Last Tuesday, I walked into a hair salon and held up a picture on my cell phone.
“Bangs,” I said.
The stylist was new and asked me if I was out of school that day. It might be that asking your hair stylist to make you look like Taylor Swift does nothing to dissuade her from the somewhat-popular notion that you are a 16-year-old girl.
She was hesitant, unsure. Probably she wondered if my mother was going to walk in any second and ask why she had given a child a drastic new look. “Are you sure about bangs?” she asked as I sat down, and again when she rinsed shampoo down the sink, and again while holding a sharp pair of scissors up to a lock of my hair.
“Yes,” I replied somewhat firmly.
After all, it’s just hair.
And now I have bangs.
I sort of look as though I’m wearing a disguise.
I can’t help but joke about it. “Hey honey, do I look totally bangin'?” I ask as he reaches past me for a drink. He shakes his head and rolls his eyes at me.
I crack myself up.
It didn’t come naturally, this confidence about the small stuff. This adventurous side, this acceptance of my own outward appearance.
It was not kind to me, adolescence. Awkward and shy, I stumbled through it, and loathed the mirror more as each year passed. “I hate my face, I hate how I look” was a constant refrain in my mind, repeated in angry scrawls scratched across the pages of my diary.
(I think I can pinpoint it to that time I was eight years old and my mother gave me a bowl cut. And then a perm. You think I jest. Please see: Awkward Photos From My Youth)
It was my wedding day, and the make-up artist swept a gray shadow over my eyes and I opened them to find a bride reflected back at me. I was blonde then, hair swept up, encased in lace and satin. I had spent my entire life assuming that I wouldn't fully enjoy my wedding day because after all, brides were supposed to be beautiful. And I had long felt anything but.
I put my hand up to the mirror and realized that the it wasn't just hair and makeup and a veil in the reflection that made me feel, quite poignantly as it was the very first time I had ever found myself in possession of such a feeling, beautiful. It was the overwhelming joy and love I felt on that day. The outside was a reflection of the inside. That moment changed everything.
Nearing 30 now, I step out on to the porch with a steaming cup of coffee to watch the sunrise because I find beauty there, and solace before the sleeping world awakes. I wrap my arms around myself to stave off the chill of the early morning air and think about how comfortable I now am in this skin. What transformed this girl was deep and abiding, a mindset that says to her, “You are so much more than just your outward appearance.”
Cultivating an inner beauty far surpasses anything I could try to match in a magazine.
And born from that knowledge came the confidence I was missing for so long.
So now the things of outward beauty, finding the perfect mascara and pulling my hair into a stylish topknot? Those things are just icing on the cake. As they should be.
It’s being blonde as a bride and my natural brunette as I prepare for pregnancy. It’s leaving my hair wavy, because getting to the NICU to press my face against the glass and see my daughter is my goal; I don’t have for precious time for the blow dryer to steal. It’s walking into the salon and saying “bangs” because I want to shake things up a bit and do something exciting that doesn’t involve strapping myself to something and leaping off some sort of high building.
It’s knowing that playing with brushes and color and smoothing on a bright red lip is no longer about covering up. It’s not about layering it on, or pulling hair in front of my face to hide how I really feel about myself. It’s about feeling good about who I am and then enjoying that outward expression of beauty. For me that is what has been transformative -- not the transitions from blonde to brunette and short to long and wavy to straight, but the realization that this beauty thing? It isn’t about pressure to look a certain way or fit a certain mold. It’s about self-love and acceptance. And okay, maybe mascara.
And that’s why I can walk into a salon on a whim on a Tuesday and fearlessly request bangs. Because I want to. And I’m not afraid to hide anymore.
This post is part of BlogHer's Transformative Beauty editorial series, made possible by Sonia Kashuk at Target.