Saturday, June 13, 2009

Naked Without Makeovers

Tomorrow BOOKLEAVES is getting together for our June meeting, and I'll be meeting Shanna from Ruby Ramblings for the first time. Through Bookcrossing and blogging, Shanna and I have known each other for about 3 or 4 years. I've been the happy recipient of some of her books and a great music CD that she made.

I'm excited to meet Shanna, but after last night, I'm wondering what she'll see when she meets me.

Let me flash back a little. About this time last year, I made a new female friend. Soon after we established our friendship, she began to assess my appearance. She pushed for me to get new glasses and a new hairdo. The roundish frames I was sporting were just wrong, all wrong for my face. Since I really wanted some rectangular frames, I readily agreed.
The hair? Since it's rather fine and thin and seems to have the market on cowlicks cornered, keeping it short is my best bet. I had also added some highlights. Not really working, my friend let me know. Too harsh. I should get more subtle highlights or just let the gray grow out. I did a pretty big chop with more subtle highlights. I have to admit, it was all much better. Starting last fall, I was finally beginning to be pleased when I saw myself in photographs.

In April, I decided on my own to go boy-short with the hair and was pleased with the results. It grew out very quickly, along with the gray. It's at an awkward but not unmanageable length right now, and my plan is to go back to Yongsan and get it trimmed up next week when I have some free time.

Last night, I had dinner with two teachers from my school. As we were munching on appetizers, one of them suddenly asked me to do her a favor and try on her round rimless glasses. I did so, and she murmured, "Yes, much better." Apparently my rectangular frames are just wrong, all wrong for my face. After that, she said, "Can I touch your hair?" "Okay," I said. "It's really fine, isn't it?" she commented. Then she told me how I should have it cut. It seems as if the bangs, the top, the sides, the back and the color of my current cut are just wrong, all wrong. Wow, five out of five. She stopped short of suggesting that we do a field trip to her stylist ASAP, but I'm sure that's next.

When I got home, I laughed and shook my head, and I'm still laughing and shaking my head today. What the hell?! What is it about me that as soon as I become friendly with a woman (or, in one case, a gay man) they are inspired to boldly step up, practically panting and offer to mastermind my makeover? I can't decide if it's:

A. I'm so hideous-looking that they feel compelled by a strong sense of duty to shield the rest of humankind from such a sight,
........................ *****OR*****
B. I'm a hairsbreadth away being good-looking so they feel compelled by a strong sense of duty to frogmarch me the rest of the way into spiffy.

When I first came to Korea, I was briefly staying with an American about my age. The moment I stepped off the plane, she grimly determined that something must be done and right soon. I arrived on Saturday evening. By Wednesday evening, she had me in the chair at the beauty salon, getting my sprinkling of gray covered. After that, a trip to the manicurist and a brief tutorial about how to put on eyeshadow properly, she seemed satisfied. I duly thanked her for rescuing me from the wreck of myself.

If I don't seem to welcome this kind of attention, it's because it reminds me of what I grew up with. My mother has never gotten over my having thin, fine straight hair. In her book, curly is the only beautiful hair. Even more disappointing was my longish face and my slightly protruding ears. They're just wrong, all wrong. And now age is doing a frenzied hoedown on both my flaws and my few good points. Good thing I'm half a world away, or the poor woman would have wept her life away years ago, seeing all this imperfection on a daily basis.

The people in my life all look fine to me. They're not movie-star perfect, but I can always find something to admire and even envy about them. I would never dream of shuttling them off to the styling salon or optical shop in great haste. Perhaps I lack awareness. Maybe I don't have that flash of genius that can spot potential. Could it be that I have no standards, or is it possible that these people all look fine?

The last time I read Jane Eyre, I was struck by how many times other characters commented on Jane's looks, or lack of them. If they called her plain once, they called her that a hundred times, but no one tried to make her over. Maybe my friends should just take the Jane Eyre approach, make a brief remark about my unbecomingness and go on to the next topic. I can handle it. Really.

Now that it's too late for a rejoinder, one comes to mind. Dorothy Parker (who never needed a makeover and would have cut someone to ribbons with her tongue for even the merest suggestion) said it best in the verse below. She was writing about behavior, not looks, but it'll do nicely in this case:

"I shall stay the way I am
Because I do not give a damn."

Am I alone? Does this ever happen to you?


Sue F. said...

I am horrified that people feel they can comment on how one looks, etc. Where are you finding these people?

Our new attitude in retirement is "I don't give a damn", so I loved your quote!

Anonymous said...

Well, you can rest assured that I can't think of a time when I've ever commented to anyone in that manner. I absolutely hate when people do that to me.

I've been really self-consious about my weight lately. My 30th birthday is on Tuesday, and my body seems to have done a mad rush the last couple of months to put on 30 pounds to celebrate, through no changes of my eating or exercise habits. Ahh, the glory of hormones and travel.

Valerie said...

