Tag Archives: Beauty

Hey, curly girls! This one’s for you.

I got my hair cut today. This is a big deal because I think the last time I got my hair cut was three years ago. And it’s an even bigger deal because I asked the stylist to straighten it.

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I normally wear my hair down and just let it do whatever it’s going to do. This is a coping mechanism – equal parts resignation, exasperation, and experience. Sometimes it looks great and I love it, like in the picture above. It really is that curly and I really do have natural red highlights, which sometimes show up.

Since I’m asked this a lot, these are my current hair products:

Most people have never seen me with straight hair. I’ve rarely seen me with straight hair, actually. Once upon a time, about three years ago, I wrote about having curly hair and I straightened my hair to make a point. I don’t think I’ve had straight hair since.

And yet, here we are again!

On a recommendation from my mum’s stylist at Tru Salon in Rochester, NY, I went to the Aveda Institute here in New York City to have my hair trimmed by a student stylist. I’ve had enough bad haircuts as a curly-haired person to avoid a) getting my hair cut entirely and b) paying a lot of money for a haircut. Rachel, my mum’s stylist, assured me that the Aveda Institute sees a lot of curly patrons because getting a good curly haircut can be such a challenge and a huge expense.

It’s only hair, right? It’ll grow back, right?

Ha.

Normally I’d say yes, but that’s precisely the problem.

I haven’t cut my hair in three years because it doesn’t grow. I’ve dreamt of long, flowing curly locks for enough years to know I’ll never have them, even though I follow all of these tips.

Oh yeah. Except for the one about regular trims. Oops.

So off the the Aveda Institute I went!

At the Aveda Institute, student stylists have to get the procedure and each stage of the process approved by an instructor. While this might make some patrons nervous, I understand the need to practice on real humans to learn your trade (I’m a teacher, after all). I truly encourage everyone to look into the Aveda Institute if you’re looking for a top-quality, inexpensive service. After all, students are very careful and deliberate because they’re still learning and you have the benefit of an expert stylist watching each step of the way.

My student stylist, Mary, told me everything I already knew about my hair – it’s surprisingly healthy and hydrated, surprisingly soft, and surprisingly fine. She was surprised that I haven’t cut it in so long. People usually are. What made me happy is that she understood exactly what I wanted and clearly explained how she was going to make my hair look even healthier (and hopefully grow). Even better, the instructors agreed with her! I dread the oft-heard question, “How do they usually cut your hair?” from a stylist, indicating that curly hair like mine is unfamiliar. Mary’s confidence made me feel at ease and since she had the scissors, that was probably a good thing.

Reasons to Visit the Aveda Institute

  1. They provide a wide range of salon services (I’ll probably be back soon for a facial)
  2. They serve tea
  3. It’s fun to watch the students style and color mannequins’ hair
  4. The students are very conscientious
  5. Instructors check every step of the process and make some adjustments along the way
  6. It’s very, very affordable and reasonably priced

One thing to note: If you want to tip, they only accept cash and don’t have an ATM.

When Mary was done, I asked her to take some pictures:

Hey, everybody! I have long, flowing locks! Amazing. Darn all that curl shrinkage.

Unfortunately, my hair won’t look like this tomorrow. I don’t own a comb, brush, blow dryer, or straightening iron (or blush, eyeshadow, or lipstick) so it’ll either be back to curls or up in a ponytail. But it’s super fun to feel it swish against my back and the sides of my face! It’s always the little things, right?

So after three years, about a 1/2-inch of split ends have been cut off and my layers are relayered. I’m looking forward to seeing what my hair looks like curly!

If you have tips, tricks, or hints to share, I’d love to hear them! I’m pretty low-maintenance (could you tell?) but surprisingly vain when it comes to my hair. Happy to hear anything you’ve got! Comment below or through the contact page. Cheers, curly girls!

Tiny Win

I’m not much into competition, but I won today and I feel like celebrating while the win lasts. Therefore, this post.

Going to and from work today took a long time. 85 minutes there. 110 minutes back. Dark when I left and dark when I got home. Not pleasant. I was frustrated about this when I got home, frustrated because it’s supposed to rain tomorrow and I hate running in the rain, which meant I had to run today. In the dark. Again.

So I compromised. I talked myself into a short run. Less than 30 minutes. Less than 4 miles.

Okay?

Fine. If you say so.

And then I did two things that made a huge difference.

  1. I wrote to a friend, “I’m having such a hard time.” I said a few other things, too, but admitting that I am struggling took a weight off my shoulders that I didn’t even know I was carrying. I have talked openly about this to a few people recently, but felt physically better today.
  2. I swapped motivational workout messages with another friend before heading out for said workout. And took a picture of my fun neon clothes. Now I had to make those clothes worth something.

I got outside, started my watch, and flew.

Flew.

For the first time in months, I was running for me. For me. Not out of anger or frustration. Not out of incompetence or inadequacy. Not away from something or towards something else. Not letting various narratives play out in my head. Just running.

For the first time in months, I didn’t pause to stare into the East River and think about how deep the water is. I didn’t look up at the bridges and think about how high they are.

I just ran.

