356. Spare Hair
31 March 2017
When I thought it was temporary, in that limbo between a radioactive pill taking it all away and my own amazing body bringing it all back, I thought having spare hair was fun. I never called it “a wig.” That is what my mother wore in the 70s, when she didn’t feel like streaking her hair anymore and thought that permanently streaked, non-growing hair was the solution. She didn’t even make it a month.
I made it for two years. At first it was fun, having more hair than I’ve ever had, and cute hair. I could toss it. It could fall into my eyes. It moved! As Trent used to say, “It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.” And I got hurt. First by the spare hair device itself, elastic cutting into my scalp, especially that part behind my ears, digging a groove that I would sink my fingers into at night, trying to rub in blood and feeling. It was fine in the morning, okay at noon, uncomfortable by four, and by eight I wanted to rip the damn thing off. That was on the outside. On the inside, I felt like a plastic rabbit. I wasn’t being real.
When I went to Florida in January of 2017, to visit two of my most wonderful friends, the second thing I said to them was, “I don’t want to wear this thing anymore.” Ginger, ever honest, said, “It’s about time.”
Back in January of 2015, there had been a conversation with someone whose opinion I valued:
Me: I’m going to have to take a pill and it’s probably going to make all my hair fall out.
Other: But it might not. You don’t know that.
Me: Actually, the doctor is very certain that it will, because of the dose they’re giving me.
Other: You’re going to get a wig, right?
And I quickly said yes because even though I hadn’t been sure of what I would do I was suddenly sure. And all that was fine–and even fun for awhile–until it wasn’t any more. My original plan had been to wear spare hair until my real hair came back. But only about half of it decided to make the return trip.
I knew my friends would support whatever I did but I wasn’t sure about work. Because I was in the middle of a transition between jobs I asked both of my bosses. The former boss said, “I want you to be your authentic self” and the new boss said “Amen.” So I took off the spare hair, rubbed my hands over what was left, went to a barber shop for a buzz cut with a #2 blade, and called it good.
I like the way I look. It’s different than the way most women look but it works for me.
355. Clothes Update
15 October 2016
Last Friday night I went to the mall, which is something I do not typically do, standing out among the high school kids traveling in packs and the young families with their mighty strollers, looking for a place to park them in the crowed pizza restaurant.
I went to the mall because I couldn’t stand my work clothes any more, my man suits. After my last clothing post I had gone to the fabric store and purchased two and three-quarters yards of 100% worsted wool, 60″ width, $22.50 a yard. The wool sits in the bottom drawer of my dresser because I cannot bring myself to cut out the pattern for the dress because I know that it would always look homemade.
Shopping for clothes for myself has never been enjoyable. It started when I grew faster than all my friends and had to shop in the misses department when they were still in juniors. Or maybe it started when I shopped with my mother, who never asked me what I liked. Or maybe the real issue was that I felt ugly and awkward and that I didn’t belong. It was complicated by all the things that there are in the department store, racks and racks of cloth and colors and styles and it all blurs together in my head and I want to leave.
However, last night was a successful shopping excursion, followed by another one today, and now I have clothes for at least five days of work. The shopping expedition was successful because:
- I felt like and acted as if I belonged in the store. I accepted help, and at one store it was from a young, tall, slim blond man and I said to myself, “Jule, maybe you’ve never before encountered a male salesperson in a women’s department but since he’s here he must really like clothes and he will be able to help you.” And he did.
- I told the salesperson (Devin) what I wanted–longer tunic jackets to wear to work. We agreed that they could be knit but they needed to have some structure, some heft. I started to tell him what colors I look good in and as I watched his smile start to spread across his face I could tell that he already knew.
- Because I now understand so much about clothing (I told Devin this, I told him I have been studying clothing), I was able to waste no time looking at things that weren’t right for work or weren’t right for my body. I wouldn’t even look at a floral.
- Because I told myself that I deserve to look nice and have nice clothes, I spent time trying on everything Devin said I should try and I was open minded about everything.
- When I looked at myself in the mirror, I really looked. I took my time. I asked myself how I felt and I paid attention to the answer.
After I bought the shoes, I took the escalator back upstairs to show Devin, to make sure they would go with what I had bought. He said they were fine and the pair that I liked better, he did too. As I was taking the escalator back down, Devin called out, “No more suits!” and I hollered back, “No more man suits!”
Because Friday night was so successful (2 jackets, 2 pairs of pants, 2 blouses to wear with the jackets, 2 pairs of shoes), I went out again on Saturday and repeated the process, this time sort of on my own, testing out what I had learned the night before. I did ask the salesperson (Danielle) what she thought as a safe guard. She told me the dress was not too small and that I should not go up a size. It was another productive expedition (2 dresses, 1 jacket, 1 vest, 1 skirt, 1 top to wear under the vest, 1 pair of pants, socks, tights).
It feels good to know what I want, to know what looks good on me. It makes me feel powerful.
PS: I wrote for 2 hours today.
