I’d like to open up with a confession. You see, lots of times, I come up with cool ideas for the blog, then I remember my beloved’s words, when I first began this:
“You’re a Massage Therapist, and you’re writing as such. Shouldn’t your posts be about things that are about massage?”
Those words have influenced me more than I could have thought! On one hand, and I explained this to him, I just want the world to see us as people, too. On the other hand, there’s a lot that can be shared to enrich people about the benefits of massage to their bodies. However, I reasoned to myself, there’s also already a plethora of therapists out there who do that — their sites are supremely focused toward massage in others’ lives. Seriously, go look up “massage therapy blogs”. You’ll come up with two types of results — either how-to instructions to develop your blog to support and grow your business, or blogs for therapists. That’s it.
So, where are the blogs that show us as just regular people? You know, ones who have thoughts about anything other than massage? Is that even a big deal?
I think it is. Hence, I’ve decided I’m going to just blog, from now on, whatever I want without stressing over what I should be blogging about. I mean, this is my blog, right? Does it have a big following? Nah. However, if one thing I write reaches one person, and impacts that one person in a positive way, then that’s a good thing, right?
Ok, back to the topic at hand. As you can see by the picture above, I’ve recently gone blue! Well, shades-thereof, actually. Anyway. Why is this so momentous in my life? Let me tell you a brief history, and you can then decide for yourself if this is celebration-worthy.
I grew up in a severely abusive household. I don’t say that lightly; for me, it was normal. It wasn’t until I was 40, and going through yet another round of therapy, that my therapist looked at me as I was relating a tale from childhood, her eyes opening wide. “You do realize,” she said to me, “that that would be considered torture in most peoples’ minds?”
That was a new perspective to me. I mean, sure, ok, I knew, intellectually, that I’d had it rough. Sexual, mental, emotional, and physical abuse; neglect; isolation; humiliation, degradation. These were all normal parts of my, and my siblings’, everyday lives. But it was normal to us. It’s impossible to truly see things in a different light when you’ve lived them, and they were your normal. The only way I’ve ever really achieved any ability to see it for what it was was after I had my daughters. Then, only then, was I able to imagine the horror I’d feel if they ever had to live through what I have lived through.
The result of this is that I had a very, very skewed self-image. I am a very female version of my father, facially; from the neck down, when I’ve seen myself in pictures or mirrors, I’ve always seen my mother (who was my primary abuser, as well as my sexual abuser — yes, it does happen). In short, I’ve never liked seeing myself in mirrors or pictures. When I put makeup on, I’d put it on with a hand mirror, so I only had to look at the portions of my face I was directly applying make-up to. When I was changing clothes, I was out of a room with any mirrors. When I had to have pictures taken, most of the time I asked that I not have to see them. If I saw them, this schism developed, where all I could see was an exaggerated caricature of myself, skewed to show the areas of my parents that I so loathed. Now, keep in mind, I relate this to you in a very clinical manner. I don’t have the words to express to you how emotionally devastating seeing myself has been, all of my life. In fact, when I was 17, when I left my parents’ home, I systematically and methodically located every single picture I could find, in all the albums, that contained me, and I ripped them up. Part of this was a statement to my parents that the child they raised no longer existed; I was stepping out, intent on recreating myself as I chose to exist, not as they had made me. But I can’t help, now, except wonder how much my loathing of my physical self played a part in that decision. I can’t honestly answer that question.
Now, I’m nearly 49. Recently, my bestie and her beloved came and spent the day with myself and my beloved. She’s military, and she’s dedicated her life to keeping soldiers alive as they were flown from combat arenas to hospitals. Because she still has two years left in the military, she’s still prohibited from any of the “fun” colors that’ve recently exploded on the market for hair. She has begun getting her tattoos, and they’re gorgeous. Each of them tells the tale of her past service, fighting to keep her boys alive.
Rewind slightly to 2015. Segueway! Anyway. I chose to cut my hair off so it could grow out grey. Why? I started coloring my hair when I was 17, because I started going grey at 17. No big surprise, right? Anyway. I had, by 2015, been coloring my hair for about 29 years. I was, simply, tired of it. Also, I reasoned, I was in my mid-40s. I hadn’t yet realized that I was falling into a trap!
Back to our conversation. She is excited for her upcoming retirement, she’s so thrilled, just thinking of the fun colors she can do in her hair! She’s thinking green, and maybe orange, and her hubby’s thinking he can get a mohawk and dye it purple (he retires next year, I believe — yay!). I made a comment along the lines of “Yeah, I’d like to do that, especially since these lovely fantasy colors just started really exploding when I decided to grow my hair out, and I DON’T want to repeat that process!”
Looking at me with her ice-blue eyes, my wonderful, amazing, smart, and knife-sharp best friend engaged in the following conversation with me:
BF: Ok, so, let’s assume you live to be 90. That’s a good potential, right?
Me: Ummmm … sure?
