Maiming Myself

I intentionally maimed myself last week. At least, that’s what you’d think based on my decision to cut my hair short and go gray.

Yes, my hair is short. Yes, it’s getting gray. No makeup either! So sorry that an aging woman has invaded your view in her natural state.

Some feedback on my new look and my snarky internal monologue in response:

Them: “What did you do that for?” Me: “Just to mess with you.”

Them: “I didn’t recognize you.” Me: “I am an international woman of mystery.”

Them: “You look older.” Me: “This is what 50 looks like.”

Them: “You look younger.” Me: “Stop lying.”

Them: “You look like a totally different person.” Me: “Still just me. Sorry to disappoint.”

Them: “You’re so brave.” Me: “This is some serious Joan of Arc action up in here.”

Joan of Arc – historic patron saint of short-haired women who take no crap from anyone.

Them: “You’ll need a strong lip now.” Me: “Is GET LOST enough lip for ya?”

Them: “It’s…. cute…” Me: “You’re… full… of… it…”

Them: “Wow.” Me: “Yup.”

Them: “It’s good you have something on your forehead.” Me: “I’m glad I covered up enough of my head for you.”

Them: “It’s a mature look.” Me: “It’s Judi Dench drag.”

Judi Dench, today’s saint of short-haired women who don’t give a care.

Them: “You have the bone structure for it.” Me: “Yes. I have bones in my face.”

Them: “Are you going to keep this or let it grow?” Me: “I think I’ll go shorter next time.”

Them: “You are just as pretty.” Me: “Just wait until I get my skull tattoos.”

Them: “Are you all right?” Me: “Short haircuts aren’t just for cancer survivors and brain tumor sufferers anymore!”

Them: “You’ll have to get trims more often now.” Me: “YAY!”

Them: “You’re like a pixie now.” Me (clapping my hands): “I DO believe in fairies!”

Fairy, pixie – tomato, to-mah-to.

Them: “Men hate short hair on women.” Me: “My dream of repelling men finally comes to fruition!”

I suppose I could unpack all this, but really I can sum up my decision in two words – and you can quote me on this – “Screw it.”

Many people, in the United States anyway, have come to believe that women and men are equals. Most people would deny they are sexist. Women are no longer widely scoffed at for wearing pants, or playing sports, or having “manly” jobs, or many other things once viewed solely in the domain of men.

But get a short haircut? The sexism flag flies free!

To be fair, many people said they liked it. So that’s nice. But here’s the thing – I don’t care if you like it or not. I didn’t get this haircut for you. I got it for me.

From the moment females are born, they are conditioned to believe that their looks are the most important thing – more important than intelligence, character, personality, drive, empathy – anything. Pretty is paramount. Don’t believe me? Watch how people behave around little girls – always commenting on their hair, bodies, dresses, grace – anything that can be seen and judged will be seen and judged. People will try to “fix” what they think is lacking. And that “fixing” never goes away. Ever. The beauty and fashion industries churn it up nonstop.

An interesting thing happens after 40, though. The conversation subtly starts to shift from “looking your best” to “not looking old.” Because old is the worst. Old is unforgivable. Old is a reminder of death. Look old? Jump into your coffin, already. I’ll see you there!

So Then This Happened…

How’s your summer going? Things have been busy here. In no particular order:

  1. Sewed a summer wardrobe.

PatternReview.com had a summer contest to sew so-called “Endless Combinations” where each item has to go with two other items. I sewed eight things in all, built around my need for some professional-looking shirts for work videoconferences and quick comfy shorts and skirts for decent work-at-home looks.

I didn’t win the contest and didn’t try, which is a big step for me. Rather, I competed for fun and really enjoyed it as it fit with my plans and needs. I sewed 100% from stash too in summery hues of aqua and teal, white, black and gray. If you’re interested, the patterns are (left to right):

A: The Creative Cate Top from Style Arc in a poly knit that includes all my wardrobe’s colors, finished on the inside to help the cowl neck keep its shape.

B: Jalie Elonore pull-on shorts in black stretch twill – the slim fit goes with all the untucked tops in this collection and makes a great short for biking on my lunch break or after work.

