NaBloPoMo #7

I went and had my hair professionally dyed.

It was a genuinely lovely experience, and I recommend all of my fellow men try experiences where people do lovely things to your appearance. It feels great – I had a genuine endorphin rush as I left. Alfie, the stylist, was thoughtful and genuine. It was a lovely experience.

I am trying to reflect on why I did it.

Now there are no single causes and effects, I think, when making decisions like these. Stuff just builds up and then we express it. But in reflecting on what the stuff is I can find out whether hair colouring is the outcome, or a symptom of something deeper. I think it’s important to do this, because knowing yourself is valuable and I think perhaps I don’t know myself as well as I’d like.

To steal from dear Bilbo Baggins: I don’t know half of me half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of me half as well as I deserve.

Altering my outward appearance is a manifestation of control. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that this is quite well known. When some part of your life feels out of control, it’s comforting to take actions that prove you have agency. Are some parts of my life out of my control?

Yes: I’m moving roles at work, and I can’t be certain that I’ll be good at the new job. My relationship with my ex is evolving, and I’m not sure of the direction it’ll go from here. I am supposed to be moving house, and have been in that state of limbo for coming up to 9 months. There is…stuff…going on at work. And my autism spectrum disorder assessment is finally looking like it’ll come to a conclusion.

These are things that are outside of my control, and knowing this makes me feel somewhat powerless. I thought I was okay with that. I think I am okay with it, but all the same, I’m displaying behaviour that suggests I’m trying to exert control.

Counterpoint: none of these things are particularly new. What else is going on?

A couple of my friends have dyed hair and it looks epic. I’m not normally one for peer pressure but, listen, hair that’s different styles or colours is awesome. Self-expression is awesome. I’m working in an organisation that welcomes self-expression, and I don’t think I’ve ever really taken advantage of it, short of the occasional tv-themed t-shirt. While I work somewhere that respects that, I’d like to take advantage of it.

I’ve also, at the age of almost thirty, started to give a shit about how I look. This is because I’ve discovered that you can outsource the problem of “what things looks good with other things” to a computer or another person, get those things delivered to you, and get them tailored so they fit you.

Having clothes that actually fit is a revelatory experience.

Having clothes that you feel good in because you look good is another revelatory experience, and that leads me to start questioning other things. I like my cerulean sweater. I like it paired with a thin salmon tie. I am discovering colours and, as with all newly converted, I am perhaps overzealous in my application. Why not have colour everywhere? Why not, indeed, try a beard that’s purple?

Another influence is the comic Alice Fraser, who in a recent show has a fantastic bit where she talks about retirement as making a bet. It’s making a bet that one day, when you are older, you will be free to do things that you always wished you’d done and that those things will not taste like dust. You are betting that at the age of 70 your body will still be able to roll in the grass or carry you up mountains or learn new languages.

And when you put it like that it sort of feels like a ridiculous bet. I might not have any hair left at all when I get there. Why not do things now? Why not enjoy things while you can?

Finally: I’m bi. I don’t know what that looks like, and I’m not even sure if it’s a factor, but I’ve noticed that I’m sort of fed up with people assuming I’m straight. And it’s not great that deviation from white male appearance marks you out as queer, but since it does then this is a tiny little rebellion on my part to stake out my space.

All of this came together, and here I am. Surprising myself in the mirror and liking myself more than half as well as I deserve.

November is National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. I’ll be endeavouring to write one blog post per day in the month of November 2019 – some short and sweet, others long and boring.

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