“If you see someone crying, ask them if it’s because of their haircut.”
– The Internet
Something that has become very apparent to me during this spending freeze is now that all my regular grooming appointments have been canceled, I am experiencing a gradual visual metamorphosis. My nails are self-painted, my eyebrows are taking on their natural form and my hair is less manageable and in need of some serious TLC.
As I’ve engaged in this exercise, I’ve begun wonder just how superficial I really am. What does it mean to be superficial? Where is the line between professional appearance and unnecessary grooming habits? It is an interesting internal debate to me, as I (historically)have never been one to engage in a laborious self maintenance program. Growing up, I was used to wearing my hair in a bun for dance so frequently that it became my go-to ‘do almost daily. This was accompanied by valuing function over fashion and, of course, a variety of graphic tees that I found especially amusing. I was also going through high school in the late 90s in the Central Valley of California, which I’d like to place partial responsibility for my lack of fashionable taste. I had eclectic input as to what my attire should be – a culmination of my older sister’s “cool skater friends” and the uber-girly fashions of my best amigos. I spent most of my college career in clothes that would comfortably layer over a leotard and tights, hair still in a bun. As I transitioned into a dance profession, I began to focus more on image. In any entertainment/performing field, the expectation is that you will maintain a certain standard of physical appearance. As I have transitioned out of this and into an office setting – now managing programs that serve entertainment industry members – I have continued to value the importance of external appearances. In fact, this year I made a concerted effort to operationalize self-care appointments more regularly into my weeks. Once long, beachy-curled hair became smooth and nicely placed. My toenails were no longer being brutalized by constant pounding in dance shoes were now neatly polished and maintained. The introduction of a gel manicure in my life assured me that handing over a business card would be accompanied by the *ding* of a used car salesman’s dazzling smile. When I take all of these things away, in spite of my efforts to DIY all these tasks, there is clearly a discrepancy between the finished products.
But does this matter? Is this something that people will notice? My instinct tells me that yes, even if I only on an unconscious level, people will notice. But is that important? I represent my company in outreach events, recruitment, and presentations. My clientele are entertainment industry members… good people coming together to support a great cause. Will these subtle differences actually have a lasting impact on the impressions I make and the relationships I build? Which of these habits should be considered standard practice and which are what many might refer to as superficial? I really don’t know the answer to any of these questions. I don’t know whether having a more relaxed appearance will necessarily have a negative impact. It’s possible that some people will find me more approachable or relatable, where others may feel otherwise. Does this have an impact on my confidence? In some ways, it has. When I recently prepared for a work event at a studio lot, I was abundantly aware of the pieces of my preparatory ritual that were missing. I had to dig deep into my psyche and reassure myself that these things would not matter. Does it have an impact on my self-worth? I’ve noticed that, if anything, my self-worth has elevated since taking a step back and thinking about things in terms of a bigger picture. I’ve also felt a sense of accomplishment each day as I work towards my goals with minimal falter. It has been interesting to tease out from all of this which parts of my daily, weekly, and monthly grooming rituals are strategic and which may serve as a crutch.
The challenge and beauty in all of this is to maintain a stance of non-judgment when I think about myself. Sometimes when I look in the mirror and see my eyebrows extending to the lengths of that of a distinguished, elderly British man, I think to myself, “wow. You are actually doing this and that is something to be proud of.” And sometimes when I look in the mirror and see my eyebrows extending to the lengths of that of a distinguished, elderly British man, I think to myself, “wow. You are going to die alone.”
Though I do not know the long-term impact or continued decisions I will make about these things, I will say it is certainly an opportunity to develop new skills sets. I generally consider myself a creative and skillful person, though lately I’ve been feeling a bit more like Amelia Bedelia – not excluding my endeavor to perfect cooking a steak on a cast iron pan. And by “perfect,” I mean that I get it to a point where the finished product is not a puffy charcoal in a smoke-filled apartment. Suggestions welcome.