BF: What that means, then, is that you’re committing yourself to living the next 42 years with boring hair that doesn’t make you happy
My mind exploded, folk. I mean, wow. How many of us have said “If I could go back then, and know what I know now …”
Well? We can. Age is, truly, just a number. We are here, now, and we do, now, know what we know. We’ve been through all life has thrown at us, and we’ve overcome it. And now, looking forward, there’re a lot of potential years left to do what we want, to be what we want.
Just … whoa. That took me, actually, a few days to fully process. I mean, really. Just think about it!
Back to the blue hair!
My youngest daughterbeast has normally rich brown hair, but she’s kept her hair red for years. She found a stylist through a friend of a friend of mine and this stylist did amazing things with the DBs hair. Dark dark at the roots, lightening up to a gorgeous red, then lightening up at the ends to an almost hot vivid pink/red. Simply stunning. So, I called the stylist up, said “Hey, you wanna trade? I work on you, you work on me?” She accepted!
And I went under the colorist’s hands! The process took about five hours, and I really must give this young woman kudos. She was patient with me, answering my questions, as we took my hair from salt & pepper to blonde, then to blue/green/teal. Dark brown at the roots, with a dark, deep blue under that, brightening to teal at the ends. The result, this first time, was a bit patchy, since you have to get hair REALLY blonde in order for the blues to hold. But, when I saw myself after she got it done, I was amazed! A big grin ate my face, I must admit.
I got home, styled my hair the way I like it styled, and I’ll be danged if I didn’t find myself taking pictures of myself!
Ok, backtrack a bit. A couple of years ago, I needed to take a picture of myself for my business website. Apparently, sites do better when they have a picture of the practitioner. We’re now being chosen on our appearance, as well as our qualifications. Imagine that. I sat down with my camera and began clicking. And clicking. And clicking some more. Eventually (after about 48 snaps, as well as multiple conversations with another friend, trying to find the “best” of the mess) I ended up with this:
Keep in mind, this was after 48 pictures! Pay attention to the smile in this one.
After getting my hair done, and styled, I took this picture to send to my beloved:
I dunno about you, but I just feel like this picture has a more open smile, a happier smile. And it was after one click!
So here’s what’s happened in my little pea-brain.
I look at myself, now, and I see me. I don’t see my father’s face. I don’t see my mother’s body. I just see me, Angel. I don’t have the words, again, to express the emotional impact this has had on my life.
I’m fortunate that I work in an industry that expects a little oddness. Honestly, walk in to any massage clinic and I’m sure you’re going to find someone with tattoos, fantasy hair, shaved scalps (male & female), piercings, so on and so forth. So I’m very lucky in this industry. Do I realize that there will be some people who look at my picture, with my vibrant and vivid blue hair, who’ll be turned off to the idea of having me as a therapist? Yep, I surely do. However, I also realize that these are likely not the types of people I want on my table. The people I want on my table are the people who can see that I have blue hair (or blue green, or whatever color I decide to take it!), and just be like “Oh, cool, her hair’s pretty!”
I will admit, my coworkers’ and friends’ responses have helped, a great deal. I get regular compliments on the hair. It’s insane. Even the director of the clinic I work at had a very positive response; I’d discussed this change with her before I made it. Her response to my initial “Do you mind if I do this?” was amazing; in short, she explained that she supported people finding their own individuality, but she also cautioned that clients have the right to choose their therapists, and some may be put off by the hair. When she saw it, her jaw literally dropped, she stopped mid-word in her sentence, and exclaimed, “Oh, goodness, I never thought it’d be so beautiful!”
So yeah, the positive reaction from people around me has helped, a great deal. But the biggest response to this has been internal. I am proud, now, to feel that I’m changing the face of the “blue-haired old lady.”
And I’ve come to realize, even more strongly, that age is just a number. I may be turning 49 this month, but that’s ok. Inside, I’m still me. I’m still Angel, and I still have the right and the ability to express myself as I choose to. I hadn’t realized how much I was falling in to the rut of “acting my age.” Letting my hair grow out grey, slowly making my wardrobe more drab, more mundane … Wow!
Thank you, bestie, for bringing me to my senses, you have changed my entire outlook on the rest of my life. I may not, in actuality, live 42 more years, I may only live six more months. Who knows? But I can tell you that, thanks to your sharp-edged wisdom, I will live each and every day of the time left to me embracing me, and that is helped, more than I can say, by actually seeing me, not my father, and not my mother.
Incidentally, the photo at the beginning? Took that last night. The hair’s a different blue, but my hair, to me, looked soft, and pretty … and again, when I look at it? I see me, and I’m not afraid to share it with the world.
All that, just from a change in hair color … preceded by an amazing shift in perspective!
On a side-note? I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law will be pleased that I no longer shy away from the camera at family functions. And she’s enough of an amazing lady herself that she’ll embrace me, even if she doesn’t fully understand me.