The Beauty of Both

I’ve known several men who buzz their heads every week as a hairstyle and say that they do it because it’s no hassle. I get that, especially now. My hair takes zero time to style. I’m spending $0 on products. I’m barely even using shampoo, and when I do it takes 2 seconds to soap and rinse. But as a woman with buzzed hair I’m finding that I still spend that time and money, and I still spend it on my appearance, just not on my hair.

For example:

  • Today I bought earrings for the first time in years.
  • This month I’ve bought new lipstick and mascara.
  • I spent $30 on Norwex makeup removing towels because without hair to fuss over I’ve taken critiquing my skin to a whole new level.
  • And I bought fake eyelashes for the first time ever.

So yes to everyone who’s said I must be saving so much time now that my hair is gone, but don’t think for a second that I’m blind to where that time is going.

Now to the bigger stuff. At this juncture in history, a time when women have more freedom and power and dignity than ever before and yet still have to fight if we want the same level of freedom, power, and dignity as men, I struggle not to pendulum swing.

On one side, there is what I’m calling “The Little Women Principle.” There’s this scene in the movie Little Women when the mom is talking to her four girls after a ball. She says this:

“If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all you really are. Time erodes all such beauty. But what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage.”

On this side of the pendulum I say, “Yeah, cut your hair! Wear no makeup! Burn those bras!” And I want to raise my daughter (who is incredibly maternal) to be a pediatric doctor and not just a mom because I believe she has more to offer society than the stereotypical gender role of a 1950s housewife.

And yet, how belittling is that phrase “just a mom,” and how cruel of me to force my little girl into the same paralyzing life of expectation that my generation has faced: “not only CAN you have it all (family and career) but you MUST, and if you don’t do it all perfectly and become extraordinary by the time you’re 30 then you’re a failure.” Supermom AND President of your own company (oh, and sexy wife, too). How did “what matters is on the inside” turn into this?

On the other side of the pendulum, though, I have to admit that the lipstick and the earrings have been fun. I often tell the story that before my daughter was born I was determined to avoid pink and glitter and ultra-girly things, and then Rosey popped out perfectly punctually on her due date (as a lady should) with an automatic love for cuddling and fluffy things and shoes and purses and dresses, and so embracing my inner chic has been pleasantly unavoidable.

But it has also led me to notice that a lot of the time, when I get ready to go for the day, I’m actually hoping to put a little beauty out into the world. Now, I promise you that I don’t actually think I’m Helen of Troy, but, whenever I take joy in putting myself together, I wonder whether God didn’t in fact purposely create us (women and men alike) to be physically enjoyable to look at. And, without belittling others or taking inappropriate pleasure for myself at their expense, I think I can and should celebrate the gorgeousness of the gap in my one friend’s front teeth, and another friend’s hooked nose, and my housemate’s amazing freckles, my husband’s salt and pepper hair, and a stranger’s wrinkles when she smiles at me in the grocery store. I can care about my own appearance, not just because it makes me confident and definitely not because it’s all I’m worth, but because it just might bring a little joy to someone else’s day.

The main gist here is that while we can’t just focus on our appearance and neglect the use of our minds, we also can’t just praise our intellect and forget that our tangibility matters. There’s a scene in one of my husband’s favorite movies, Little Miss Sunshine, when the one GOOD character, the little girl, feels ugly because she doesn’t look like all the other girls in the beauty pageant, so she talks to her grandpa. Here’s how it goes:

Olive: Grandpa, am I pretty?
Grandpa: Olive, you are the most beautiful girl in the whole world.
Olive: You’re just saying that.
Grandpa: No! I’m madly in love with you and it’s not because of your brains or your personality. It’s because you’re beautiful, inside and out.

Both of these aspects of who we are, the inside and the outside, matter. And if we hone that balance, I think it’s perfectly right to enjoy the beauty of both.

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