Hair, identity, science, soul

Makeover Issues

I hate makeover issues.

As in, I have issues when you decide that I should have a makeover. And what that makeover ought to be.

I dislike Do’s and Don’ts; broadcasted, telegraphed, and insinuated mocking of what’s deemed a deficient style (and the expectation that the mocked laugh, too); and platforms that sell “be a better you.” I cringe at messages about self-acceptance that actually build their case on every insecurity we’ve taken on.

Short hair? Grow it!

Long hair? Cut it!

Fair? Color it!

Dark? Lighten it!

Do the opposite of what you are or, another favorite: “Do it for you!” Translation: Do (and be) something other than who you are and, while you’re at it, embrace the belief that you’re doing it for you.

Therefore:

I’ve straightened my hair “for me.”

I’ve cut my hair short “for me.”

I’ve not worn my hair long “for me.”

Except, it wasn’t for me.

In middle school, my mother told me to sleep with a stocking over my head—like a bank robber—to flatten out my hair. I did it (for me!). The next morning the crown of my head was smooth as an egg but the ends, which didn’t make it under the stocking, were hemmed with frizz.

It wasn’t so much the failed experiment (the original frizz was easily restored with water!), or the worse-looking “After” than what came “Before.” It wasn’t her laughter that confused me, but the way she laughed. And despite her seeming attempts to help, it was my frustration that captivated her most. Today I understand what my former self could not: That my hair was destined to be the puzzle that would never be solved. It became an outward expression for my mother’s untended inner life, overgrown with weeds and uncared for.  I was handed that without knowing exactly what I was being required to take on and carry for her—a lot of pain that wasn’t mine.

It reminds me of the makeover experts that seem more interested in entertaining themselves than actually caring. Which is why today I turn to only a trusted few for hair discussion, friends who would never exploit the tender spots on the inside in the name of beautifying (read: fixing) an imperfection on the outside. It’s taken time, but as I tend to my own internal spaces, planting seeds and pulling weeds, I more readily recognize that if  someone says, “You really should do a hair makeover” I can say—and believe—“No, actually, I don’t.”

And if I did, I’d know, because the call would rise up from inside me, which is where I’m learning to listen.

Meredith