354: Chesting My Cards
30 September 2016
As you know, I lost heart for writing about professional dress in the conservative workplace and simply stopped writing. I was glad to have turned my posts from a few years back into Sweet Baby Lover; I’m still in love with that cover and I’m still proud of that book. But I was not at all energized at the thought of turning the posts about dress into something more tangible, probably because I could sum the whole thing up in four principles:
- Two things on top
- Focus on the face
- Equal power
- Dress for the body you have
“Okay,” she said, brushing the dust from her hands. “Here’s where I’m going next…”
But before I answer that, I have to tell you where I have been, which is in Montana, with nine other women at a writing retreat. When I tell people this they hear “riding” instead of “writing” and think that I spent time on horses. I actually did spend some time with horses but that’s another story.
I was afraid to go on the retreat and didn’t realize that until I found myself in my typical avoidance/numbing behaviors—ice cream, potato chips and chocolate, preferably all at the same meal, sometimes as the meal. Marla, the woman who occasionally counsels me on what I eat, would be mortified. She would hook me up to her machine and tell me that the amount of water outside of my cells rather than within the cells has dramatically increased and that I must turn myself around.
My fear could be summarized as, “I am afraid I am not a real writer, I had only one book in me, I can write about someone dying but that’s all, and it’s time for me to pick up my pilot pens and my Rhodia notebook and put them in the cardboard box for Goodwill.” It’s fascinating how easily we minimize our gifts. There was once a little girl who didn’t engage in mental debates about whether she could or she couldn’t, she simply did. Where did she go?
Laura Munson, who created a safe space for me to find that little girl who simply did, led the retreat. The workshop was a well-designed learning experience and I should know because I’ve spent a Master’s degree and twenty years of my life designing adult learning experiences. When the least little thing isn’t well thought out it makes me a horrible participant. It makes me fidget. In this workshop, I never once fidgeted. Instead, I relaxed and wrote and so did everyone else. We wrote and put our hearts on the page. I recommend the Haven Writing Retreat to anyone who has ever dreamed of writing anything… a novel, some poems, a memoir, anything.
So, that is what I am going to do—write. For myself at first, to have fun with writing again. Since leaving the retreat I’ve already written a short story and I want to do more of that. It’s fun and I want more fun in my life. I won’t be posting the stories on this blog because I’m going to “chest my cards,” which is a term from bridge or poker that I learned at the retreat and it feels right for me right now. I do promise all ten (I think it’s ten, I have to check) of my remaining blog subscribers (an exodus occurred with the clothing posts) this: When I do put something together, some assemblage of writing, you’ll be able to have it for free, in gratitude for your fortitude. I know I will do this because I like to make things. I like to make things and hold them in my hands.
In addition to the writing, I plan to revise my blog. It doesn’t fit me anymore. It needs new clothes.
What the blog did for me, and it is not to be underestimated, is provide an accountability mechanism. So, I plan to use the blog to hold myself accountable. But since there is no reason to inundate you with blog posts that say “I wrote for two hours this week,” I’m simply going to annotate the bottom of this post. That should prevent any email triggers yet still provide the accountability bonus. Fingers crossed.
Thanks for reading.
With my cards at my chest,
PS: At the retreat we each clarified why we write. My reason is this: I write to explore the wild and noble territory of the human heart and to leave behind a brave and honest map.
- 1 October: wrote for 2 hours
- 8 October: wrote for 2 hours
353: New Headshot
So here it is. Let’s break it down, first, checking to make sure it meets the professional dress criteria:
- Two things on top? There are three. Check.
- Focus on the face? The face is the only skin that shows. Check.
- Equal power? It all looks respectable, nothing looks cheap, tired or dingy. Check.
This was an experiment in dressing according to the old standards. Let’s look at each element.
Jacket: Gray, because it’s softer on the face than black. It’s very nice wool with a soft hand and that shows in the photo. I like that but other than that, it’s like a man’s suit jacket in every way except for the cut and I’m tired of my mansuits.
Shirt: White cotton, pressed, with a bit of a standup collar to give it more gravitas. I like it except for two things. One, it’s a little floppy on the right side of the photo (left side of my body). That happened because it was coming untucked. I had checked it twice in the photographer’s hand mirror but it must have shifted. The other part I don’t like doesn’t show in this photo, but it’s the buttons. When men are in full business attire, you never see their shirt buttons because they are hidden by the tie. I don’t like seeing buttons. They are a point of vulnerability.
Scarf: I bought this the day before the photo shoot, when I realized the scarf I had packed (I was in Cincinnati) had a yellow cast and didn’t look right with the white shirt. Macy’s had about 30 different scarves but most wouldn’t work. They were too floral, too sparkly, too fringy, too thick. This was the only one. This one was perfect. It had enough heft to stand up without falling down my neck and enough softness to tie nicely. It has hints of gray that echo the suit and white that echoes the shirt. It also has blue, which is most people’s favorite color. It’s the perfect scarf. It is the best thing about this outfit.
Jewelry: Silver necklace resting on scarf, silver company pin (mandatory!), silver earrings. I like this jewelry a lot. It has presence. It’s not old fashioned, it’s not foo-foo. The line of the necklace echoes the neckline of the shirt. It’s perfect.
So I now have a new corporate photo with appropriate clothes and my new hair. The next task will be harder. I plan to create a new, more contemporary work wardrobe. The hard part is that no one makes the kind of clothing I have in mind. The good news is that I’m resourceful.