Thursday, June 17, 2010

Haircuts, irrationality, and girliness

I chopped off 10 inches of hair today.
I swear it looks better than that photo. My camera is literally falling apart (the duct tape is failing), so taking a good picture was difficult.

Anyway, I'm relieved to have it cut. Starting when I was about 11, I've gone through a cycle of cutting my hair chin length, letting it grow out to a length I can donate, and then cutting it short again. I used to donate to Locks of Love, but decided not to anymore due to growing criticism of their practices. This particular pony tail will be donated to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, whose mission is to "make real hair wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments." This is especially important to me since my mom is a breast cancer survivor, and I know how much having a wig helped her self esteem when she needed it the most.

Though if you're a friend or follow me on twitter, you know I've been hemming and hawing about this haircut for a while. The hour leading up to my appointment I flip flopped every thirty seconds between just getting a trim and chopping it off. Haircuts are just one of those things I'm irrational about. I know every time I do get it cut I love it and feel so much better - the loss of weight, shorter showers, cuter 'do - but it unnerves me up until the cut.

Part of it is because I used to hate my hair: Up until college it was a frizzy, untameable mess. One of the reasons I loved Hermione so much as a kid was because I identified with her bushy hair - which is (one reason) why I can't stand Perfect Shimmering Locks movie Hermione. The first time I donated my hair I joked that I felt bad for whoever got a wig of it. I didn't have much hair-esteem.

On top of that, my mother forced me to have bangs as a child, which I absolutely loathed. Because my hair is thick and naturally wavy, my bangs had a mind of their own. Every morning my mom would attempt to tame them with a curling iron, but after a couple hours of school they were sticking out the wrong way again. I spent 7th grade running away from my mother whenever she brandished a pair of scissors, rebelling against that awful haircut and growing my bangs out. I don't care how nice modern styles may look with bangs - I refuse to go through that again.

With bangs gone and the discovery of specialized anti-frizz shampoo and this thing called conditioner, my hair was instantly better. But hair is still a symbol of insecurity for me. I've always felt like I was left out of Girl Initiation - that my crucial feminine gene had been deleted or something. Girls, and now Women, all seem to know these standard secrets that I don't. It's not that I feel like I must have a certain type of hair or makeup or clothes; it's that I feel unskilled because even if I wanted to, I wouldn't know how to make my hair nice or put on make up or pick out cute outfits. I want that ability to be there.

I'm an overachiever - I don't like being bad at something. But I have a hard time picking up anything feminine. I do well in school because I learn very well in a traditional classroom environment. When it comes to fashion or style, no one ever sat me down explaining things. The most womanly wisdom my mom ever imparted on me was "One day, you're going to start bleeding down there" and then showed a very terrified and confused Younger Jen where the pads were.

Now, even if I knew how to put on makeup, I would still probably go makeup-less 99% of the time. It would just be nice if I had the skill so for the 1% of the time where I'm going to a wedding or a club, I can make myself look a little spiffier. But until then, girlish stuff like this gives me horrible anxiety. I recently had a nightmare that I was on America's Next Top Model and my challenge was to put on makeup in under 2 minutes. After drawing on my face like a four year old who just broke into Mommy's makeup drawer, Tyra felt so bad that she let me try again. The sad thing is, this isn't too far off from reality (minus the whole me making it on ANTM without becoming a size zero).

And I feel the same way about hair. It was almost my senior year of high school when a very stereotypically girly teammate on my golf team let me know what conditioner was. And while looking up haircuts for today, I still realized how hopelessly out of the loop I am. I thought blow drying your hair was just to make it dry faster, not for any sort of styling. I have no idea what different types of brushes are, let alone do. I didn't realize people used curling irons or straighteners for regular hairdos. The stylist put "product" in my hair, and I have no idea what that is or how I could replicate my look.

Don't get me wrong - I'm happy with how I look. I don't feel the need to conform or look a specific way. It's just frustrating to know there's a whole body of knowledge that I am completely ignorant about. I felt the same anxiety while learning advanced calculus or magnetism. Hell, I'm much better at advanced calculus and magnetism than I am at feminine things. If I ever have children, I sort of hope I have sons just because I'm terrified of failing my daughters. I don't want to instill them with the same anxiety I've been battling my whole life.

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