I’m a pretty routine person.
During the work week, I wake up at the same time every day. Depending on my level of soreness, I have been going to the gym 3-4 days at 5:30 am. Once home, I begin my morning ritual: pee, start the shower, strip down, step on the scale, curse the scale, step off, immediately step on it again because maybe I read it wrong?, realize I did read it wrong and it actually went UP, curse the scale, angrily get into the shower, lather, rinse, repeat. I make a 12 cup pot of coffee in my trusty Mr. Coffee because it will inevitably get fucked up if I try to order it elsewhere. I pack my own lunches and snacks for work, mostly because I’m cheap, but also because I try to be healthy(ish). I leave the house at the same time, +/- three minutes to get to work on time.
I like predictability, order. Does that make me boring? Probably. I’ve never been a real risk taker because growing up I was taught to fear everything. I wasn’t allowed to eat hard candies for the perpetual reminder they would lodge in my throat and I would choke to death. I never tried drugs because they would kill me instantly. Driving through a major city? Oh, you better lock your doors because someone will 100% try to car jack you.
“It happened to me once, Marie! A man tried to open my car door and steal your brother when I was at a red light!” – actual quote from my mother.
Now that I’m a full-grown adult, I realize most of my childhood was reared in fear mongering, for lack of a better term. I don’t think it was intentional; I believe that my parents (mom in particular) believed these things would happen. It’s taken me a long time to understand these fears came from other places and manifested in neuroses. These fears were then transferred to me and have molded me into the mess I am today.
Because of my love of routine, I’ve had the same hair color and roughly same hair style for the past ohhhhhhhhhh 10+ years. My stylist is a miracle worker and I’m always being complimented on (spoiler alert!) how natural the red looks because I’m not, in fact, a natural red-head. My hair is basically the one thing attached to my body I don’t have many issues with. We’ve got a nice simpatico relationship for the most part. Sure, there are days when it’s unruly, but my hair has never made me question an outfit choice because it makes me look like a Puffalump. The tiny shreds of self-confidence I have comes from my hair.
This past Saturday, I was in the bathroom, getting ready for a show. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly experimenting with different make-up looks. It’s taken my 20+ years to realize that make-up can be fun and not just something I have to endure. While I was getting ready, I clipped my bangs back out of my face. After what felt like 2 hours, (but really only 25 minutes), I felt I had done an adequate enough job. Time to move to the easy part, my hair. When I took the clip out, my bangs basically stayed in the position they had been clipped in. Huh. I don’t know if it was the combination of the makeup and the way the hair fell, but I didn’t hate it. Not fully trusting my own eyes, I pinned my hair in place and set off to confirm the results with my boyfriend. I was met resounding approval and encouragement that yes, I should keep it like that. So, going against my normal routine, I obliged. It’s insane how a simple move of pushing back my bangs made me feel completely naked and vulnerable. It was weird, but it was also kind of exciting and fun. I resolved I would continue to work on this look because change is good.
This morning, I was feeling excited to try this out for work. I took my time, applied my makeup, and once again, pinned my bangs back. Success! I set off to work feeling good about myself. When I sat in my miserable cube on a Monday morning, I had a little smile on my face. I jumped into work mode with a new-found confidence; I was going to solve problems today! In fact, an issue had come in over the weekend that I needed to discuss with a particular coworker. I wavered slightly with the knowledge this person can be a bit prickly. No worries! Nothing was going to stop me today!
Paperwork in hand, head held high, I walked the three feet over to her cube. She was looking at her monitor and didn’t see me in the doorway. Giving a light knock to get her attention, she looked up and we locked eyes. This was my exact moment of defeat.
Hi ______. Do you have a minute to talk about this email?
Oh my GOD. You look SO MUCH younger with your hair pulled back. I mean, you have a pretty face, but you hide it behind all that hair.
No, really! It’s true!
I should have known this would happen. This wasn’t my first time at the rodeo with her. Just a few weeks ago, seeing a picture of me from Halloween, I was told three times how much thinner my face looked in the picture than in person. I just wanted to rip my hair down and skulk back to my desk.
Here’s the thing: I get that it was supposed to be a compliment, but it was a backhanded compliment. Emphasizing how much younger I look only makes me think of how terrible I must look all other days. People like this are the absolute worst to someone like me who does not go outside of comfort zones. Sure, it’s not the worst thing in the world to hear. It’s certainly not the best, either.