Sunday, July 17, 2016

Live Your Life For You

I was reading through old Notes on my phone the other night, and I stumbled across this introspection from last summer. Reading these words was startling, especially realizing how poignant and true they still are to me. I feel like I have made a lot of progress since moving to Bloomington, but old habits and attitudes still try to creep in at times. I'm putting this out to the world--unedited--in case there are other women (or even men) who have experienced something similar to my feelings and can perhaps draw strength here if/when needed.

I can't say when it started. I don't think anyone can pinpoint a single moment, but at some point I was persuaded that I would be seen as more feminine if my hair was longer. I would be more desirable to men if I wore my hair down. I would be more attractive if I had wider hips, bigger breasts, a flatter stomach.Maybe it was overhearing a freshman boy call me a dyke as I walked to my car outside his classroom. Maybe it was the times my mother told me every haircut we daughters got broke my father's heart a little. Maybe it was just unconscious observation that the girls and women who surrounded me and who society and my peers seemed to regard most highly all had long, flowing locks.It is impossible for me to isolate the moment I started to live for others.I've always been good at rationalizing, don't get me wrong. I would never admit to submitting my will to society's suggestion. And yet it happened. I never saw myself as designed to break the mold. I was one who would conform to fill it.I learned the guitar, the saxophone, the drum set, because I liked the way I thought others would see me. I learned to beatbox, I listened to rap. But it never really felt like me.I told myself others would like me better if I were smarter, if I had nicer clothes, if I kept up with the popular shows and listened to the radio. I told myself I'd get more dates if I wore flats instead of tennis shoes, or if I bothered to apply some makeup.I explained in my head that I didn't fit the current fashion. In fact, with my proportions, I didn't fit much of anything. No matter how high my grades came in, I could always do better. I wondered if that was another thing I should be fixing in some way.I wouldn't say it started with a haircut, I think that was more the straw on the camel's back. But after a heavy month of searching and longing for a love I won't ever earn, I decided (once again) that I need to try to let it go. I need to live life for ME. So I am. Or beginning at least.I paid for a haircut, and I let it be cut. Really cut, not just trimmed. Nothing crazy, but shorter than I've allowed it for a few years.And you know what?It feels great! I took out my contacts and stared at myself in the mirror for a few moments and it struck me.I never knew all that I had given up when I ascribed to those cultural views, but as I stood and looked at myself, running my fingers through my now-short hair, I realized I finally felt