Monday, September 03, 2007

One, Two, Three, Four

I ain't gonna dye no more!

Who would've thought my decision to return to was political? A feminist statement against the perceptions of female beauty and the youth culture of America?

Not me. I was just tired of the mess and expense.

Or so I thought.

Having never been a particularly pretty woman (or child or teen for that matter), I've had a long strange journey with my looks. As a teen, I struggled with thick glasses and braces and thick frizzy wrong colored hair. In my twenties, I indulged in contacts and make up and clothes and anything else I could think of to make myself pretty. So when I started going gray at about age 25, there was no way in hell I was not going to dye my hair.

But something began to happen in my thirties. I was raising a child, I had returned to college, I was cleaning up the inside of me. It was a decade of challenging many of my notions of myself. Just why did I think I was ugly? Why did I think I was stupid? Why did I think I couldn't acquire the security I craved?

And once I challenged and proved wrong many of those notions, I spent my early forties actively pursuing the life I wanted. I ditched the dysfunctional marriage. I took the job I wanted. I got my own apartment and filled it with my own things. I bought my own house. I began to do things I had always wanted to do, but just never did out of some sense of not being worthy of my own dreams. I realized that not needing to be a social butterfly, not needing many friends, not needing to be popular was okay. That my small circle of friends was okay. That I liked to spend time alone with a book was okay, because it made me happy.

And somewhere along that path, I lost the outside focus. I found that making sure I was neat and presentable was all I really cared about. Rarely do I ever think about what I look like. I think about how I feel, I think about how I can make others feel, I think about what I can do about my little corner of the world, but no longer do I find myself looking in a mirror, moaning that I'm not pretty.

It isn't worth the time or emotional energy.

I suppose my decision to stop coloring my hair is, if not political, a natural out-growth of the idea that the inner me is more important than the outer me. If I were coloring my hair because I liked the variety or liked to change my look around as part of making the inner me happy, that would be one thing. But I wasn't. I was doing it out of habit, because I'd been doing it for so long.

I had no idea I was stepping into a sexual/political swamp of youth vs. age. I didn't think I was making a feminist statement. But if it has to be a statement, let it be this: Know yourself, know what makes you happy and do it.

Loki sez: Doing The Twist makes me happy!


joan said...

White on, sister!

I tell people I have a good story for every white hair.

chucker said...

I once told someone I had dyed my hair white. And she believed me.

Margo said...

Well written and inspiring, Janet. Thank you!

And by the way, I've never even seen you, but I think you're beautiful!

pogren said...

Very well put. My hair went from blond to white....I have never thought of myself as attractive either. I never leave home without using the curling iron and a little mascara.....wish I could though. Thankfully my daughter and her daughter feel much better about themselves and will just wash their faces, put their hair in a pony tail and they are good to go. Since I have worked from home for the last 10 years I'm not into a lot of clothes either.It seems so wasteful. We have found we really enjoy doing things rather than buying each their own...Pam, South Bend

Pat said...

Personally, I think someone who writes as well as you do doesn't need to worry about looks.

And yeah, Joan - I tell people I earned every one of my white hairs.

Kelly Love said...

Amen! There was a good piece in More magazine this month about a woman who put pics of herself as a brunette and with grey hair on She got more "winks" and responses from the grey hair photo!