They say that as you get older, you lose certain abilities. I lost the ability to accessorize….and dress myself. Actually, I’m not sure I ever had that ability to begin with. I might have. Maybe some day I’ll casually come across it when I wear an old coat and check the pockets. But one thing is for sure, it’s definitely gone.

I’ve never been a girly-girl, but I do have a certain appreciation for a well put-together look. I grew up a tomboy, and while girls at school would compare their sticker collections or dress and re-dress the dolls they had tucked away in their backpacks, I was out on the play field with the boys trying to out-run the Hagen boys during kick-ball. I preferred overalls to dresses and was a mass of scabby knees and bruises. Life was awesome.

The problem with being a tomboy is that for many, there comes a time when you don’t want to be a tomboy any more. You develop this interest in being clean, looking nice, and wearing something “pretty”. However, friends and siblings start to tease you because you’re trying to break out of the box they’ve placed you in, and then you have to beat them up for it (reaffirming everything they already think about you), and then it becomes a vicious circle until the social structure is turned up-end. In this case, that means junior high or even high school.

However, by the time tomboys reach those grades, they are already a few years behind in their hand-to-eye make up coordination and figuring out the chemical formula for pairing which shoes with what purse. Amass onto that the additional litany of horrors that befall the fragile teenage existence: even more complicated social structures, hormones, skin issues, braces, and extreme gains in height.

I managed to avoid a lot of those problems by being a bit of an outcast. I liked weird things, weird music, and weird people. I wore second hand store cocktail dresses and performed bizarre experiments on my hair. I also possessed a rather evil tongue which made many persons wary of crossing me.

This dragged on into college that boasted even more strange dressing and a minor obsession with wearing all things black leather. My hair went from red to pink, to fuscia, to a lovely shade of cobalt blue, to no hair at all after a particularly rousing game of “Truth or Dare”.

It was around this time that I submitted myself to the care and tutelage of Mrs. B. I used babysit her son when I was a teen and had a great admiration for her. She was exotic, well-dressed, bohemian, and the epitome of everything feminine. She was a retired competitive ballroom dancer and could probably run a mile in her stiletto heels (she was only 5’2) and despite surgery removing a thyroid gland, (and half her neck) she was so incredibly poised and well-dressed, that the scar gave off a hint of seductiveness. Men literally stopped to watch her walk by.

She taught me about makeup. She taught me about clothes. She managed to get me to go back to being a redhead and found me a hairdresser to get my tresses under control. She taught me patience in pulling together “a look”. She taught me to take the time to care. She taught that femininity is an art and one must always practice their art. And for a while, about 5 or 6 six years, I looked pretty good.

We fell out of touch, I’m sad to say. I moved from the area, and I’ve slowly fallen into the state I am in, which I can hardly describe. Give me a pair of khakis and a black shirt and I’m set for life. When I manage to do my hair, it looks okay, but I can never be bothered to show up for work with eye makeup on (I save that until after the first cup of coffee and then dash into the ladies). I’ve lost the required patience. I find that some days I just don’t care.

And I miss that. I miss caring.

I was never the slave to fashion that Mrs. B was, but I did manage to find an equilibrium for a while. Now, I’m lucky if I can find a ponytail holder to pile my mess of hair on top of my head. I don’t necessarily want to go back to what I was like before, because for some people (like me) tying to look nice is the equivalent of a full-time job. It doesn’t come naturally. I will always have to work at it. But I do want to regain a sense of balance. I think that might be because on some level, it means I’m putting myself first, which I don’t often do these days.

So tomorrow, I start with the mane. I’m going to start doing something with this mess on top of my head. I don’t what, maybe cut it all off, or not, but I’m going to address the issue. That, and eye makeup. I promise to start putting on my eye makeup before I leave the house. If I can keep this up for a few weeks, then maybe I’ll give the old wardrobe a good going through.

The key is to start small. I’m not trying to change the world. Just my hair.

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