Sunday, September 4, 2016

44, The Year of ZFG

I can’t decide if the hair was the cause or the effect, but this:

Is definitely the official hairstyle of Zero Fucks Given.  As I’ve described before, I began my transition to grey hair on the day my father died.  What I may not have described is the decades of hand-wringing that went into that eventual decision.

I found my first grey hair when I was away at summer swim camp.  I was 12.  By 23, I was sporting enough grey hair that, when I finally dyed it, a coworker gushed, “Oh, honey, that hair color takes 10-15 years off of you!”  “So I look like I’m 10?” I asked.  The confused look on his face made me realize that he honestly had no idea how old I was—or more to the point, wasn’t. 

After my first divorce, at the age of 25, I chopped my hair into a short pixie and let the grey grow out.  I noticed an immediate shift in the people who hit on me.  More women for starters, but also a different subset of men.  Some older, some younger, but all had a certain non-conformist streak.  And that’s when I realized the value of Appearance As Filter.
Appearance cuts both ways, as I explain to my children when we discuss the impact of clothing choices on how we are perceived.  I was going to make a cheap comment about the career-limiting impact of facial tattoos, but it’s more useful to note how it plays out in far subtler ways.
As someone who grew up in a rural and lower-middle-class environment but attended school in a quasi-urban and upper-middle-class one, I got a crash course early on in “what you look like affects how people treat you.”  Anyone who grew up in a rural area—or speaks with a certain accent, say southern or Appalachian, knows all too well the look of Bless your heart condescension frequently doled out by the more urbane.  I would tell you the story about the time I wore a personalized trout-fishing ball cap to school on jeans day, but I probably need a little more therapy before I can go there.

So when I go to a possibly contentious parent-teacher meeting, or a doctor’s appointment with a physician who doesn’t know me, or to buy a car or an appliance where I suspect I may encounter a sexist salesperson, I dress in a way that I think will encourage the other person to take me seriously.  I focus on my posture.  I modulate my diction and break out the ACT-words.  Not because any of this makes me a better or more worthwhile person, but because 30+ years of experience have taught me that it will increase the odds that I will be treated as such.

Which is why, when I was 29 and vaguely pregnant and someone mistook me for my husband’s mother rather than his wife, I collapsed right along with my self-esteem and started coloring my hair.  And then allowed the next 15 years to be partially consumed by a preoccupation with my ROOTS, not in the important where-do-I-come-from sense, but in the “People will think less of me if they see that the proximal ½” of my hair shafts lack pigment” sense.  I tried growing it out a half-dozen times or so during those years, and every time I’d get about 1.5” grown out before I would lose my nerve and break out the Clairol.  I just couldn’t imagine being able to hold my head high with grey hair.  Not feeling old.  Not being treated differently, like I was somehow less vibrant, capable, or sophisticated.  Less anything.  I worried that men wouldn’t find me attractive, strangers would think I was my kids’ grandmother, my employer would feel like I didn’t meet spec any longer.

Until my dad died.  I don’t know why that flipped the switch, but spending the last few weeks of his life actively and consciously helping him through the process of dying had a way of making everything else seem…trite in comparison.  As we watched his body and brain succumb to the almost unimaginable triple-diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia, motor neuron disease, and finally ductal pancreatic cancer, his hair remained thick, glorious, and unapologetically white until the very end.

So I took a deep breath and went grey.

And somehow this seemingly superficial transition became the Official Hairstyle of ZFG.  And with it, I was able to stop giving a lot of other fucks, as well.  For instance, I have a wrinkle in the middle of my forehead, between my eyebrows.  I hate this wrinkle.  I hate it because—unlike laugh lines or those lines around my mouth, I feel like it makes me look mean; in fact my ex-husband used to call it the “Goddammit, kids!” wrinkle. I hate it so much I actually considered Botox, despite my aversion to all things medical and my obsessive reading of potential but highly unlikely side effects (“migration!”).  I queried all of my friends who had Botox about how life-changing and totally not paralyzing it was.   Finally my younger daughter talked me out of it by saying that she would disown me if I got Botox, and I needed to just accept my wrinkle and get on with my life.  But I still hated it.  I obsessed about it every morning and wore Frownies to bed every night.   

But with the Official Hairstyle of ZFG, I honestly don’t even think about my wrinkle.  I also spend less time thinking about how my boobs sag, how upset someone will be if I say “no” to a request, and how guilty I feel about—well—almost everything.  And maybe better yet, it’s still a powerful filter.  I’m no longer worried about who will or won’t like me, I just let the filter do its work, letting people in or keeping them out according to how they self-select.

I should have done it years ago. 

1 comment:

  1. Your grey hair really suits you and as long as the concern of hair lenght, short hair are really trending now day and it makes one look more young and classy.