A Darker ‘Do (for my Daughter)

I have had blonde hair for a really long time.  But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not really a blonde.  I’m a brunette who has always preferred blonde hair, who also just happens to have a sister who is a hairstylist ;).  My dream hair color has always only been a phone call, some chemicals, foils, and a sister hangout away!  Lucky me.  If it weren’t for her, I certainly wouldn’t be able to pay the salon price for highlights (lots of highlights!).  Thanks to my sweet sister, the salon comes to me and doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

However, I’m starting to work on a change.  Slowly, I’m going to start working my way back toward my natural hair color – something I honestly never thought I would want to do.  It’s funny how having a daughter continues to challenge and change the way that I think, especially about beauty.

This past fall I started to think about the fact that Riley has my exact color hair, and the fact that no one would know that unless I told them.  And this started to make me sad.  I started to imagine conversations that I might have with her one day about beauty.  I wondered how I might respond to questions she might have.  I thought about what it would imply to her that I have her color hair, but I change it.   I started wondering how I could communicate to her that she shouldn’t buy into our culture’s ideals of beauty and that she shouldn’t feel like she needs to change herself, when evidence of my failure to live that out is sitting right on top of my head.

I have bought into the idea that blonde is more beautiful.  And I have found an identity in my own bleached hair.  If I’m incredibly honest, I’ve even been encouraged by the way it draws attention.  I’ve been able to hide my insecurities in the roots underneath, and buy the false affirmation that it offers me.

(Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think it’s bad to color your hair, and to some extent I still may.  Nor do I think everyone should go au naturel.  I just think that I was challenged and conflicted about what some of my own actions communicate to my daughter, and this is one that I wanted to change.)

I’ve decided to renounce my hair religion.  My false beliefs.  Because it breaks my heart to think of my gorgeous little brunette looking at me and wanting to change to be more like her mama in this way.

I remember being a little girl (probably about 5 years old) and someone saying to me once, “Aww, you didn’t get your mother’s beautiful red hair!”  And I remember feeling so sad and upset about it.  Because I really wanted to be like my mom and I used to want to have her hair color.  My mom does have beautiful naturally red hair.

I started imagining how I would respond if someone were to make a similar comment to Riley one day about her having different colored hair then me.  I couldn’t tell her that God made her a brunette and me a blonde.  I mean, what could I say, really?  “Well sweetheart, you actually do have mommy’s hair color.  But I just change it.  My hair did look like yours, but I color it blonde. But you shouldn’t change yours!  Because it’s so beautiful, and you are beautiful the way God made you.”  What would that communicate to her?  If one of the ways that God made me is just like the way He made her, what does that tell her about her own beauty if I am not content with mine?

So earlier this week, I finally took the first step (I’ve been avoiding it for months): I got brown lowlights in my hair.  I really thought that I was going to have a hard time adjusting to it, or that I would be emotional (hey, I know it sounds silly, but drastically changing hair can be emotional when you’ve found an identity in it!), but I haven’t.  I have actually felt so… free.  I’ve realized that it feels kind of good to rebel, even if in small ways, against the beauty standards that our culture forces on me and that I hold myself up to.

Yesterday as we were walking outside as a family, I noticed Jordan was smiling and I asked him why.  “You and Riley just look so much alike now.”  And that made it all entirely worth it :).

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KM.

Throwback Thursday: A Reality Check about Vanity

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Earlier this week, I was sitting in my living room enjoying the company of my mom and my sister. Riley was napping, and my 3 year old niece was playing on the floor with our 5 year old neighbor, a beautiful, sweet hearted little girl.

All was well, until I had a reality check that smacked me in the face. I’m talking about the kind of reality check that makes you realize that you (meaning me here) are still pretty messed up and do stupid things.

My mom, sister, and I started talking about diet and exercise. It started with a comment about my weight (a positive one), then progressed to the areas of our bodies that we wish to change. I led the way in this conversation: “Well I know that I weigh less than my pre-baby weight and I’ve toned up, BUT I still really want to get rid of this remaining little baby pooch, so I’ve cut dairy out of my diet because I read that works quickly for weight loss.” And thus started the downward spiral of each of us pointing out things about our bodies that aren’t “good enough” and need to change.