C: A white poplin cotton top from McCall’s 2094 coordinates with anything! It includes pleated breast pockets from Butterick 5526, so that I can wear it with pocketless RTW skirts not part of this collection.

D: Style Arc’s Gorgeous Gore Skirt is in teal ponte. I added pockets that nestled into the gores to support whatever’s inside without stretching out.

E: MariaDenmark’s Edith Blouse in crisp white cotton with a black and teal retro print, is finished with a bias hem for extra structure and polish.

F: The Jalie Drop-Pocket Cardigan in drapey aqua rayon jersey – coordinates with all the tops and bottoms.

G: Sewaholic’s Alma Blouse, in white and teal cotton lawn, is finished with French seams. The sash can also be used as a belt with the shorts.

H: Mock-wrap shorts from Vogue 9246 in a charcoal gray linen-rayon blend. I added belt loops and rear pockets for polish and utility.

2. I got a haircut and went gray.

Covid-19 finally convinced me to break loose from the tyranny of chemical hair dyes and hair straighteners.

I had not been to the hairdresser since February. My roots grew out a few inches. My annual straightening could not be done because salons here are only allowed to do basic cuts and colors. I had been slicking my hair back into a ponytail each day ( see pictures above).

Finally I went to the salon and got this:

My husband hates it, but then I explained to him that this haircut literally and figuratively was a weight off my shoulders, and I think he got it. Or at least accepted it. Hey, it’s only hair, it grows, and I can always dye it and grow it out.

So those are the fun things around here.

Some not-fun things have included:

3. Activist activities.

I’ve read and attended lectures about racism. Learning about racism has taught me a few things I’d like to share. One big issue is the way white people tend to regard racism – they tend to think racism is only super obvious hatred for Black people -like Klan-level, cross-burning types of hatred – and ignore subtler racist acts. It’s all racism, people. If you don’t know what microaggressions are, for example, that’s a good place to start to learn, identify bad behavior and change your own.

White people also tend to ignore racism when they see other people or situations perpetuating it. We tend to think it’s not our job to speak up. Of course it is! Say something! A couple of recent examples from my life:

At the grocery store before the 4th of July, I saw a boxed fireworks kit that had obvious racist imagery under the name “Savage Fireworks”. I am not going to post a picture of it here, but trust me, it was disgusting. I called over the (white) store manager to complain. She thought I was complaining about selling fireworks at all, and I had to literally point to the box and say “That is disgustingly racist and you should remove it immediately.” The look on her face when she finally saw it was priceless. She got a shopping cart and starting loading up the boxes. I certainly hope she didn’t put them back on the floor later but I didn’t check to be sure.

At the physical therapy gym, there are a bunch of solar-paneled bobbleheads in a sunny window. There are animal figures, cartoon characters, holiday-themes, and, yes, a “hula girl” complete with grass skirt and coconut-shell bra. I asked the therapist, a young white woman, if she thought it was appropriate. “I think it’s kind of cute,” she said. I asked her if she thinks her Asian or Polynesian patients would find it cute. She just looked at me, uncomprehending. Then I said, “Would you still find it cute if it was a Black woman instead of a Polynesian woman, or would you then see that it’s offensive?” She looked at it again and said “oh, I see what you mean.” She put it in a desk drawer.

These are pretty small examples of the kind of casual racism I am talking about – certainly not on the scale of police murdering Black people in the street, but still harmful and perpetuating stereotypes.

Also, I wrote emails to La Mia Boutique and Burda Style, asking them why they don’t use nonwhite models and telling them I won’t buy any more issues or promote the patterns I have sewn until they do.

I also was going to email StyleArc, which uses illustrations, not models. The illustrations are always of white women. Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot of all their patterns. Can you find any nonwhite women in these illustrations?

But lo and behold, how did StyleArc promote its latest dress pattern?

So instead I sent a email commending Style Arc – saying it was “about time” and hoping to see many more Black models.

I have not received a reply from any of these companies, so we’ll see.

