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What makes me feel beautiful, part one

May 2, 2010

This topic landed in my brain this morning as I was sitting at the hair salon. Thinking back to my childhood, it seems I have a long and tangled history with hair.

When I was very young, up until about the age of 5, I had the typical “long” little girl hair. Though I hated it when I overheard people referring to its color as “dirty” blonde — or even worse, “dishwater” blonde — I loved having long hair. Shaking my mane was one of my earliest memories of feeling beautiful. The problem was, like most children, I was completely unable to take care if it myself, andI became completely hysterical every time I saw my mother with a brush in her hand. Soon thereafter, I was treated to a “shag” haircut, a most unbecoming look for me in that it made me look like a 30-year-old Florence Henderson inhabiting a 5-year-old body. The fact that I had about 259 cowlicks on my head didn’t make it any more flattering.

Naturally, things didn’t get better for me as I grew older. Though I was enamored of the Farah Fawcett look for its carefree, California vibe, my mother was a little more taken with the “Annie” look.  She sent me off to the aspiring students at Amber’s Beauty School for a head full of curls. As I recall, however, the carefree poodle look didn’t last long. Seems I was also prone to sleeping on my side so much that by the end of the first week the beautiful curls on the left side of my head had flattened and turned considerably frizzy. Eventually, curling irons came into my life — the kind with a little reservoir in the end to fill with water were my favorite — and I spent inordinate amounts of time as a teenager standing in the bathroom blasting hot bursts of steam into my tresses, essentially frying my hair into submission and trying to find a look that would make me feel beautiful again.

In terms of color, let’s just say my college years marked the beginning of my real adventures in self-expression. It started soon after the summer I spent working as a lifeguard; left with the typical bleach-blonde look, I felt suddenly liberated from the “dirty” and “dishwater” labels that had plagued my younger years and eager to discover what other shades would feel like. I carefully studied the color samples on all the boxes of red hair dye at the drugstore without appreciating how the complete absence of color on my head would affect the finished results. To say I looked like Lucille Ball and Ronald McDonald’s love child would be to put it kindly.

Of course, as a cash-strapped college student, there were few options available for fixing my mistake, so my best option was to throw my head back and try to project a cool girl confidence, willing to stand out in a crowd. And you know, it worked! I got compliments for my daring, which made me feel brave and closer to my early childhood memory of beauty than I had felt in a good long  time.

I’m skimming over a lot to say that bad hair color eventually led to a more mature sense of beauty and self acceptance ~ there are at least a couple dozen entries on the whole beauty subject that will eventually follow this one ~ but trust me, it did. In the meantime, I’m curious know what makes other people feel beautiful … if there’s anyone listening, feel free to leave a comment and chime in.

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