And then it hit me. I realized that this sweet little 5 year old was staring at us, soaking up this conversation like a sponge.

And I’ve wanted to cry every time I think about it since then.

I think of this sweet little girl, full of life and joy, whose ears just heard what may make her start to question herself. I had just contributed to spreading the very message that I hate that our culture spreads so rampantly. That women are as valuable as their bodies. That bodies should look a certain way, and should be fixed if they don’t. That food is an enemy or a tool for accomplishing this mission of looking like Hollywood.

And it sobered me.

Yesterday, it brought me to my knees in repentance before The Lord. I was forced to face my own vanity.

I once heard vanity described as being like an annual sandcastle building competition. Every year (I forget what beach, but I’m sure there are several that do it), people come from all over the state to compete in a huge sandcastle building competition. And these people are serious about it. They build unbelievable structures, paying attention to the tiniest details. Across the shore, viewers will see exquisite castles, buildings, even things like a veterinary clinic with little sand animals and parking lots with cars made out of sand. And yet we all know where this story ends. Before the end of the day, the tide moves up the shore, eventually diminishing all of these impressive sand designs.

And that is vanity. Whenever we put all of our stock into something that is simply going to be washed away, and very soon.

And yet, these people still come out every year to build these sandcastles, even knowing this. But I think the knowing this is what allows them to enjoy it for what it is. Because it is ok to enjoy the process of building the sandcastles! As long as the participants don’t start banking on the longevity and security of their work, they are able to have fun with it and celebrate, not being shaken to their core when it gets washed away.

So I’ve been thinking about that in terms of image this week. It is ok to enjoy the process of caring for our bodies and decorating them. So long as we remember that “beauty is fleeting” (Proverbs 31:30) and we accept the fact that no matter how much we pay attention to detail, it is going to be wiped away from the tide before we know it.

While it’s ok to enjoy and celebrate the process in a healthy and God-glorifying way, it cannot be where we put our stock, unless we want to go bankrupt.

Because there is only one investment that is going to pay off in the end.

“For
‘All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of The Lord remains forever.’
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”
-1 Peter 1:24-25

And that is what I would tell my little 5 year old neighbor, should I have the opportunity to talk to her about what she overheard. That our bodies are a gift from God, and they are beautiful because they are created in His image. I would tell her that actually, our bodies do much greater things than look good! Healthy bodies can help take care of other people around us. I would tell her that it is ok to want to take good care of our bodies, and we should, but that it was wrong for me to speak so negatively about my body and treat it like it is what I live for and what makes me important. I would tell her that the most important thing is that we know that we are loved, no matter what we look like! We are loved by the One who designed us, and sent His son to die for us on the cross and rise from the dead in order that we can have a relationship with Him. That relationship with God is really what makes us important, and it is the only thing that will truly satisfy us. Getting rid of a little pooch on my stomach is not going to give me anything deeper or more fulfilling in my life. But knowing Jesus more will give me more joy than I could ever imagine! I would ask her to forgive me for setting a bad example for her, and tell her that I want so much more for her in life than worrying about what she looks like. Life is shorter than we realize. But joy in Christ outlasts time and will carry you through eternity!

In an address given to ministers and workers after his 90th birthday, George Mueller said this of himself:

“I was converted in November, 1825, but I only came into the full surrender of the heart four years later, in July 1829. The love of money was gone, the love of place was gone, the love of position was gone, the love of worldly pleasures and engagements was gone. God, God alone became my portion. I found my all in Him; I wanted nothing else. And by the grace of God this has remained, and has made me a happy man, an exceedingly happy man, and it led me to care only about the things of God. I ask affectionately, my beloved brethren, have you fully surrendered the heart to God, or is there this thing or that thing which you are taken up irrespective of God?”

I pray that at the end of my life, I am able to say the same thing of myself. That I did not chase after vanity, spending my life building sandcastles that only got swept away, but that I found such a deep love for God that nothing else mattered to me in comparison.

I also pray that for my Christian sisters today, for my daughter, and for future generations of women.

KM.