Song in my head? “Jessie’s Girl.” That one has come up before, but I haven’t heard it in a while. I’ve always enjoyed that song. I used to listen to it thinking about how lucky that girl was to be so loved.

But tonight was different.

Tonight I thought about all the women I am so lucky to know who are so loved by so many. I thought about how beautiful they are, in all the ways. I thought about everything I admire in these women, as individuals and collectively. I was overcome with pride at having such people in my life, people I try to emulate.

I ran feeling good, happy, and whole for the first time since this nightmare began a few months ago.

I didn’t look at my watch until I got back and yes, the run was quick.

But it doesn’t even matter.

Demons, I beat you today.

And I will carry this torch with me into tomorrow.

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On Beauty

“Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”

With that song playing in the background as I write this, I am struck by the sadness that minor chords inspire. It is that feeling of sadness that keeps me drawn to Lana Del Rey’s piece, which I recently learned was written for Baz Lurhmann’s 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby. I very often have a song in my head that echoes what I’m doing, where I am, or how I’m feeling. There are songs I associate with certain emotions, people, or places and they arise unbidden very much like songs on a film soundtrack. Ask me about it sometime and I’ll happily tell you what’s playing!

The refrain I’ve been hearing lately is linked above. I’m actively listening to it on repeat in an effort to get it out of my head and shut off the demons that come with it. But they’re insistent, which is why I’m writing this.

Beauty Then
When I was around fourteen, I walked by a mannequin in a store and sighed aloud that it would be nice to be a mannequin when I grew up. My mum and sister pounced on this and I defended myself by saying that I just wanted someone to pick out my clothes.

Admission: That wasn’t entirely truthful.

As a teenager, around the time I was seriously crushing on a boy or two or three, I was very conscious of how I looked. My eyeliner was too dark when I was finally allowed to wear it and I spent too much time worried about my non-existent hips and how my jeans made my bum look. Finding a bathing suit was torturous and I was never happy with my hair so I straightened it for a few years before finally cutting it all off to start over.

In high school, I would have described myself as “pretty” or “attractive” and maybe even “pretty attractive” on a good day. At the same time, I would have described all of my friends as “beautiful”. Being beautiful meant a lot of different things to me, even then, though it took years to develop the confidence to describe myself that way.

Being Beautiful
So what does it mean to be beautiful?

It means being creative and inquisitive. There is certainly such a thing as a beautiful mind.

It means being compassionate, kind, and caring. I’m lucky to know more than a few truly beautiful souls (stay with me for the moment, even if you don’t believe in souls).

Being beautiful also means being strong, healthy, and physically fit.

Beauty means happiness. A smile is just about everyone’s best feature, especially when it’s unexpected.

It means being able to listen to others and appreciate what they have to offer.

It means confidence. It means being able to stand in front of others unapologetically and express ideas, especially when people listening will disagree.

But bubbling underneath all of those examples of real beauty is the far more superficial and completely unattainable image of a supermodel. As Lana Del Rey asks, “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?” According to that question, what matters? Youth matters. Beauty matters. That’s what yield love. Looking at pop culture, love is what matters.

You want love? You need to be young and beautiful.

Or so I thought.

The Shift
My conception of beauty underwent a fundamental shift during my first year teaching. I was teaching one section of a psychology elective and my department head and mentor was teaching the other. He suggested I show Jean Kilbourne’s documentary Killing Us Softly 4 (read about it here or purchase it here) during our unit on gender.

Jean Kilbourne discusses the ways in which advertising views women and uses ads that she has collected over the years to explore society’s obsession with physical appearance, thinness, whiteness, and youth. She argues that we have accepted cutting women into parts and displaying only legs or lips or torso, which dehumanizes women and leads to sexual violence. Kilbourne also delves into the role that Photoshop plays in creating an impossible ideal for both women and men.

Had I been exposed to such a stark analysis of the media and its advertisements in high school, I would have been a lot more confident in who I was rather than worrying about what I looked like. That is not an exaggeration.

As part of a follow-up assignment, my students and I started looking at ads. These already confident students at an all-girls secondary school brought in catalogues they received in the mail, constructively criticized the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that was on that week, and put together a variety of pieces reflecting on their experience with the film. I don’t know for sure whether it changed their outlook on beauty, but I do know that it made them think about who they were and who they were told to be.

Beauty Now
It has been a while since I was first allowed to wear eyeliner at 15. My hair is curly and I don’t own a straightening iron, my favorite makeup item is purple mascara, and my jeans are comfortable. End of story.

The unnerving soundtrack in my head, however, still playing the Lana Del Rey song, has made it clear that I am not without insecurities. I am far more adept at seeing beauty of any kind in others than I do in myself. Maybe this is because I’m a lot harder on myself than those around me.

The chorus of the song ends with, “I know you will.” The irony is that she still had to ask, as many of us do.

Seeing myself as beautiful now, though it sometimes requires effort in self-compassion, means accepting myself as I am and for who I want to be. It involves living up to the ideal that I have created for myself as one who is continuously learning and acting to make the world a better place. Considering myself beautiful means placing the greatest value on how I treat those around me and what I do to improve the world.

Are you beautiful? You are, in so many ways. The beauty that actually matters does not diminish with age. If anything, it is likely to grow along with you.