I’ll Stand by You

I got a bad haircut this week. I also wore ripped army pants and brushed on some mascara that was definitely past its recommended lifespan.

Besides all of these being major indicators of my status as A New Mom —no time or motivation for stylish hair, reputable clothing, or buying new makeup—these three got me thinking on a theme:

Loyalty, you say? What’s that got to do with looking like …well, me in high school? Bear with me here.

We’ll start with the bad haircut. My hair has been through a lot in the last 12 months. From waist-length brunette, to a blunt, banged bob, to a pixie cut that took out the brown, to a longer, cuter, blonder version of that pixie cut, and finally to the shapeless shag that has fluffed over my head for about 3 months now. (Hmmmm… the baby is nearly 3 months old too! Weird.)

So I decided it was time for a fix, and headed down to the hip hair shoppe in my neighborhood. They’ve done my last 4 cuts, and I’ve been pretty happy with them all. It’s a long story, full of my in-articulation and the hairdresser’s seeming inattention to my poorly communicated needs, punctuated with her insistence that growing out short hair is a pain and “it’s just going to do that” (“that” being a weird combo of flips and flatness).

The sad ending is that I got up out of the chair and actually said: “Well, I guess this is as good as I’m going to get right now.”

What?! “As good as I’m going to get?” No one wants to say that and mean it. I wanted to be saying, “It’s perfect! I love it! I finally feel good about my hair! Thank you!”

So I cried in the car on the way home, and fretted and grumped over it for a couple of days. Should I go back and insist that they do the trims I asked for and was refused? Or should I trust the professional, whose job it is to make people look good?

Well, frankly, the jury is still out; I hated my hair yesterday, but today I really liked it. That’s why there’s no picture of my modified ‘do here, because I haven’t decided if it’s done yet.

In either case, we’re talking loyalty. Whether I get it re-cut, I’m refusing to “dump” my hairdresser but am set on finding a better way to tell her what I want. And I’m listening to my own convictions. Both are important.

Then there’s the ripped army pants. I love these pants. In fact, I used to have two pairs that I loved equally well, but I finally realized that two pairs of ripped cargo camouflage pants with paint spatters was a little excessive. So I chose the less ripped, less paint-spattered pair, and they have been with me now for about 12 years.

I take them out whenever beat-up camos seem appropriate; once or twice a year they make an appearance for beach walks, set-painting in college, hikes, yard work… you get the idea. Well, it turns out that beat-up camos are also good when: a) it’s freezing out and you need something to layer; and b) none of your other pants fit. B is a particularly compelling reason for me right now.

Who knew that the pants I belted tightly in high school would be there for me 10 years later, after pregnancy stretched my body to its limit? Who knew that my go-to crap pants would be the first worn—and most forgiving—item of my pre-pregnancy wardrobe?

Now, I’m not saying they look good. They don’t. They look like beat-up, paint-spattered, baggy and too-long camo pants with rips on both knees and on the butt. ‘Cause that’s what they are.

But that’s the brilliant thing! That’s why I have loved them for so long. That’s why I wore them to a party this evening with a pink top and a scarf in my hair. They aren’t supposed to be flattering… in the conventional sense, that is. The very nature and intent of the garment—These are made for men! To wear in dirty and extreme conditions!—completely relieves me from the anxieties of whether my clothes fit my expanded curves just right or not. I chose them for style, for a different look… heck, I chose them for fun!

And that makes it possible for me to feel good in my clothes, to feel like me, for possibly the first time this week.

Now the mascara is less personal, but still a matter of loyalty. See, I am an incorrigible philanderer when it comes to mascara. What can I say? I’m a sucker for slogans and shiny packages, particularly when it comes to my desert-island cosmetic. Longer? Fuller? Glossier? A vibrating wand and triple-coat technology? I will, and have, tried them all. But I always, always come back to my favorite mascara in the world: Maybelline Full & Soft.

I think it’s the first mascara I bought for myself, my first mascara beyond the gateway Great Lash (also by Maybelline, and the world’s best-selling mascara for a reason). It’s the first time (of dozens to follow) I was swayed by the combined packaging and ad campaign. I always have a tube of it, somewhere in my makeup drawer, and often shoved rudely to the back while a new favorite enjoys daily applications.

Today I finally had it with my current fling (which shall remain unnamed; I don’t like to name products unless I’m actually recommending them). I dug into my drawer, and there, waaaay in the back after about a year’s worth of neglect, I found my true love again. I flipped it down my lashes and remembered again why it’s my favorite. Because,  guess what? Your lashes really do feel full and soft!

So…. what’s the point of all this, Emilie?
Well, all of these things have been a part of my “personal journey” this week. Without sounding too melodramatic, it hit me rather suddenly that I didn’t feel good about myself at all anymore. I mean, I feel fantastic for the relationships in my life, as a mother and wife and daughter and friend.

But me? The me that understands that looks are not the only thing, but who still wants to look good? The me that feels pretty and lively in creative (some would say “interesting”) outfits with flattering waist lines and deep vee-necks, the me who wears lots of black lashes for stage and supermarket? She’s a big part of who I am, and I’ve missed her.

Before the baby, I was at a point where I really loved my body for the first time since puberty. During pregnancy, even at my fattest and most uncomfortable, I felt lovely and round and pink-cheeked, and well… cute. But since then, whenever I get a chance to look in the mirror, all I see is clothes that are too tight, flat frazzled hair, and a horrifying backslide to my dry, pimply high-school skin.

And these silly things, the mascara, and junky pants and my bad haircut gone good… they are choices I have made to bring me closer to the missing me. In their small ways, they are helping me be loyal to myself.

Fortune Cookie Time
What I’m trying to say here is that loyalty is about active trust. About earned, practical faith. At least it should be, whether you’re talking about your favorite outfit, or a product line, or the people whose advice you choose to follow in the salon or in the senate.

And—as I’m learning slowly, while I try to reacquaint myself with my body—you simply  have to have an active, faithful trust in yourself. It sounds cheesy, I know, but you’ve earned it. You know what makes you feel good, what makes you feel like yourself on your best day. And who wouldn’t want to come back to that, again and again?


One thought on “I’ll Stand by You

  1. Good to see you on the blogs. Maintaining one’s sense of self is a hard enough thing to do without the magnitudinous Trinitarian-like responsibility of having to be all things to all people (Wife, Mother, Friend). It’s good to hear you are finding and getting reacquainted with yourself in these simple but significant things.

    In regards to your present dissatisfactions and “growing out” phase, over the past few years I’ve grown close to a very special friend who has inspired me greatly. Where I’ve been blessed with more than my fair share of self confidence, she seems to be more consistently aware of her short comings. The amazing and inspiring thing about her though is that it keeps her on a path of always setting goals, working to improve her life, and striving to be a better person which I think is a great way to live one’s life. Give me a life of promise and hope over abundance any day.

    Cheers and Happy New Years!

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