Although this IN NO WAY excuses it I do feel some people relish taking on select Korean attributes (in this case the bluntness that is really rudeness wrapped up in concern). Earlier today someone told me of foreigners spiiting etc 'because Koreans do'!!! Assimilation? Ummmm.

I love your quote and I love you so stuff em.


SFP said...

I have a suspicion they believe me beyond help, so they just don't bother. . . although my mother-in-law did give me a make-up kit several weeks back (a department store freebie?) which I promptly passed on to my daughter who understands how to use the stuff.

It bothers me that some are so quick to offer their unsolicited opinions on other people's appearance.

Eva said...

That is SO WEIRD!! I did have a debate coach in high school tell me I needed to start wearing make-up (when I was 14 and not allowed to wear make-up yet, lol). And I felt sooo self conscious after that. Oh, and when I got really sick in high school, I lost weight (my migraines were so bad, I couldn't walk to the kitchen to make food). I was down in the low 90s on a 5'3" frame, and everyone and their mother told me I needed to put weight on (as if I didn't already know that!).

I've never offered advice unless someone (usually my mom or sister) asks me what I think.

On a non-appearance note, lots of people, when they find out I'm a vegetarian and have fibro, suggest that eating meat will make me healthier. I have to control my internal eye rolling whenever that happens.

From the picture on the blog, I love your glasses and your hair! :) I have fine, thin hair too (with cowlicks!), and when I had a pixie cut I felt so cute and awesome. And since I've been growing it out forever, I totally sympathise with the weird phases it goes through.

Ok, I'm going to stop what is officially a ridiculously long comment. But I love you just the way you are, and don't change unless you want to!!!

Heather J. said...

woah, I think your friends need to back off a bit, but that's just me! Of course, my mom is a hairstylist and is always commenting on my hair (she is MY stylist too) ... but I'm totally used to it by now. ~LOL~

Kathleen said...

Wow, I have had this happen to me and have seen it happen to others way too many times! Women are just way to hard on other women. People that feel the need to "fix" other people are insecure with themselves. Now that I've reached my middle years I don't give a hoot what others think of me.

I love your quote!

jenclair said...

Wow! I'm amazed that people feel that free to make suggestions. Although my daughters sometimes let me know that I'm occasionally out-of-date (or fashion), they never tell me to change anything.

I try to keep my comments on someone's appearance to those occasions I think they look good! I rarely ask anyone's opinion about my own appearance...because I'd probably get my feelings hurt if they were truthful!

Nymeth said...

lol, I adore that Dorothy Parker quote :D That's the spirit!

People can be so rude. And intrusive. I get a lot of comments about my hair. It's curly and it tends to go a bit wild, and I don't always have the patient to tame it in the morning. I don't go around with bed hair, but yeah, I guess it could look nicer if I made an effort. I don't because I choose to devote my time to other things, though, not because I'm utterly clueless. Yet people feel the need to "help" me by suggesting hairstyles for me to try.

Carrie K said...

Wow. That's unbelievable. The only person who ever comments on my hair/clothing/eyeglasses/appearance is my mother and she's the only one allowed to. I'm not sure how I'd even react. Well, other than a former sil of mine telling me once that the green nightie I was holding up made me look like I had jaundice, but I'd asked her.

Anonymous said...

wow...with those 'friends', it's amazing how you can face yourself in the mirror each day! such support!!

the only think i can think of, aside from the fact that these people are dolts for critiquing you, is that the advent of 'makeover' shows has turned everyone into a critic.

even still, you shouldn't take it from anyone! simply say, 'i love my glasses, but thanks for your unsolicited advice/opinion.'

Bybee said...

They find *me*!

I know I already told you this, but I'm so glad you're here and that you came to book group. Looking forward to more get-togethers, bookish and otherwise.

I think you're right about adopting some of those behaviors. Thank you for not making me over. Hugs xooxoxo

It's realy annoying because now that I'm in my late 40s, I'm pretty well aware of what I like, what makes me comfortable, what works, what doesn't and the makeover people seem to assume that I don't know my ass from my elbow. Well, maybe I don't, but it's my ass! My elbow!

It seems that when you're younger, people feel free to bombard you with helpful instructions about your life. I had thought that since I'm pretty effing old now that there'd be a ceasefire. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

Well, if your mom's a stylist, she can't help it, it's how she views the world. My mom, who's not a stylist, just fingers my straight fine hair and says: "Perm. Now."

I never thought of them as being insecure...I just figured that I was offending their eyes.

Can I send all these people to you for lessons in how to behave?

I know what you mean...I like to devote my time to things more important than my outside. As long as I'm bathed and brushed, everyone should feel encouraged that I'm not utterly clueless.

Carrie K,
You're so lucky! But you probably don't project that image of being grooming-challenged.

Actually, there *are* a lot of makeover shows on TV over here. What's so funny is that I thought I looked fairly presentable Friday evening; the mirror hadn't been its usual reliable disappointment.

Valerie said...

Great to see so many POSITIVE comments. Susan u r a star and you have (and continue) to inspire me... BUT I do hope you know your arse from your elbow otherwise u r gonna have a lot of fun in bathroom breaks hehhehe. (Corny but just couldn't resist).

