Unflinching

Today I wrapped my hair in a scarf, pulling it all away from my face. 

I know this is No Big Deal. It truly isn’t. And yet it’s taken all this time to get here.

You see, I’m actively trying to accept myself as I am. Today. Not dependent on anything other than the fact that I’m here and this is how I look. Good/bad/indifferent. This is me.

I’ve lived most of my life completely taken in by the mainstream definition of what is “beautiful” and what types of women get to wear what styles of clothing.

I grew up brown and chubby in a rural midwestern town where the faces were primarily white, and beauty was genenerally defined as slender and/or petite and preferably blonde.

I’m astonished at how strongly such experiences hold on to us, even as we grow into adults.

I remember two comments from my teenage years that had a lasting effect on my confidence. One was simply a student in the lunchline pausing by my table and calling me n**ger lips and n**ger nose. The second was while at a neighbor’s house, and this lovely blonde girl telling me she wouldn’t mind looking like me, except for my nose, of course. She’d prefer to keep her own. (My mom has always felt self-conscious about her nose, believing it to be too flat.)

Here are my facts: I have a round face; it is asymmetrical; my nose is kind of broad; my lips are wide; my neck is short; I’m always on the verge of having a double chin. 

One way I dealt with (disguised) all these perceived deficits was through having long hair.

I like long hair, and I liked the way it framed my face. It was a security blanket for a long time.

Even as I’ve cut it over the years (and that decision took FOREVER, in spite of the fact that I longed for a long bob), the one stipulation to my fantastic hairdresser has been that I have to have long pieces around my face. I still stick to that rule, even as I shave the sides now. Still need that touch of security around my face.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve met friends who’ve encouraged me to question this notion that women need to look a certain way to wear certain styles. Says who? they ask. Says the mainstream culture, I say. And why should they get to dictate to us, if we like what we’re wearing and how we look? Excellent question. 

It’s taken so long to see that these are false parameters of beauty I’ve been setting for myself all this time.  There is no single definition of beauty. There never has been, though for many years we’ve been sold one and I bought it completely.

I don’t have high cheekbones, a thin face,  a long neck like so many of the women I see photographed wearing head scarves.. 

But I sure do like the look of head scarves, and that’s all the reason I need.

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