So, I shaved my head.

Head ShavedIt’s not alopecia (but good for you, Ricki Lake!)

I’m not having a breakdown (remember Britney’s bald moment?)

 I’m not ill (fingers crossed, though cancer may get us all eventually.) 

And I’m not trying to make a political or power statement. 

What I am is a 49 year old woman working in the advertising industry in NYC. I am a woman who started dying my roots before I had gray hair and had no idea what my ‘real’ hair looked like. I am a woman who spends thousands of dollars each year to look younger, better, and different than I am. 

A few years ago, I started to see and feel the real signs of aging – sagging neck and jowls, constant dry skin, waking up in the middle of the night feeling like someone turned the oven on, and an inability to power through even the slightest hangover or exercise injury. But still people would say, “I can’t believe you’re 40+ years old! I can’t believe you have a son in college!” And my little ego would perk up and it would validate the work I was putting into looking young. 

My industry, like many, is not kind to aging women, in particular. And in our society, you’re forgotten, dismissed, literally not paid attention to once you are no longer aspiring to be a beautiful young thing with tits up to here and an ass you can bounce a quarter on. Though, to be fair, I do still have a fine ass. (Thanks yoga and genetics!) So I get it – we work hard to stay relevant, or at least look like we’re trying to. Not to mention all the work we do to our faces to stay ‘youthful’! But there’s a difference between a nice hydrated dewy face and spending thousands to literally keep your chin up.

Listen, I fully support anyone who dyes and decorates their hair, wears wigs, cuts it all sorts of ways. I just hope they’re doing it because they want to – not because they think they need to. 

For me, though, I’m tired. And curious. What would it look like if I was just myself for a while? If I came to love the extra five pounds I’ve been carrying around my gut? If I accepted my graying hair and loss of collagen in my neck? What could I do with the energy spent trying to be someone else?

I know it can be difficult to live a life where people question your decisions, when the things you know are right for you aren’t right for most. Especially for the people who love you. But I’ve been doing this since I was a child. The decisions that feel right in my gut, in my soul, have rarely been traditional. I’m not saying they’re interesting. They’re just different. 

And I don’t want an ordinary life. I don’t want to look like or be like anyone else. And for maybe the first time in my life, I give zero fucks (ok, maybe I give a little fuck, but I am pushing that voice down,) about what others think. Of course I care about what my husband and son think but all I can do is hope they love me, as I am.

This act feels rebellious, yes, but it also feels natural. Right. For now. For me. I can see my gray! I can see my misshapen head. I can feel my scalp. And my curiosity is satiated, for now. When I look at the mass of hair in my trash bin, I don’t know that person any more. That isn’t me. 

This is me.

Or maybe I’m just bored.

Forgive yourself

When I began learning meditation, about 20+ years ago, the school of thought was that you could force your brain to be silent – that is how enlightenment would come. Stare at the flame of a candle, think blank thoughts… when I hear this now, it seems preposterous. Through decades of research, we have a better understanding of the human brain. Learning to achieve a cessation of mind chatter, a silencing, is like training a puppy. Which, anyone who has had a puppy knows, can be frustrating, annoying, and requires patience and consistency. And now that mediation, yoga, mindfulness, and any activity that is supposed to bring about a greater sense of self is all the rage in the Western world, the pressure to do so – especially here in our United States of Competition, is great and inevitably linked to failure. In that mindset, if you’re unable to achieve a pretzel body and a quiet mind, its more likely you’ll give up and go eat a bagel. At least, that’s what I do. Along with some general beating up on one’s self. ‘It’s not for me, I’m not good enough, I can’t do it,’ yada yada. What we don’t learn, what we can’t learn until someone has brought us up this way or taught us, is that it’s alright to forgive yourself. It’s imperative, actually.

I read an article recently about the founder of Spanx. When she was growing up, at the dinner table her father would ask what she had done to fail that week. He’d high-five her if she had a failure to share, defining failure as ‘not trying’ instead of ‘not succeeding’. We can’t grow or learn without struggle, and failures. And so, I forgive myself – for not meditating the last couple of days, for not making a blog entry yesterday, for overreacting to something my stepdaughter said last week, for not communicating to my man about my needs, for making a social faux pas with a friend. I used to hang on to all of these failures. Each and every one, and they would pile up and I’d feel that I couldn’t possibly achieve anything – good relationships, self-care, progress in my writing, or ever truly realizing what good I am to the world. It is a work in progress to let these things go, to realize I was lazy – which is a quality I abhor in others – and that everything is still going to be all right. But I’m trying.