Monday, July 15, 2013

You cut your hair!

It's a weird sort of night.  I came home from work earlier than usual: all my families seem to be on vacation, as I seem to have a relatively light week coming up.  (Although, now that I've said it, I've probably just jinxed myself).  At any rate, after coming home, I took the dog out, ate some dinner, got changed, and laid down on the floor to play with the dog.  I woke up about an hour and a half later.  I always have vivid dreams, but if I take a nap, I nearly always have some crazy weird dream that further disorients me.  I'm now in that post-nap, grumpy and disoriented state, trying to sort out the fantasy from reality.  Also, almost 2 hours on the floor is a little rough on the neck and shoulder blades.  Contacts were not meant to be napped in.  I'm not a fan.  We'll blame it on the heat.

So now, here I am at 9:15, feeling vaugely disoriented and grumpy.  I had all sorts of plans for tonight that have been put on hold as I try to figure out what to do next and where I go from here.  There are notes to be written and dishes to be washed, but my brain is still stuck trying to remember snippets of the dream that are escaping me, trying to analyze them and have them make sense so I can move forward.  They won't make sense, I can assure you...but I always like to try, otherwise, it leaves me feeling incomplete.

I didn't like naps when I was a baby, and I certainly am not a fan now.  (I know, who doesn't like naps, right?  I like the idea, for sure, but in all actuality, they turn out to be more trouble than their worth).

Anyway, I'm also thinking about my hair.  Or rather, I'm not thinking about my hair, I'm thinking about people's reactions to my hair.  On a whim yesterday, I decided I was going to get my hair cut -- and got about 7 inches taken off.  It's not that I haven't had short(er) hair before - I have, but it's been a while.  I'm not a fan of drawing attention to myself.  If it's a planned sort of "drawing attention" (like public speaking, etc), that's fine.  But other random things that draw attention to me?  I'm not a fan.

I'm not a fan to the point that when I do something like get my hair cut, I weigh "how much of a reaction is it going to get from other people, and how willing am I to put up with that right now?" in my decision making.  Is that weird?  I'm pretty sure that's weird.  It's not like I now have a mohawk, or like I also happened to dye it purple....I just got it cut, like any other normal person cuts their hair (not that mohawks and purple hair aren't normal-- just saying that it's not like I totally went outside my character).  I just don't like that type of attention.

As an aside, these little things can be a big deal, too, when working with children with autism.  Their need for routine and sameness can extend to their need for people to look the same.  For about two months after I got contacts, one of my favorite long-term clients continued to state throughout the session, "Uh-oh...Dr. glasses!  No glasses, Dr. Auto! glasses.  Where-a glasses, Dr. Auto?  Where-a glasses?  At home?  Glasses home?  In-a car?  Broken?  All done?  Glasses all done?"  One of my other (highly verbal) clients also perseverated on the lack of glasses: "Huh," he said, "you're still not wearing your glasses.  I think maybe you like the contacts better.  Do you like the contacts better?  I think you like them better.  You used to wear glasses but now you wear contacts.  It's different.  You look different without your glasses.  I think I liked your glasses better.  I think maybe sometimes you'll still wear your glasses.  Do you think so?  Do you think maybe sometimes you'll still wear them?  If you don't feel like wearing your contacts, I bet.  I bet that's when you'll wear your glasses, right?  Is that right, Dr. Auto?"

So, today at work, everybody made the obligatory, "you cut your hair!" comment.  Given that I took 7 inches off, it's not like there is really a question about's not exactly what you would call subtle.  Then there are all the follow-up questions: what made you do it? Do you like it? Have you had short hair before?  Did you dye it?  It looks darker/lighter/highlighted/different.  It makes you look younger/older/different.  It makes your face look thinner/tanner/different.  It makes your eyes look prettier/bigger/greener/different.  The opinion follows: it looks cute/nice/professional.  I like it/love it/think it was a good decision.

These are 100% nice things to say.  Nobody said, "geeze, that was a bad move," or "hopefully it grows fast, right?"  And honestly, I like it.  It's not like I hate it and everybody giving me positive feedback on it is pissing me off because I hate it.  I just don't like the discussion.

As I write this, I think there are several reasons behind my thoughts on this.

I grew up in a family where decisions about what I do with/to my body were a big deal, and everybody seemed to have an opinion that could override my own.  Decisions about how to wear/cut/style my hair were a big deal, and the decision wasn't really mine.  There were/are always comments about how another person looks, their hairstyle choice, their clothing choice, etc.  I'm used to these conversations happening below the surface: the real meaning occurs below the content of the speech in the tone and inflection used.  In the frequency with which the conversation arises.  In the suggestions that follow.  For example, the comment would sound like, "oh, you got your hair cut!  Well...that certainly is a...a change.  Where did you go?  Are you sure you want to go there again?  You know, the place that I go is really good, it's in the shopping center by the Weis, and I know that if you go and tell Mandy that you're my daughter, she would be SO THRILLED to meet you."  Or like this: "huh, that was an interesting choice of length.  You know, you and I have a similar face shape, and I always tell them X, Y, and Z so that it doesn't accent my forehead quite as much.  Just a thought." 

In my extended family, the comments are just weird.  Like, you get your hair cut and everybody starts to comment on how your ears are a nice shape.  I'm not kidding, that actually happened.  As in, Jewish grandmother sounding voice saying, "Ohhhhh my Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad, just look at your ears.  They are nice ears.  You're lucky you have nice shaped ears.  I never did have a nice shape to my ears, but you!  Look at those ears!"  On the other side of the family, they're a little more direct: "Well...uh...what made you decide to get your hair cut, hun?  Huh.  Okay...well, you know, I'm pretty good at helping people with little touch-ups on their hair-dos when they don't turn out quite right.  Do you want a little touch-up?  No?  Well how about a nice barrette?"

So.  When people comment on my hair (or whatever), I always feel like I'm waiting.  I'm listening between the lines for what you're REALLY saying to try to discern how you really feel about it.  It's not that it matters.  I don't really care.  But I'm waiting.  I suspect I'm not alone in this.

Also - why?  Why, with everything in the world is there to talk about, are we all so obsessed about talking to each other about our appearances?  It is your decision and no one else's how you decide to look, dress, wear your hair/make-up/lack of make-up.  What you do with your body and your skin is your decision only, and I just don't know that it's my or anyone else's place to pass judgment on it.

I'm aware, as I write that, that what other people hear as "compliments" sometimes sounds like "judgment" to my ears.  Am I alone in this?  How do we remove the judgment piece in the exchange when we are giving the compliment/comment?  How can we remove it from our ears when we are the recipient?  What would change if we never commented about each others' appearance?  Is that even possible?

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