A sewing friend from Canada took issue with my emails, saying that it’s unfair that someone from the United States (me) expects sewing pattern companies from other countries (Italy, Germany, Australia) to confirm to what she called “American sensibilities.” Guess what? There’s racism and bigotry in other countries. There are nonwhite people and models in other countries. These companies have nonwhite customers. Nonwhite people are people and must be included, not pandered to with tokenism or dismissed with Continental shrugs. I also expect pattern companies to show models of different ages, body types, abilities and other dimensions of our human race. It’s the right thing to do.

4. Health crap.

My work to fix my shoulder and posture was really paying off earlier this summer. Through daily exercises and stretches, I had leveled off my shoulders quite a bit and was standing taller:

And then I started feeling pain in my right knee. I put off going to the doctor because of Covid-19, but finally I went, had an MRI, and found out that I have some gnarly arthritis in that knee. So then I got the shoe orthotics, the physical therapy and the dietary supplements “for joint health.”

Turning 50 is a bitch.

“True Style Comes from Knowing Who You Are”

I will probably work at home through the end of the year. Without my job in New York City, I find myself adrift…

adrift

My “work” style and my “home” style are, well, two different styles. What’s why the same person who made this:

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At home

Also made this:

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At the office

Its’ said that true style comes from knowing who you are. So who am I?

I’ve never really felt that I fit in at the office, but I have played the game well enough. Everyone in New York dresses in black – often head to toe, year-round – so the “edgy work look” like the above was born. I needed to fit in and look tough. Eat broken glass and rusty nails for breakfast? You bet I do.

At home, though, I like more variety in color and style. I am not really an “edgy” person, though I like some edgy things. For home clothes, I like things that are clean and simple – hold the fripperies. I like nature, science, art – geeking out is a favorite past-time. Eat homemade yogurt and home-grown berries for breakfast? You bet I do.

I don’t know who I am.

I somehow am both of these people.

So I have two styles that don’t play well together.

I need a few things for spring and summer. Decided to make May “The Month of Bottoms” and June “The Month of Tops” for efficiency’s sake. A comb through my stash, however, revealed a problem. Most of the fabric was more in the “edgy” than “non-edgy” buckets.

I had three yards of these two fabrics earmarked for dresses. Don’t need dresses now – maybe skirts instead?

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For tops, I guess I can make some black or white T-shirts or simple button-downs. That’s exciting.

And I need new shoes. Oy. And a haircut. Double-oy. My roots are grown out 2 inches, and I am very tempted to get a short haircut and stop dyeing it – that is the home “me” but definitely not the office “me.”

The longer-term issue is: how can I get a job and a life that better complement each other? Which of these people am I, really, or am I a third person who doesn’t show up in either? Is 50 too late to “find yourself?”

The Tyranny of Hair Dye

You know things are bad when I start touching up my gray roots with brown mascara.

Every month, I go through this phase when my hairline isn’t gray enough yet to shell out for a color touch-up at the salon, yet I can see it and it looks awful – like some old Frankenstein staples on the crown of my head.

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SCARY!

I resort to various cover-ups. I can part my hair in a different place. That usually buys me a few days. A ponytail looks OK too, although not for the office. And then I hit the area with some mascara or brow powder… just to get through the last few days until my salon appointment.

I used to pull out gray hairs when I saw them. That was a long time ago. If I did that now, I’d be bald.

I used to color my hair myself at home. That worked pretty well at first, but it smells bad and I ruined quite a few towels, pillowcases and shirts. Over time, my hair color became this strange mix of layers, like sedimentary rock formations at the Grand Canyon.

Nowadays, my stylist Tiffany is happy to take two hours of my time and $100 out of my pocket for a touch-up every six weeks.

Once in a while, pondering the hours and the expense, I consider going gray. Then I get together with my friend, Sharon, who said “fuck it” when her kids went to college and let her gray hair grow out. She looks old. She doesn’t care. I wish I could be as zen about it as she is.

Almost every man I know my age has some gray hair. Unless they’re bald, in which case they’d probably take gray hair, no questions asked. (File this in the “Count Your Blessings” bucket.) I know one man who dyes his hair. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, and then I ran into him at a party. His hair looked so ridiculous I nearly had a stroke from holding in the laughter.

I guess I will dye a little longer. Maybe say “fuck it” when I’m 50?