A couple of years ago I stopped coloring my hair. My hair grows at lightening speed and in order for it to not look skunkish, I had to color it every three weeks. That’s a heavy commitment. That’s a lot of time dedicated to belittling myself monthly, examining my roots, purchasing the color, waiting for the right moment to douse myself in chemicals while hoping it would match my original hair color which evidently was last in existence when I was 28. So this whole exercise is the cosmetic equivalent of finding a fucking unicorn. My hair was truly a chestnut color. It had every shade from espresso to honey blonde naturally woven into the highlights. They don’t put that in a bottle (she now says knowingly after searching for said effect from every available brand for over a decade). And worse, my hair didn’t gray, it shot straight to white and silver which doesn’t take color well. I literally woke up one morning irate at the time and effort it was taking to make myself look younger. It happened the morning after I had caught a reflection of myself in the window of a storefront on a sunny day. Yep. One of those ginormous windows last reflects every last flaw you have including where your burrito from last night’s dinner decided to dimple your ass. Yeah. That kind. The distant cousin of department store mirrors that show you everything you don’t want to seewhile trying on a bathing suit. So I literally woke up, walked into my bathroom and tore myself apart.
I judged the minimal gap between my front two teeth
That my boobs didn’t sit as high as they once did and the tragic lack of perkiness somehow ruined my day
The tiny lines that in just the right angle of lighting show up from 20+ years of smoking. And yes, to answer the obvious question, I kept my face at exactly that angle to try to count said lines
That my eyebrows seem lighter or thinner or not as vibrant as they once were
That my upper arms jiggled
That my skin doesn’t glow as much and surely there must be some magic elixir that Olay makes
Diagnosing the possible start of a waddle
That I was a she beast and will probably never have sex again because I had deemed myself unscrewable
I bought a scale that same week as the icing on the cake to quantify daily just how much self defeat I should carry with me each day. I did this for two solid weeks. One could call it a mourning of passing beauty. One could call it a baby midlife crises. I didn’t buy a corvette but I realized that I possibly had spent the equivalent sum in hair dye. I ripped myself apart, which for the record, is completely unlike me. I’m known to slap my own ass in the mirror and declare, “Go own wit yo fine ass girl.” After two weeks and one day…I reached critical mass. No one and nothing is worth destroying my own value. I will say that again…
NO ONE AND NOTHING IS WORTH DESTROYING MY OWN VALUE
So I just stopped dyeing my hair. My closest friends were ready to kill me as I obsessed daily. Every flaw I perceived was maximized as I had to let go of the trappings of beauty. It was much harder than I ever thought it would be. It was also the most liberating journey and I rediscovered the strength of my smile. The twinkle in my eye. The fire in my spirit. After about six months it had grown enough that I could see how it was going to look without the boxed color. These beautiful silver streaks now wove through my hair and I played those up every chance I could. I was starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and embrace this change that was happening. But it will never cease to amaze me how harshly women are judged. The worst culprits I’ve seen are other women. Men? Not so much. We love them. But they don’t get it and newsflash, they don’t want to get. We don’t want them to get it. It’s in everyone’s best interests if they don’t get it. We don’t want to let them behind the curtain. Where is the fun in that!??!
I’m opinionated and highly comfortable with that trait. I don’t hide my light under a basket baby. I may, at times, opt to keep my thoughts to myself and mainly what I’m exploring at the moment…are boundaries. I’m still am expected to bend to societal whims. I am safely ensconced in middle age and I am still expected to be…a Barbie? Hell no. If you want a doll – I suggest a blow up doll. Do I challenge these norms? Or do I create my own boundaries and smile indulgently at those who try to cross them. My decisions or regrets are mine no? I don’t expect anyone to follow suit.
Most times I lament my quick hair growth but this time, it was welcome. The sooner it grew out, the sooner I could start using this as my image. This woman, not girl with the same face but more…
More what? Character? Pizzazz? Balls?
I was told the following by women
“You’re too young to let yourself go”
Go where? To Disney? To hell? To get ice cream? Because I’m all for that trip. Madam, are you going to take me to Dairy Queen to make up for my obvious lack of worth? Thanks a mill Toots. Whoever said you were an asshole had it all wrong.
