Let’s just get this out of the way:
Lately, all I care to do in the morning with my hair is what you see above. It absolutely says something about my destination that I don’t bother to brush my hair in the morning (my coworkers tend to rock a disheveled Little-House-meets-Brooklyn-look). Of course, it’s also the mitigation of ADHD that results in this distinctly unambitious ponytail…mornings are an ADHD nightmare, always. I also have three step-children and too many pets. And…lots of work on my plate as I build two businesses at once.
I also live in a New England state that is populated with thousands of women of a certain age who rock mullets, and I don’t mean ironic, hipster mullets, I mean the hair-helmet mullets of women who have given up on the frivolities of making themselves attractive, whose selves have been subsumed by practicality, whose wardrobes ceased evolving twenty years ago, dwarfed by the seeming importance of that same practicality (and probably influenced by the fact that you can go to a fundraiser in our lovely state, and be surrounded by people in jeans and corduroys, who clearly did not have the same mother that I did, who stressed the importance of dressing for the occasion).
Nobody here gives a shit. Which brings me to the Petraeus affair.
No wait… So the other night I’m hanging out with a friend and we’re trudging around Lowe’s looking for a part for her broken toilet. Sexiest. Saturday. Night. Ever. This is right after we rocked some serious bargains at the fabric store, buying quilting fabric. And we start talking about the mullet helmet…and how it scares us. Literally. We see these women and fear that we will become these prematurely aged, cranky, cheap, specimens. Women who tell you it all goes down hill after high school. And it made me fear the impact of routine, the impact of daily life, on a person’s awareness of their own appearance. As we wandered through a hardware store on a Saturday night. It nearly drove me to drink – I insisted that we march over to the state liquor store, across the parking lot (after finding the missing toilet part…can’t go home without the pahht for the crappah). I didn’t buy anything…because I didn’t think any of the deals were good enough to spend more than $10 on (see also: I’m a cheap fucking yankee). Sober, toilet part in hand, we trudged back to the car, and pledged to experiment with frosty eye shadow, as I silently promised myself that I would change my two-day old shirt when I got home.
Sat down to my computer, after changing said shirt, read some news and bam, I saw a photo of General and Mrs. Petraeus mixed in with the public debris of their private problems. And I had what must be the most un-feminist reaction possible: Is THAT his WIFE?!
Oh yes, I reduced a competent, bright, professional woman to an obnoxious judgment on her appearance. I don’t know her, and her husband’s crappy choice (and whatever may or may not be happening in her marriage) is none of my business.
My opinion of her appearance is just that, an opinion. My opinion was also completely colored by my own current insecurities and fears in that moment. A lot of factors cause women to deprioritize focusing on their appearance. Some women, as individuals, may not care that they do not appear “sexy”. Some prefer to focus on children, or on work. There are probably factors that, due to my age and inexperience of the full spectrum of life’s possibilities, I may not even be aware of. But the fact is, I am afraid of becoming her – even though there is likely nothing she could have done to prevent her husband’s poor choice. I am not afraid of my husband cheating on me. I am afraid of becoming a woman who looks like she doesn’t care if he is.
Regardless of anything my husband may ever choose to do, I don’t want to lose myself. I don’t want to become invisible to myself. I don’t want to rock mom hair every day for the rest of my life. And I don’t want to work in places or careers (and I don’t now) that would require a woman to be neutral in a “be like a man” kind of way, in order to get ahead. I don’t want to subsume my self-esteem to laziness, or to try to be more of a feminist by pretending that I don’t care about my appearance. I do care.
There will always be mornings where ADHD will win, where the kids, the animals, the details, will keep me from focusing on much more than covering my body with clothing. But I never want that to be a routine. I want to look like I care. Just a little. Even when I’m poppin’ a (gluten-free) cocktail and fixin’ a crappah.