There comes a time in life when a woman starts to feel a little rough around the edges. A bit raggedy, feeling like she’s losing a little bit of her edge. Maybe it’s after a baby when she’s feeling sleep deprived and a wreck. Maybe it’s when the grocery store clerks stop asking her for ID when she’s buying wine. Or it could be the first time she’s called “Ma’am” (I remember the first time for me—it was at the Perryville Exit tollbooth on 95). Sometimes it’s as simple as gaining a few pounds, going up a size, opening her closet, and finding nothing to wear.
All women go through this, often many different times over their lives. Sometimes it can feel like a mid-life crisis, only you feel like you’re having one every month or sometimes every week.
So that’s where I find myself this month. Up ten pounds (Ack! I’m embarrassed to even write that!), nothing to wear, looking rough around the edges, hair’s a wreck, teeth look crooked and yellow, skin is full of blemishes and scars. I won’t go on, but you get the picture. And for those of you who see me often, you’ll probably assert it’s not really that bad, but for all intents and purposes, this is how I feel.
Regardless of how neurotic and self-damaging this kind of thinking is, the scary part is what I considered doing to try make myself feel better.
This downward spiral started about a month ago at my annual ‘well-woman’ check—you know, what they call the appointment for women who are not going to have anymore kids. It’s vaguely disguised because the doctor doesn’t want to call it what it really is for the next ten years: menopause watch. An hour later, I was dressed, albeit still feeling rather slippery in my nether regions (what do these doctors use, and why is it so persistent?). Walking out of the appointment, it hit me that I had just signed myself up for some elective surgery.
The next week, I was getting my teeth cleaned. I love my dentist. He’s not ten years out of dental school, charming, and never starts a sentence with, “At your age…” Anyway, at my request, this patient young thing spent ten minutes talking to me about cosmetic options—veneers, whitening, gap filling. Sadly, my smile is the one thing I’ve always loved about myself, but it turns out that veneering that big Ronald McDonald grin would cost a fortune. Big teethy smiles equal lots of visible teeth to veneer.
Wondering that afternoon how I would convince my husband that I really needed to spend over $10,000 to get a perfect smile, I recalled a similar conversation with a friend a few months ago. She didn’t seem to have much trouble convincing her husband that a tummy tuck was the way to go. I wondered if I couldn’t get Jorge to spring for the teeth, would he consider some other work? Maybe I’d have more leverage with a lift of some kind since he probably spends more time staring at my butt than my teeth. Actually, maybe not. Maybe like every other man, he spends more time looking at my smiling face when he’s not checking out other women’s rears on the sly. Either way, I think I’d have an easier time convincing him to spring for the lift or tuck. After all, have you ever heard someone say, ‘he’s a teeth man?’
So I found myself in the unfortunate situation this week of feeling mildly depressed over a bunch of silly little things, frustratingly researching the scary downsides of surgeries and procedures and even gel manicures, and knowing in the back of my mind that none of them would really make me happy. I know there should be an insert/sidebar here about self-acceptance, beautiful on the inside, yadda, yadda, but that’s for a different blog. At this time, I just had to get out of my yoga pants and into my jeans.
So I did what any rational woman would do in a similar situation: I ate.
Warm baguettes with soft butter, homemade apple cobbler (for breakfast?!), dark chocolate, or any chocolate for that matter, Ben and Jerry’s Fudgey Candy Bar Cookie Dough Nutty Overload.
Screw the yoga pants. They’re comfortable and trimming with their dark color and flared cut.
Unfortunately, things were going from bad to worse.
By now it was Friday. I had to meet friends for drinks in Georgetown that night. I had to face the reality that yoga pants are just not evening wear, particularly in Georgetown. And even if I had $10,000 to spend…that wasn’t going to do me any good this afternoon.
Nursing my ridiculous woes over a pumpkin latte, I saw a picture of myself flash up on the digital frame in my dining room. The photo was from this past spring, a short six months ago. I looked young. Much younger. And thin. Much thinner. But all that aside, what I really noticed was my hair. It actually was highlighted, cut stylishly and blown out in a smooth, finished look.
I immediately called my stylist. Not deterred by the lack of Friday appointments for highlights, I found myself sitting in a drive-up strip mall parking space, in front of a Hair Cuttery. I knew it was a risk, but I reasoned I had lots of hair. The worst that could happen if this went wrong is that after a repair job at my regular stylist, I’d have a bob instead of hair that fell well below my shoulders. So I walked in. The lady was cranky. She told me about three times in her thick Eastern European accent that my hair had three inches of growth at my roots and looked terrible and needed to be highlighted. Today. By her. It’s one thing to have some random lady cut your hair, but I can’t trust highlights to a stranger. I declined, politely at first and then eventually with a sternness matching her own directness.
After forty minutes, she turned me around in the chair. I looked at the woman in the mirror. No perfect teeth, no nip or tuck, no Botox or peel. Just me, with straight, healthy-looking (highlight-needing) hair. Thirty dollars later, I walked out and wondered if this wasn’t what I had needed all along. It seemed rather shallow, but still amazed me that a $30 haircut and blowout could change my whole outlook.
I know that $30 can’t usually solve life’s problems. In fact, it can often solve very little and sometimes make things worse. Case in point being that between the Ben & Jerry’s and wine, I spent well over $30 this past week. But there’s something beautiful about someone else taking over, doing something for you like brushing your hair, paying attention to every strand, looking at you closely and making you feel beautiful again. No, this is not a promo piece for the Hair Cuttery, but it is a little nudge to every women who reads this to find something to do that’s kind for yourself. And I’m not talking sitting with a cup of tea and reading People magazine. Find some way to really pamper yourself, have someone else care for you, look at you, obsess about only you, even if it’s just for a short time.
And then go home, slip out of the yoga pants for an even more comfortable pair of PJ bottoms, and know that you have great hair (or nails). Know that really nothing that big has changed; you haven’t gone down a clothing size, you don’t have a perfect Chicklet smile. But you do have a quiet message taking root deep down inside that you are worth pampering and that you can pull yourself out of a rut with something much simpler than a tummy tuck.