Anonymous said...

It happened all the time until, a year and a half ago, by medical reasons I loosed lots of pounds. Then people stopped that "you should do this and that with you hair, your glasses, your clothes". Maybe you can, as Dorothy Parker (isn't she one of the greatest, by the way?) say "I don't give a damm" but with your appearance, and be as excentric as one can be : grey hair, for instance? ;-D
In any case, I've learned to let rain flow over the words of people that tell me (or used to tell me) how to do to be less different, less myself, less unique. And now that I look a little bit more like any other average woman, I still can hear them (her skirt is too short, she sould...) ARGGGGGGG
Anyhow, I love the way you write, and the notes from your blog. Keep on reading and keep on talking about it!!!

Jenny said...

I just hold larger and larger books in front of the offending hair/ glasses/ thighs/ whatever... :)

Tara said...

Wow! I'm really flabbergasted that people feel they can say these things to you. To each his own, I say, I would never dream of even speaking of a friend's appearance unless it was a compliment. My daughter age 7 1/2 also has very thin fine hair. I think it looks better shorter (chin length bob is good on her) and I do tell her that, and that her hair just looks messy and stringy when it's longer. But heck, I'm her mother and that's what mothers do.

You could say what I once read Dear Abby (or whoever) suggest:

'If that was your business/something I wanted to discuss with you you would already know the answer/I would already have done so.'

This is a good answer for people who like to ask if I'm having more children, I've found.

JoAnn said...

The only people that give me 'suggestions' are my daughters, and, once in a while, my mom or sisters. Maybe your friends feel like you're family?! From your picture, I'd say you look just fine!
BTW, I was struck by how often Jane's appearance was mentioned, too.

Jessica said...

Nobody EVER does this to men, even if they are obese and have three-inch-long eyebrows.

Personally, I have the exact opposite hair to yours - dark and curly. Yet I get the same "You're doing it wrong" comments from people. They also feel free to comment on my fashion choices or suggest makeup. This has nothing to do with attractiveness - it's a tribal identifier. Are you a "shopping girl" or aren't you??

Plenty of people who spend oodles of time and money on cosmetics, clothes, and other personal care actually look pretty ridiculous. We call them fashion victims.

I have a pretty sharp tongue, and I never have a problem fending off unwanted "constructive criticism." I'll share some of my pet responses with you:
"I'll take that under advisement."
"Thanks so much for your opinion."
"Were you going to tell me how to lose weight and get rich quick too?"
"Is it my turn yet? You know, to give you constructive criticism?"
"Sorry to disappoint, but that's just not on my priority list."
"Yes, you're so right. I believe the UN is holding a special summit on that important issue."

You're perfect just the way you are. Don't let the suckers grind you down.

Bybee said...

Thank you. Heart, heart heart.

You're right about letting it all flow over me like rain. A very calming and cleansing image.

If these people would read more, my image would annoy them much less.

I got crap about only having one child, too! One time, I was in a store getting purple material so my son could be Darkwing Duck. The woman behind the counter asked if he had any brothers or sisters. When he said he was an only child, she ordered me to get back to reproducing.

These are usually people that I've just met...that's what makes it so jaw-dropping.

I was also thinking that they'd never pull that on a guy. Your list of rejoinders is great..especially the UN one. I was disappointed about the newest makeover maniac. Since she's an English prof, I thought we were going to have these cool discussions about literature -- never dreamed she'd hone in on my looks.

Susan said...

What a shocker! Really, my jaw fell open the more I read about how often people want to make you over. I mean, honestly, these days there are no right glasses to wear.....darn fashion police! I'm clueless though like you on how to deal with it - mostly I got comments growing up on getting rid of my glasses - "why don't you get contact lenses?" people asked. Or laser surgery? Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. I hate the idea of putting anything on my eye, and right, lasers in my eyes? I don't think so.

I'm letting the gray come in so i can see how bad it is. currently it's all gray up front. Will I have courage to stay this colour? I don't know. but I think it's terribly rude that women think they have the right to tell someone else how to dress, or what glasses to get, or hair cut. I think it's pretty awful that your friends do this to you too! They should be able to like you just the way you are!!!

I love how you find a way to compare yourself to Jane Eyre, though!! :-D

onlyonemitzi said...

I just read this post now. I wrote a very long response to it at first, but decided against sending it.

I apologize for hurting you in any way.

All I can say is that each of us sees things from our own perspective. I can see now that from your perspective, you "attract" people like me who want to "fix" you. I hope you can see that from my perspective, I "attract" people who want me to "fix" them.

But in the end, we are all broken, and conversely we are all perfect. Perfectly broken? Broken perfectly? I am not sure.

Anyway, again, I apologize. It won't happen again between us and knowing what it appears like from your perspective, even if I "attract" another who I believe is asking me for my advice on how to "fix" something, I will do my best to bite my tongue and remember this invaluable lesson.