Saturday, February 03, 2007

Body Image

I've been reading Crazy Aunt Purl's recent posts about body image and size. Laurie's been sharing some really profound thoughts about how our size affects how we are treated and how we look at the world. Definitely worth reading.

This of course has made me reflect on my own experiences; not so much with size but with outward appearances. I've always had long curly hair and I can remember turning 30 and thinking I was "too old" for long hair. Not to mention that I was working in the foundry which would get to a gazillion degrees in the summertime and all the guys would shave their heads. So I cut my hair. Short. Now remember that I was working in a very large male dominated factory where we'd all wear grimey coveralls and workboots. When I cut my hair the reactions were amazing! I've always been the type of person who smiles and nods at people as I pass them in the aisleway. When I went to work with my new "short doo" the guys either walked right past without even seeing me or they'd come up to me and say something like "Oh no! What did you do that for?!" with a whiny voice and that disappointed look on their faces. They'd proceed to let me know how disappointed they were that I had cut my hair. Yes, MY hair; not theirs. I was dumbfounded! First at the fact that it made such a difference to them and second because they felt the need to share that with me and tell me what a mistake I had made. And I did feel like I'd made a mistake! I had no less that 20 guys tell me that the first day alone and it went on all week. I became invisible. Not just at work but out in the real world, going shopping or walking down the street. Men did not make eye contact with me. And it wasn't that I was looking to be hit on or anything like that. I was just used to men looking and smiling at me. I suppose that on some level it must have validated me.

Now here's what's even more amazing. I've always gotten along ok with the other women at work but with my job I only directly worked with men. I'd chat with the women in the locker room but that was about it. But once I had cut my hair the other women were much more friendly. I was complimented on my new look and it was like I had been given membership in a club. Women at work, women in stores, everywhere.

I did grow my hair back. For one because the short hair was actually hotter that the long hair when pulled into a ponytail. And two because it was my comfort zone; like a security blanket.

Now I've been going through this process again, only not so suddenly. With aging it's a gradual process so it's not always obvious at first when these changes are taking place. I don't spend a lot of "mirror time" and even when I do end up in front of one to brush my teeth or do my hair I'm always in a hurry so I don't dwell on the reflection there. But for the last number of years it's like I cut my hair all over again. It's not as drastic, as in the men that I know don't treat me any differently (maybe because they're getting old right along with me!) but I've become invisible to men that I don't know again. The difference is that this time I'm perfectly comfortable with that. It's almost a relief, like giving yourself permission to just be yourself. You know your value and your worth is no longer tied up in looking young and attractive, that you have value and worth far greater than something so fleeting as that. Other women are more into friendships as you get older; another valuable bonus. And the wonderful surprise of finding that younger women often actually value our experience and knowledge! No, I wouldn't want to turn the clock back for anything.

So what do you think; is 45 too old for long hair? ;)


Kare said...

I hear you on this post, Jacqui. I used to know which men were gay because they didn't oggle me. (isn't that awful) Seems like the majority of men are gay now.
; ) I had a hard time at work with other women, too. Now I have many more female friends. I love being older. ok, well, not LOVE it, but in some ways it's easier. There is so much less pressure and less cattiness with other women.
And no, 45 is NOT too old for long hair!

beeryarngirl said...

45 is not too old. I don't think there is an age that's "too old" for long hair. Who says you EVER have to have short hair? Not me.

Sauntering Soul said...

I could write a book on this subject I think. In fact I almost did write a book here in your comments last night but Blogger ate it so here is a short comment instead.

If you still want to wear you hair long when you're 95 then you should. There aren't a plethora of benefits to getting old(er), so we may as well take advantage of the one where we start caring a lot less about what everyone else thinks of us!

Tam said...

Great post! I think the answer to the too old for long hair question depends on each individual and their facial features.

knitty_kat said...

with personal experience, curl hair is best either long or short. In between rarely seems to work well. And age is only a number, it really shouldn't affect how you wear your hair?

I think as long as you are happy, that is all that counts.

BTW, I loved this post. The sh*t fairy has been following me around lately and this just made me think - who really gives a crap what anyone else thinks? Thanks!