This post was going to be about hair.
Along the way it took a left turn and became, yet again, about aging. Another sharp turn to the left and it morphed into an idea about women and self perception. One more gentle, left leaning bend brought me to face to face with ideas of identity and self-worth and then there I was, back at the place where I started.
I recently chopped of most of my hair. Let me clarify: I recently paid someone else a rather large sum of money to chop off most of my hair. My hair, the vainest of female vanities, was suffering the effects of two years of Danish water, which is rock hard and full of chalk. The color was brassy, the ends were fried, and frankly, I needed a change. But hair-dressage (yes, I made that up), like everything else in Denmark, is extortionate. With some difficulty, I pushed my frugal tendencies to one side and with a snip, snip ca- ching, went from Cleopatra bob to longish faux hawk. Though I loved the cut, I hated the amount of money it cost me; not only to create, but to maintain. Because of the cost, I put off getting it cut again and again, until I looked like a Chia Pet, until I could stand it no more, until I could summon up the justification to have it cut again. This time I went even shorter, Halle Berry short. If I was going to pay big money, I wanted a big bang for my buck, or in this case, Kroner.
I am neither cheap nor am I extravagant, but if I am truthful, I fall squarely on the frugal side of the fence. Despite the leopard print and the hot pink and the tattoos, I spend conservatively. I like to have a savings plan, I pine for the days of interest bearing accounts, I budget, I shop with an eye on prices etc. We live well, and well within our means. Despite the sticker shock of Copenhagen salon prices, it’s not going to break the bank to have my hair cut on a semi-regular basis. Yet it pains me to do it. Somewhere, deep within my psyche, there is a niggling voice listing all the other things that money could be used for; better things, more important things. More worthy things.
Despite a global ad campaign telling me I’m worth it, apparently my psyche thinks otherwise.
How many woman do you know who push impeccably dressed toddlers in expensive strollers while they slop around in clothes that saw their heyday not last season, but last century? How many mothers do you know that forego getting haircuts or new clothes or going to the doctor yet have children that are sporting designer clothes or expensive sneakers who take pricey lessons and go to summer camp? Why do women routinely convince themselves it is acceptable, expected and unexceptional to go without so that others can go with? I’m not talking about blowing the bank and going into debt to buy a new pair of Choos. I’m talking about regular maintenance, the kind that keeps the cogs oiled and the mechanisms tuned: hair cuts, doctor’s appointments, replacing the jeans that have split along the inside seam or the sneakers that smell like a gym class. New eyeglasses, warm enough winter boots, comfortable shoes, bras without holes. We don’t blink an eye at servicing the car, making sure the kids have shoes that fit and violin lessons, booking checkups on schedule. Yet when it comes to ourselves, we put it off, we make excuses, we make do.
Are we not worth it?
When my second son was born, I coveted a pretty, lacy nursing bra. Nursing bras are ugly. They are functional. Even the ugly, functional ones are expensive. The one I had my eye on was, for me, far more than I was willing to pay. I mentioned it to my husband, who without blinking an eye, told me to buy it. Aghast, I asked him if he would spend $75 dollars on a pair of boxer shorts. His answer, to this day, remains one of my favorite stories to tell:
“Look, if my nuts swelled to three times their normal size and I had to get them out in public five or six times a day, you can be damn sure that I would spend whatever I needed to spend to make sure I was comfortable. In fact, I’d buy two.”
What he said made sense, of course, but there was also the realization that men do not spend–or not spend–money on themselves on the basis of worth. There is no guilt, no second guessing, no martyrdom. They buy what they need, often what they don’t and move on. It would not occur to any man I know not to get his haircut if he needed a haircut. Why is it then that so many of our decisions as women are tied up in the way we value, or more accurately, devalue, ourselves?
It is not frivolous to make sure that you are running properly, that you are serviced and maintained, with the right accessories and accoutrements to be the best mother, wife, friend, daughter you can be. To be the best person you can be, to be the best YOU you can be. In the end, Loreal was sort of right. We are worth it. Cheesy as the message may be, it’s true. Yet it is difficult for many of us to reconcile ourselves to that. It’s not ‘our’ money, the kids need something, the house needs something, we don’t have time. We go without sleep, without food, without peeing in privacy for years to make sure everyone else has what they need. Yet when it comes to ourselves, we fall upon a dull, rusty sword of our own design.
Cutting my hair off was symbolic of many things. Yes, I wanted to get rid of dead weight, literally and figuratively, but it is also, I realized, my way of telling age to come and get me; to look at the future full in the face without being able to hide behind my hair. There is no hiding with hair this short, no hiding the laugh lines or the gray hairs or the crinkles around my eyes. It’s my little way of saying screw you, mid-life, I’m ready for you. I’m not afraid of you. Like a reverse Samson, I feel stronger with short hair. But though I may embody the strength of a shorn Samson, I am my own Delilah. It will cost me a fair amount to keep up this middle finger to middle age hairdo. I will have to decide if staring down the march of time is worth it.
If I am worth it.
I think I am.
So are you.