrong with wearing an anorak
17. Forgetting people’s names
18. Booking on to a cruise
19. Misplacing your glasses / bag / car keys etc.
20. Complaining about the rubbish on television these days

Looking at this list, I don’t know if it places me as a middle-aged person or just a weirdo. Numbers 2, 8, 9, 10, 13, 17, 19, and 20 apply to me but some of these have ALWAYS applied to me. The only one of those that’s really bothersome is forgetting people’s names. For someone who prides herself on remembering names and faces, there were two incidents last week that gave me pause:

  1. A WhatsApp call came in and I had no idea who it was (why didn’t I label the number with a name?);
  2. An SMS came in WITH a name and I had no idea who it was. (I added the name, but why didn’t I label the name with a reference? Why is there no corresponding email address?)

Forgetting names attached to numbers never happens to me… I always remember, except now I don’t and it’s making me rethink my system of recording details like contact information. Because clearly I need some help to jog the memory.

Is 45 The New 35?

There are articles all over the internet talking about how people are living longer, and society’s milestones need adjusting for this. Many people are retiring early, not waiting until they hit 65 to make plans for the next chapter in their lives. Women are having children later in life, even in their 40s if they can. I know some people who’ve experienced a major transformation in their 40s — fitness-wise, health-wise, otherwise. I’m still waiting for that Year 50 Plan epiphany, but this is encouraging.

On the day I turned 45, I was in Cyprus enjoying this view. Definitely not gray.

North Cyprus

Final note: I haven’t read the book or watched the movie whose title I poached referenced for this post.


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