Article by Lori Carol Maloy
I was recently in the checkout line at a store hiding behind a pair of thick sunglasses and a hat, when I heard a couple of women talking about their hair and how unhappy they were with it. One of the women was beautiful with a silky tan–or what that just the sunglasses I had on?
Naturally, I inched a little closer in order to make sure I was getting the entire scoop; it wouldn’t be right to misinterpret such an important topic or end up with a cliff hanger and have to live the rest of my life wondering what the end of that conversation might have been. Truthfully, girls have to utilize all their skills when it comes to improving upon self-care and appearance. Or am I alone here?
Anyway, with the 6-foot social distancing rule, I could only get so close, and that was no fault of my own. Apparently, these two women were friends and happened upon each other in the produce section and were driven to the vital topic of hair design, aging, and highlighting tips that took years off your looks. I did what any sane woman with an eye for style would do, I tucked the straggles of hair that had fallen from inside the scrunchie completely behind my ear, pulled the shades down so I could actually see what was happening around me, and leaned in hoping for a nugget of wisdom.
Much to my disdain, the man behind me was struggling to hold up his load of beer and kept distracting me with trite conversation, his voice lurching up at the end of incoherent sentences making them sound like questions. Now I was having to utilize both ears and implement dual focus, a task at such an early morning hour was appearing difficult, if not impossible. I’d only had one cup of coffee that morning and half the cup was hot water due to my esophagus issues. I was also struggling to find any purpose in the guy behind me. He looked like he had a couple of biceps, so what was his problem? Thankfully, I had a free finger and stuck it into my left ear, which made hearing the bad hair conversation and beauty tips much easier.
The long-haired woman wanted to go for a pixie cut and the short haired woman’s husband wanted her to grow her hair out. The brunette wanted to go blonde, and the browned haired woman wanted to go all grey. I checked out my reflection in the soda fridge glass to my left and eyed my chin and jaw line and wondered how I would look with short hair. At that moment, my own hair was piled on top of my head inside a dirty beige scrunchie, nestled securely under a baseball cap for greater anonymity. It was really shoulder length, but when the Florida heat reaches 100 degrees, I can’t stand it touching my neck.
One of the women caught me eyeing her luxurious hair. In that moment I’d wished I’d applied at least a thin coat of foundation over my pale face. Then they both glanced over as though I was stealing military secrets from the government, and I suppose that could partially be considered true in this particular situation; personal beauty secrets on style are as well-guarded as national secrets. But what’s a girl to do?
The guy behind me continued babbling until I waved my arm into the air and gave him permission to place his six month’s supply of light beer on the conveyer belt. I shot his potbelly another glance to see if he was really capable of guzzling down all that alcohol by himself. By the time I realized I was missing the final hairstyle decisions and shot my focus back in the women’s direction, they’d both checked out and were lingering by the bagger with their designer grocery bags arguing over paper and plastic and the environment. The check-out clerk began smiling and talking about how busy they were today, and her worries that it might rain and how she’d forgotten her umbrella. Why was this happening to me?
In utter desperation I watched the two women refuse the long uncomfortable walk to the car with the friendly bagger. They clutched tightly to their buggies, still in an intense conversation about their hair. I knew it was still about their hair because they were eye-balling each other’s unique hairstyles and touching their own, and I was missing everything. Finally, I couldn’t help myself any longer and yelled out, “What did you two decide? Long or short, grey or blonde?” They looked at me in horror as though witnessing a mafia bloodbath. Then they each pressed their brows together in confusion at my unwelcomed outburst and simply turned and walked away, giving me nothing.
Defeated, I turned back to the cashier and swiped my credit card through the machine. She said, “I was wondering the same thing, but they never did say.” Beer man took two steps toward me, violating six-foot zone, and said, “I don’t think the blonde would look good with short hair anyway. She doesn’t have the jaw for it.” He shrugged and pointed at my plastic bag of groceries still sitting on the check-out counter. “Are you done? I have somewhere to be.” Then he glanced at his beer and shrugged again.
Sitting in my car with the air-conditioning blowing across my makeup less face, I put the car in gear only to see the two women standing under the shade of a tree still fondling their hair and laughing. I took off my hat and sunglasses and eyed my unsightly bob of hair in the rearview mirror and wondered why we as women are never pleased with our looks, our hair, our bodies, or our styles. Why was I so embarrassed to waltz in that store without make-up, glasses, and the awful hat disguise? What was I afraid of; To be seen; To be known; To be judged? And why were those two women wanting or needing to change their appearance? Who were they trying to please or impress? What kind of emptiness or ache were they avoiding by focusing on their hair and looks?
I tried to think back to when beauty tips, make-up, appearance, and judgment from others became so important, and within seconds I was a little girl again wanting all my friends and classmates to like me. Had I never grown out of this or had the years and all of life’s misfortunes made the need to be accepted so much stronger?
These aren’t questions that will change the world, but these are questions that affect every woman on the planet. I thought about the many times I’ve run into women friends who had dashed into a store for something and apologized when they ran into me for not being dressed up enough, not feeling as though they looked good enough, or apologizing for their messy hair. Even if these women were beautiful, they were still apologizing. Do we evaluate each other to such an extent that before we can be judged, we try to set things straight by explaining our own inadequacies and insecurity about the way we look?
I pondered these thoughts and ripped my hat off but still readjusted my hair tightly back inside the scrunchie, so as not to look like I’d just gotten out of bed. But I promised myself that the next time I had to dash into a store without make-up or well-groomed hair, I’d do it proudly, with my shoulders held high. I’m not saying I won’t creep in on someone else’s interesting conversation. After all, we can’t change everything all at once, now, can we?