The $25,000 Hole in My Budget

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$25,200.

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. 

xoxo.nona

19 comments

Thank you for this post, Nona. I get so angry thinking about the beauty, fashion, and weight loss industry's very real pull on women. We need to be constantly questioning it. And like you said -- if I still want the purple eyeshadow, and it's really for ME, then by all means. But if there's a sense of obligation or not-enough-ness without it, red flags are going up. And as a therapist working with women in their 20s-50s, I see it ALL the time...

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This was beautifully written. Thank you for you clarity and insights.

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Awesome post. My mother started coloring her hair (she went from brunette to blonde) when I was about 6 years old. She is still coloring her hair at 85. Watching my mother do this for so long, I decided at a young age that I would not color my hair and that I would age gracefully. I felt that my mother was more beautiful with her natural color. So my natural brown hair is highlighted with gray now. I have strong opinions that everyone is more beautiful with their natural hair color and love that you are going natural now too! My body image issues come and go. I find that when I get focused on my weight (I'm heavier in menopause than I was prior) it usually is a distraction to keep me from feeling some emotions that need to be felt. Once I have felt the emotions I'm relaxed about at being at my healthy naturall weight and appearance.

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Love, love, love this blog (and you!). It got me thinking about how much I've spent on my hair - really the only beauty spend I make (don't like pedicures or manicures and have the basics - eyeliner, lip solve and mascara in my make-up bag). I first colored my hair as a 21 yr old in Australia. I had always has shoulder length hair and it was pretty sun streaked after a summer in Australia and I chose to cut it short to a pixie cut for the first time since I was a child. All the sun streaked came out and I decided to put some back in. Over the years I've gone blonder and then darker again. I was blond as a child and wonder if my highlights remind me of that. Food for though and certainly a beautiful and thoughtful blog. Thanks so much Nona. xoxo

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Denise Canellos Jul 14, 2014 03:12am

Nona,I love this! You are beautiful - no matter what color your hair. I decided to not cover my gray, and I am feeling better and better about the decision every day. I don't know if I will always feel this way, but for now it feels right.

Women are constantly told we are not pretty, thin, good, or whatever enough, mostly so we will be motivated to buy stuff to "fix" what was never broken in the first place.

Very brave writing - thank you!

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Pleasure Reading 07.20.14 :: Mara Glatzel Jul 20, 2014 10:04am

[…] The $25,000 Hole in My Budget – a must read about getting real with your relationship with money. […]

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I came to this realisation in October 2012. I had been following a really careful elimination diet to try and isolate what was causing constant allergic reactions I was suffering. I had this glaring moment when I thought about how carefully I was choosing what I would put into my body when every six weeks I was putting a cocktail of chemicals onto my hair and skin. I've had more compliments on my hair since I stopped colouring than I've ever had. And quite apart from the money I save, I'm also getting back all that time at the salon that colouring entails. There is enormous freedom in making choices based on deeply held values.

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This + That: Women Who Are Doing Amazing Things In The World | Karen C.L. Anderson Jul 13, 2014 04:07pm

[…] is it a compliment to be told you look younger?” (The $25,000 Hole In My Budget by Nona […]

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Link Love (2014-07-24) | Becky's Kaleidoscope Jul 26, 2014 12:19pm

[…] 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 elect politicians that actually have women’s equality as a meaningful part of their agenda. The $25,000 Hole in My Budget – Nona Jordan […]

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Maggie McReynolds Jul 13, 2014 06:36am

Nona, this is so gorgeously written, and though I am in a different place with hair color at this point in my life, I love the point you're making about women chasing after something that doesn't resonate with them in order to please others. I stopped dressing like a "fat woman" (read: leggings and very large tunics) for similar reasons. No similar expense was involved, but I engaged in it for similar reasons; I wanted to be thinner, and I didn't want to "offend" anyone with overexposure to my unacceptable flesh. Interestingly, once I started dressing in a way that felt good to my body, I lost weight. As for hair, after a lot of years of giving myself bad dye jobs at home to save money, I am enjoying spending some of the money I make on making me feel gorgeous--and my hair color and highlights definitely do that for me. I'm enjoying the compliments and finally, for the first time, embracing my natural curls as opposed to blowing them straight. It feels a little like playing Barbies/dress-up, and it entertains me. I imagine I'll stop when it no longer does.

And when I do, I'll think of this wise post! I *do* know that when I make the decision to move on, I'll love my silver-haired self every bit as much.

Brava.

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Laura Wolfe Jul 13, 2014 05:54am

Love this Nona! I totally agree. I stopped coloring Jan 2013 and have no regrets - there are dozens of reasons it was a great decision. It's interesting how many women (friends and strangers both) want to discuss my choice. Some totally support it and envy my freedom from the salon while others have told me I really need to start coloring again. Not sure if I look wiser (I certainly look older) or if it communicates I am confident in who I am, but I really believe it has contributed to my success as a coach/consultant.

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Peggy Freeh Jul 13, 2014 01:54pm

Thank you so much for sharing this, Nona. I stopped coloring my hair at the beginning of last year. I was insecure about my appearance for as long as I can remember. In my second grade picture, I was already overweight with glasses and braces. The one thing I always got complimented on was my hair. It was always a beautiful red color ("like a copper penny" my mom always said). And when it started to turn white, I decided to dye it. I chose someone who did a great job, and I always got lots of compliments. But eventually, I saw that it wasn't worth the time and energy to me, and I let it go.

Now that my hair has grown out, I've gotten a ton a compliments on it. It's so much easier and I'm gladly spending that money in other ways that are important to me.

I so appreciate you encouraging women to identify what's really important to them, and spending their time, energy and money on that.

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Gorgeous Nona, you look lovely, and vibrant, and alive, and do not show the 'fading' that some humans do at 44 when they've exhausted or failed to nourish their life resources. I love your reflections here, and am delighted that you are reaping joy from your recent decision. Your hair is gorgeous, and will continue to be so as it emerges from its camouflage.I also really like your suggestion that the thousands of dollars spent on trying to please others through the needless spending on color (or whatever) could be freed to express our values in this amazing world: it needs our help, our dollars, our voices. Thank you for speaking your truth.

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Robyn - YES! There IS enormous freedom in making choices based on deeply held values! Celebrating you!

XO

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I love that you have come into your own beauty and power Peggy! Thank you for sharing your experience here. Big love!

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Maggie! I love that you are spending your money in ways that feel absolutely delicious to you! I am celebrating you and dressing in ways that feel good and coloring your hair in ways that promote a feeling of beauty and happiness! Thank you for commenting and sharing this perspective - it's important and I cherish you sharing it here.

XO

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Our Mothers are such amazing teachers, Gail!! I say yes to aging gracefully. Thank you for commenting and sharing your experience!

XO

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Laura,Thanks so much for commenting - I love that you feel the choice to go natural has contributed to your confidence and your success! What a testament to being ourselves as women.

It is fascinating that people have such strong opinions on hair and color, isn't it? To me, that really speaks to how brainwashed we all are into believing that we have to do things a certain way.

XOXO

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Thank you for your lovely comment, Laraine!! This was an oddly difficult post for me to write, so I am thrilled that you "heard" my main point - the waste of money and energy and attention when I am focused on maintaining a standard of beauty that isn't really mine and how freeing it's been to recognize that and shift it to make conscious choices for our lives and our world. May it inspire questioning and freedom for other women as well... xoxo.nona

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