Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Makeover Story

"Cher's main thrill in life is a makeover, it gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos."
- Dion, in Clueless

Everyone loves a good makeover story. Not so much the Lifetime reality show (is that even still on?), but you know what I mean - Devil Wears Prada, Miss Congeniality, She's All That, Grease... those are just the first ones that come to mind, but you get the point. Everyone likes to watch someone else transform into a better version of themselves. I suspect this is true because it supports the theory that there's a better version of all of us hidden away, just waiting to be extracted in our own personal movie makeover montage.

Over the years, I've made several attempts to stage my metamorphis, most notably after my freshman year of college when I had my long locks chopped into a Meg Ryan circa City of Angels 'do. This attempt stands out, not because it resulted in shrieks of "omigod, is that you?" (though it did), but because it accompanied (or incited?) a definite shift in my personality. I went into my sophomore year feeling more care-free, more optimisitc, and more willing to embrace anything college life had to offer (most notably, alcohol, but let's not dwell on that).

I cut off the majority of my hair yet again this week, but instead of dramatically revealing a more care-free, confident version of myself...I'm still pretty much just me. It's not that I'm surprised. With the exception of my post freshman year transformation, I've never had a haircut change my life (and if I'm being honest, that transformation probably had more to do with recovering from a broken heart than my hair). But regardless of the facts, over the years, whenever I'm feeling sad or stressed or out of control, I become convinced that changing my appearance - my hair, my weight, my clothes - will surely change everything. But the truth is - brunette or blonde, long or short, curly or straight, size 4 or size 8 - I'm still pretty much just me.

And as much as I love a good makeover story, maybe "just me" is okay.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


There are several women in my life who radiate confidence, the
M-I-L for one. It’s a quality I admire in others, maybe even envy. The ability to feel completely comfortable with who you are and what you bring to the conversation. Truly confident women never question the appropriateness of their words, or worry about how they will be perceived. They simply are who they are. I find it fascinating. What must it be like to have an opinion or make a decision and never question that perhaps you might be wrong?

And yet, occasionally this cool confidence can give way to arrogance, or self-centeredness. Some of these women seem to forget that what’s happening in their lives might not be the only thing happening. Sometimes they forget to ask, “What’s going on with YOU?” And sometimes, in their complete satisfaction with who they are and what they do, you get the feeling that they’re not so impressed with who you are and what you do (if they even thought to ask who you are and what you do in the first place).

Look, I see the irony of a narcissistic blogger accusing someone else of being self-centered, but if my mother taught me anything, it was to consider the feelings of others. I'm not saying I always think of others, but I try. My mom, however, completely embodies this ideal – the woman loves others and gives of herself in a way that is borderline saintly. I say this simply to explain the way I was raised, the qualities I was taught to value – not only by my mom, but by my school too. “Think of Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.” That was the motto of the all-girl “JOY club” led by my seventh grade Bible teacher – a club I refused to join, mind you, because even at 13, my inner-feminist sensed something wasn’t right with this motto. It’s a beautiful ideal, but teaching girls (and only girls) to put everyone else before themselves, well it doesn’t exactly send a message that values women, and it doesn’t really build confidence.

That being said, I do value the ideal. I look at my mother and pray that I can be even half as kind and sympathetic and selfless as she is…but here’s the thing…I wouldn’t describe my mother as particularly confident or self-assured. That certainly doesn’t mean the qualities can’t co-exist, but it’s a delicate balance to achieve.

I know. I’m getting awfully introspective for a girl contemplating switching gears on the blog altogether, but I spent part of the holiday weekend with the one and only Avery Jayne, and whenever I hold my baby niece in my arms, I can’t help but imagine the girl she will become. I don’t know if she will be brainy or sporty or artsy or all of the above, and honestly, I don’t care. I just want her to be happy, confident, and kind. Happy in her own life, without being complacent. Confident in who she is, without being self-centered or arrogant. Kind and sympathetic to the needs of others, without perpetually sacrificing her own needs.
I look at this beautiful creature and I see her inherent goodness. I know that she will be kind. And with so many people in her life to love her and challenge her, I’m certain that she will find happiness. But what of confidence? What is to stop her from falling into the same patterns of self-doubt and poor self-esteem that plague so many women and girls? And how can she learn to be confident when her mother and her aunt are all too quick to criticize themselves for every minor imperfection or mistake? It slowly occurs to me that if we are to teach her to value herself, we will have to show her that we value ourselves.
I don’t kid myself that I will be a primary role model for Avery as she grows up in Chicago, but I do hope to be someone she admires, someone her parents would be happy for her to emulate should she one day decide to flee the cold and come explore her Southern roots. So to that end, I want to be better. I resolve to be all the things I hope for her: Happy. Kind. Confident.
Crazy, huh? She’s not even five months old and she’s already challenging me to be a better person.