My nine year old asked me a few weeks ago what color my hair REALLY is.
That question (as many of her questions do) shook me awake. Her question invited me into an exploration of my relationship with my own beauty and the cultural ideas of beauty that are everywhere - and the financial cost associated with chasing after a standard of beauty I can never meet.
Twenty five thousand, two hundred dollars is the rough estimate of how much I have spent on coloring my hair for the last eighteen years. Every six to eight week, for eighteen years at an average cost of $175.00. Certainly something I considered an investment in being acceptable to... who, again?
I've never been "beautiful".
Not in the way that magazines and society implies women *should* be. But I tried. Like many girls, I was ignored by boys, told I was ugly by men I trusted and loved, and generally felt as if I had to be as perfect as I possibly could be physically to be even a little bit desirable by society's standards - whatever the hell that really means.
At 26 years old, coloring my hair seemed less like a choice and more like something I had to do to be even marginally acceptable.
My husband, whom I've been married to for nearly twelve years, told me time and again I didn't need to color my hair - that I'm beautiful, period, dot. (Good man, that one.) But I didn't believe him. Images of perfect blondes and sultry brunettes with silk hair and perfect skin wafted up in my imagination and I would scoff and say, "Sure. You just don't want me to spend the money."
$25,000 later, I'm asking different questions.
The standard of beauty that women are subtly (or not so subtly) told to strive for is, most of us know, complete bullshit. And knowing that doesn't stop us from willingly paying the colorist, the stylist, the cosmetic counters and the plastic surgeons a shit ton of money - a quick google search showed that in 2011 the cosmetic industry generated a whopping $63 Billion in revenue in the US alone.
Societal norms affect our purchasing power
And not necessarily in ways that are truly empowering for women - financially, spiritually, culturally or otherwise. Here are some of the conclusions I've come to after observing my own relationship with my looks and coloring my hair for so many years.
- The 'beauty' industry has a vested interest in women feeling unattractive with a deep fear of aging. It also smells like something concocted to be a grand distraction for women. Keep women focused on attaining impossible standards of beauty and womanhood instead of using their whole heart and mind and considerable financial power to create wealth or have epic life experiences or pool resources to elect politicians that actually have women's equality as a meaningful part of their agenda.
- Every woman is beautiful. Old is not a dirty word. Youthful is not the end all be all of beauty. I came across this board on Pinterest the other day and I was captivated. The obsession with staying youthful is complete garbage. It is designed to drain self-esteem and our wallets. I'm certainly not interested in prematurely aging myself BUT I'm 44 and you know what? I LOOK 44. Because I'm 44. Why is it a compliment to be told you look younger? Why is it derogatory to be told you look old? I see beauty in every woman who is living a purposeful, joy-filled life no matter WHAT her age.
- Yes, it is powerful for a woman to know she is beautiful and to be in love with who she is. Whether a woman colors her hair or not, whether she wears makeup or not, whether wrinkled or smooth, fat or skinny. Beautiful. Powerful. A woman who knows her own beauty and strength is a force to be reckoned with. If I don't care about standards of beauty then I am free to be who I am. I am free to spend my time, energy and money as I choose.
An Inner Change of Topic
When I decided to stop coloring my hair, for the first time in my life I felt beautiful. Like really, really beautiful. My unique kind of beautiful - not "I need to meet an outside standard of beautiful I can't ever meet." But lit up with joy from the inside beauty. Embodying the true nature of me. Powerful. Present. Wowza.
When a woman knows she is beautiful, the conversation is no longer about beauty (which it shouldn't have been in the first place).
Happily, over the next eighteen years, I'll have an extra $25,000 to direct in ways that feel absolutely aligned with living my wildest, freest most amazing life - with MUCH less of that niggling crap about my beauty and acceptability draining my energy or my pocketbook.
The Global Invitation
All the choices we make with our money and our energy are best made from a place of love and joy. I was coloring my hair out of a sense of obligation and wanting to be "acceptable" (I didn't even hope for beautiful). I totally get that many women color their hair because they love it. Listen, I love massages, I adore my minimalist (but expensive) makeup and I won't be giving up pedicures anytime soon. I also fully intend to enjoy my haircuts and take exquisite care of myself. THAT feels like love and devotion to my natural beauty.
I would invite you to bring awareness to where you spend your financial resources and ask yourself WHY you choose to spend your money in that way. Is it REALLY aligned with your values and priorities? Or, are you spending money out of obligation to be/look a certain way?
When I see you, I see beautiful. I see wisdom. I see intelligence. I see love. I see power. I see nature at her best.
Don't let anyone sell you a different story.