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.
21 Comments Add yours
Great post and oh, so very true. Hair must be in the air, because my post today included an admittance on my part – about coloring my hair… I read another post today as well, that included dressing correctly at 50 (and I was sadly 😉 featured in the article).
At 50 though, I’m finally getting this proper look thing together and I’m willing to spend a little time on me 🙂 And my kids have now been properly trained not to bother mommy dearest, especially when she’s BLOGGING 🙂
Have a wondrous week 🙂
I’m not quite ready to face the ‘how to dress’ bit yet. That one is going to be a tough sell for me. We’re going to go 50 shades of Gray hair over here and see what happens. Mind you, I only have a few, so….watch this space.
Very Very funny – and LOVE Richard’s comments! 🙂
Yeah, he’s a keeper. And for the record, I did buy the bra and as I ended up wearing it for a year and a half, it paid for itself in the end!
LOVE IT!!! Except, of course, that I could see myself in so many unfortunate ways…now if only I could dress the “over 50” part…I’m still stuck on t-shirts and blue jeans! And since I can’t work anymore that has become my daily dress. My hair though? That is still my vanity…regular cuts and colors…can’t leave the house until it is washed and styled, although the “styled” bit is becoming less and less!
Nothing wrong with t shirt and blue jeans, as long as they aren’t the same ones you were wearing in the 90s! Women and hair–it’s a fascinating topic. As I was looking for pictures for this piece and came across all the old shampoo ads, it really got me thinking about how much of our identity is tied up in our hair–men too, to a degree, and how exploited that is by advertisers. Another blog post down the line, maybe!
The whole deal about martyrdom is that your family doesn’t even notice. All these self sacrifices only end up in a huge blow-up at some point, where you end up feeling like an idiot. And when I say you, I mean me, of course. So why not spend the money, look fabulous, feel good and not feel guilty. Your sensible husband would agree it’s money well-spent.
I happen to be married to a man who not only doesn’t blink an eye at me spending money, but actually encourages me to do so. Now, how much of that abundant generosity is due to the fact that he can sleep at night safe in the knowledge that he married a frugal Fanny, well, that’s for another day ;-). You are of course, absolutely correct. Martyrdom never leads anywhere. Good hair though–it speaks volumes.
“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…”
Isn’t that fascinating? My husband has often surprised the heck out of me, with his quite rational and reasonable response, ironically one I had never considered before. If your jeans are too small, simply buy bigger jeans. There is no angst there, no melodrama, no need to consider whether or not you are growing your mothers thighs, just buy bigger jeans, problem solved. Now why can’t I ever just do that? It’s a girl thing I suppose, and I say that quite shamelessly. Our brains simply work differently and as much as I love my own, a man’s perspective can be quite refreshing in it’s simplicity.
I hate it when they are rational like that. I really, truly do. Because they are right, of course. We, we women, are often our own worst enemy. We do far more damage to ourselves than anyone else could dream of. Maybe one day we’ll learn!
As a guy, I’ve never quite understood the relationship between women and hair.
But getting it cut because you want to, or you want a certain look, or it makes you feel good?
Women and hair. There is a whole book’s worth of psychology tied up in a ponytail there.
This post is great and rings so true – I’ve been dealing with the harsh impact of Danish water since I arrived here in **September** but haven’t cut my hair because I couldn’t justify the expense. I spent the least three months cursing my stringy lifeless hair and wistfully eying the fancy salons I passed each day. You know what did it? I got pregnant again, and I was feeling awful. So I said, screw it, go plop down an insane amount of kroner to feel pampered. Best decision I have made in a while, and yes, it helped that my husband thought it was silly that I even asked for his help with the justification. It has led to other good decisions: replacing my single pair of comfortable sandals that broke ages ago, taking time to give myself a manicure, and making myself hot chocolate from scratch after the kids go to bed (i.e., when I can really enjoy it).
Hooray! Husbands can be useful creatures at times (and not just for getting you pregnant ;-).). It is amazing how something like a haircut can perk you up, yet we continue to deny ourselves. What fickle, masochistic creatures we can be at times. Congratulations on the new baby, the manicures, and the hot chocolate for sure. Oh, and you are very optimistic buying sandals in Denmark!
I haven’t been to the doctor in almost four years and this quote is why:
“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.”
Also, I have my own hair battle. My professional “writer hair” is a wig-long and straight. My everyday, I don’t have time or energy for that upkeep (and frankly it’s too hot) is my naturally short fro. I settled for updating my wardrobe because I’m not ready to merge the two images.
This: “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. ”
Gah My husband broke down my cost of a pedicure over 30 days since I stretch them out (I cried it was too expensive, but needed one desperately) He said “It’s $1 a day. Get the d@mn pedicure.” I still struggle to get them done regularly because the house, the this the that and everybody needs…SIgh.
Great post! Also I cut my own hair off. I’m that cheap lol
Kelsy, I say this from a place of sisterly love: go to the doctor. You are worth it. Listen to your husband. A pedicure can be be a game changer. I treat myself to at least one a year ;-). Trust me, if I could cut my own hair, I would! Kidding aside, I think a lot of women (me too) always put everyone else’s needs above our own–or at least above the stuff that doesn’t qualify as ‘important’. But the truth is, those things are important, because they make us feel good and they make us happy. And being happy is always a good thing.
I’m working on the doctor thing. Treating Fibromyalgia is expensive to say the least, but proving it…gah. Don’t get me started.
So… I should buy myself a new phone to show my wife how one spends money without thinking too much about it, and without bad conscience? That sounds like good advice. Thank you.
Or you can just do what my husband did and buy her a phone as a gift in order to check it out and make sure it’s a good deal. Gift points and you get what you want. Double result.
Fantastic write-up, so totally agree with you ” we are worth it”
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