“I wish I was as brave as you to look like that. How long have you been growing it out? Wouldn’t it be easier to shave your head? How do you do it?”
I haven’t shaved my head because my alien leader told me my tin foil hat isn’t ready yet. No really, I’m joking. I’m actually trying this out since I’m exploring the cougar option as self-flagellation is getting old. I hang out in clubs at night searching for young 20 somethings. Please don’t tell my husband. I walked away humming a Simon and Garfunkle song. That earned me a strange look. Huh? Too much? More than you giving me some ass backwards comment about my “bravery”? Can we scale that? Is it like the bravery of an 18 year old kid leaving home for the first time and going to fight a war in a foreign country? Or is it more a fireman running into a burning building? Or is it maybe that of a young mother of three watching her husband fight cancer? That kind of brave?
“Smile. It could be worse”
Oh gee sorry that I’m making you question your assumption of how I should be feeling. My great Aunt Tilly just died and she raised me as her very own after my mother left my father when I was three for her gypsy lover Sergei only to die in a drunken circus accident. Something about falling off a cliff after one too many cartwheels. At the moment I’m questioning my existence and trying to heal a broken heart. But I’ll smile just for you. How’s this? Is this better?
“You could highlight your hair to blend it while that is happening”
While what is happening? Something is happening to my hair? Or did my ass fall off? Is this a test? Is this a show? Do I get a free makeover? OH EM GEE where’s the camera? Are you the host? Don’t you think you’re a little old to be wearing that? No? Maybe you’re a little too heavy then? No? It’s not okay for me to pick apart your appearance? You’re perfect? Cool! Then stop worrying about my hair. MMMKAY?
And last but not least, my personal favorite…
“What does your husband say about your hair?”
He says (looks around with a conspiratorial air) that it’s my hair. *grabs boobs with both hands and adjusts them higher like a dude adjusting his junk while making a cheeky noise and departing from presence of do-gooder while her jaw hits her sternum and loudly tossing over shoulder the words “I KNOW RIIIIIIGHT?” in response *
So here’s the thing. Can I blame society at large for my own insecurities? The above listed questions were real. The responses were too. I am that bitch. I regret it though. Should I have been mean? These people with their misguided notions made statements really have no bearing on me. These statements more accurately show their perception of who they think I should be and that doesn’t count. What counts is who I believe I should be. I don’t need to snap up every piece of bait sent out to me in this universe. I don’t have to lace into someone because maybe in their minds, I don’t gel with their societal notions and they’re trying to help. That’s okay. That’s on them and how I process that is on me. Lesson learned. I’ll be nice from now on.
Yesterday I was at the chiropractor. I love my chiropractor. He’s a little older than me and a brilliant conversationalist. We talk about books and movies and politics and religion and it’s like talking to an old friend. He’s just easy to be around, which helps the fact that I’m putting my spine and well-being into his hands. There’s an ease and trust there which is enjoyable even if it only occurs every 4-5 weeks. There was a time when the pain was so bad and my back was so screwed up that I was in his office 3 to 4 days a week. We discussed my new gym and reviewed the exercises I’m doing and how often I should go and where I’m hoping this leads and whether I can get there. This somehow morphed into a full-blown conversation about 80’s movies. My downfall. I love them all. I am a total 80’s throwback. That’s the time that I was young. And that’s what got this ball rolling no?
I don’t have to explain myself. The fact that I do doesn’t necessarily stem from the need to be understood. It stems from the need to share, to get these thoughts out and if it helps someone else out there wondering if they are okay and they realize that they’re not the only one with these weird thoughts and body mutinies, then great.
I walked out of my chiropractor’s office yesterday after being told that there is no ill effect on my back from exercise and he already is starting to see tone setting in you know what I did? After discussing the embodiment of rebellion in The Breakfast Club and he compared me to John Fucking Bender. I don’t play by the rules. I don’t conform to what people expect of me and I’ll take whatever journey of self-worth and self-expression I need to in order to continue my happiness. I’ll walk through fire and show off the blisters because it means I had the guts to walk that fire to begin with and I’m proud of that.
After this journey of self-doubt and existential questioning and quasi rebellion…
I walked out like this