Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Main | When you've got work to do but your hair's gettin too long »

I (Don't) Feel Pretty


Admittedly, regaling you with mighty tales of empowerment in the wake of chopping off my hair would be ideal. They are there, to be sure! But, in the interest of full disclosure, they don't come as often as the feeling that I am no longer pretty.

I understand the psychology behind all of this, of course. I know that I'm a victim of a society that overwhelmingly values long, blonde hair on women and graying buzz cuts, not so much. I'm still me, just without my hair. But so full was my induction into society's notions of typical beauty that, very often now, I no longer feel attractive. Couple that with just not feeling like myself - or the self that I have known for four decades - and it can be a head trip. A massive head trip of the physical and metaphysical.

I'm confronting all of this inner turmoil head-on, and I'm proud of myself thus far. There have been no post-shaving breakdowns and this is quite a victory for a girl who could barely deal with cutting bangs and dying her hair just one year ago.

I have noticed that I avoid the mirror. Which is good and bad. Vanity is obviously not a desired trait but my reasons for avoidance actually have more to do with vanity than not: I avoid mirrors because I don't feel pretty, not because I don't care what I look like.

This is all a part of the process, I know. Before the big cut, I wondered if, like Sampson, I'd lose my perceived womanly power or if I'd feel empowered. What has actually occurred is very difficult to describe. It's a fusion of empowerment, letting go of the society's standard for typical beauty and the realization of how much I relied on my physicality for attention and validation in the world at-large.

Am I glad I cut off my hair? Yes. Do I feel attractive without it? Not yet. But that's the point! I am working to completely recondition my brain in several ways; not just tuning out society's narrative of typical beauty, but much like unlearning Mormonism and all the false perceptions it spawned in my mind, I have to unlearn my own notions of beauty I unwittingly acquired while living in that society.

I desperately want to get to a place where I feel attractive as me, who I am on the inside. The only route I could see to get to that place was ridding myself of the one feature I've consistently valued throughout life: My hair. It's also, arguably, the only physical feature I could eliminate. I'd like to eventually do away with make-up in much the same way, but I have found myself wearing it more after cutting my hair, as if discarding one area of perceived femininity forced me to up my game in another area to compensate.

Of course I know that neither my hair nor make-up create the woman that is me but it's a hard habit to break. Decades of habit energy and behavior are a bitch to unravel, you know? These are the lessons I'm learning and I feel certain I'd never confront them in such a direct, encompassing way if I hadn't cut off my hair.

All of this is what I keep firmly in mind when I look in the mirror and feel uncomfortable with who I see. I walk into the fear, confusion and pain and keep feeling what I feel until I understand the how and the why and can rid myself of those toxic perceptions. It's the only way through, the only way to get to the place I'm trying to find. A place where I feel strong and proud with the firm knowledge and understanding that my hair, make-up and clothing choices come from strength and are truly made by me for me, not a rotting society that has dictated my choices since the time of my birth.

Reader Comments (6)

Hair or no, you are beautiful. If you needed to do this to teach yourself that, or free yourself, I applaud you. The question I have is: now what? I'm not being cruel or rude - I mean this seriously. Now what? I hope you find the truth you're seeking, and maybe you'll share it with us!

October 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCetta

I have had a pixie cut on and off for years. Personally, I feel most beautiful with my pixie short hair but I also recognize that because of my short hair- I am often perceived differently by others. Stereotypes galore! It’s almost like my own little ongoing social experiment! I think the empowerment for me is that i don’t have to look like others to feel beautiful and that confidence shines!
I have been on a journey the last year of reinventing myself and one of the things myself and my fierce tribe chant is that we give zero f?!ks. Not meaning that we don’t t care what’s going on in the world or we are just selfish humans. But that we no longer subscribe to society or personal constraints. We do what feels good and screw how it looks for our age, screw what others think.
There has been a tremendous amount of freedom in that effort and I am excited to keep moving!

October 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

I shaved all my hair off in March this year, it was a fundraiser for leukemia research (worlds greatest shave). I was in such shock afterwards and like you i compensated with more make up. After a few weeks i got so many compliments how short hair suits me im not sure I'll ever go long again. I think you look great!

October 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

one has to wonder, though, how much this has to do with your decisiveness to rebel against the societal norms. meaning, yes, the society has its own standards and expectations, but, isn’t there a possibility that, some of us, would in fact match some of those? specifically, isn’t it possible that some women would decide to wear their already blonde hair long, and that would coincide to the reflection of their internal beauty?

i have been wearing my hair longer most of my life, and, as a man working in an industry with conservative image standards, that has not always been to my advantage. is the length of my hair a subtle/implicit sign of rebellion?! maybe… but i have cut it short (or shorter) from time to time… yet it seems to always gravitate towards a longer side, without me taking decisive action against it. is that then a reflection of who i am internally? again… maybe… to some extent…and i am lucky to be able to make a choice… disease – as an example – may make the appearance choice for us…

as far as synchronizing our look to what/how/who we truly are, one has to also wonder about the people who live(d) in less modern times. should unshaved/uncut hair be the raw reflection of who we truly are?

your writing made me think of this: we may have some control over our appearance, and we may sometimes adjust it based on a variety of reasons: reinvention, rebellion, the need/hope/desire to stand out or to make a difference. but the synchronization of our appearance with who we truly are is a subjective matter. and if we agree to that, should we also agree to postulate that however one chooses to present themselves is how they truly are?!

back to clichés, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. clearly, a lot of people think you are beautiful, both with long hair and without it. and that may be because you have already been able to reveal your inside beauty to them. and back to one of my comments to your previous writing, when it comes to the “individual fulfillment - not the material one, but the love/connection/soul-mate one”, true love – although maybe fully consumed in the physical realm – transcends seamlessly into the beauty inside…

November 1, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

Okay off topic: Oddly enough minutes before I read this ( had not thought about you in about a year maybe ), but just before googling your old blog for a look see, a friend mentioned the name Sampson’, considering it for his puppy and had spelled it Samson. I read it and it didn’t sound right without the P( much like sandwich without the D). Hearing “Sandwich” always bothers me. So your haircut is beautiful. You’re beautiful and you could go bald and still be just as pretty and worthy of love and to be known for your strong personality and inner kindness. I personally enjoy longer hair but it’s becauas unlike you I resemble a young elfin boy, with a pixie cut. I admire your spunk and willingness to cut your hair and remind you that it’s a nice option and we have a wonderful gift to be able to try different styles and see how it t affects our sense of self and struggle for a balance of healthy selflessness. Love yourself and you can love others! God bless you and your sweet family Monica l. -Gina 💇🏼‍♀️

January 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGina

What's going on here?

June 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKate

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