Who would have ever thought that something as trivial as a hairstyle would make me feel more courageous in expressing myself in general? Surely, I have always been exceptionally feminine and interested in aesthetics, but wearing my hair in pin curls makes me feel this fun lack of shame about who I am in ways that do not even directly have to do with my appearance. I think this is because for a long time in my life, I had a lot of pent-up anxiety about my appearance. When I was a kid and teenager, people would glare at my fair skin like it was a deformity, grabbing my pale forearm and pressing it against their tanned arm to highlight the difference in tone. My peers described me as “nearly transparent” since I was so pale and a couple people even stung deep enough as to say that I looked like I was dead. These comments affected my self-image for years, most especially when I was in sixth grade and tried a variety of bronzers to make my skin look more “normal.” I even went to a tanning bed once! (Although, I did not close it and I think you are supposed to, haha!) Needless to say, I have not touched bronzer for years and I wear sunscreen every time I go outside for extended periods of time.
When I was about sixteen, I was watching Conan O’Brien with my sister with Dita Von Teese and Marylin Manson as guests. When I saw Dita, something about my culturally indoctrinated sense of beauty changed and a new sense of aesthetic appreciation turned on. Look at a picture of Dita Von Teese. Sure, her look is very…stylized, some might even argue that it is not entirely natural. However, she is a stunning woman who has built an enterprise for herself off of being pale, dark haired, skinny, and confident about her body and sexuality. I adore that. Bettie Paige is another example. She is noted as being one of the most glamorous and compelling women in history. Of course, this is largely due to her playful charm. Anyhow, I do not want to be a pin curled glam girl all the time, but I will say that when I go out it attracts a positive attention to something that had for SO long given me negative feedback. I show my entire face (my hair is pulled away from my face) and I get to have fun being this woman who is comfortable with herself and her appearance and her body. Somehow it encourages me to hold back less on other aspects of who I am. I am slightly louder, I let my laugh be a little longer, and I allow myself to move and speak in a more expressively open manner. It is so silly…but it does make a difference.
Another aspect of this look is that it attracts a lot of attention. Ever since I was a child, I have always liked attracting attention (though, not necessarily being the center of it). It is something that I generally do not like about myself. This look allows me to attract attention in a way that feels very positive, and it settles an urge within me that I have long been wanting to tame. It is nice because the attention seems to be very…gentle. People notice the look as retro, vintage, glamorous, and unique. Normally I get attention for being a skinny white girl (or something of the like) and it can feel a bit oppressive. This attention feels kind.
All said, there are about 3 days of a week, at most, that I will sport my Dita Von Teese inspired look. The rest of the time, I am wearing absolutely no makeup and getting sweaty in yoga classes. And I like it this way. It’s great contrasting that in a dynamic allows for a nice balance.
Body positivity is something that seems to be cruelly lacking in today’s society, and I really hope that this changes. Women are made to feel inadequate with their appearance, always being at the whim of advertisements or cultural trends that are ever-changing. The message that is being communicated is that we could always be better than we are — skinnier, more toned muscles, softer skin, less hair in unwanted places, more glamorous hair, etc. Moreover, women tend to so often be in competition with one another. Rather than seeing an attractive woman who pursues a similar style of look and empathizing or feeling a sense of shared interest, women often experience tension or hostility against other women who are beautiful or confident. I have experienced this myself and have learned to let go of it. Instead, it is so nice to share affinities with women about style, aesthetics, feeling confident and empowered, and owning our look, presence, and personality through bold self-expression. I feel horrible that so many women make themselves suffer because they feel like they do not look good enough. We pick ourselves apart for our appearance. It’s okay to feel beautiful. In fact, it is rather refreshing! Yoga and teaching have allowed me to experience and share body positivity.
That is all I have to say for now. I must also thank my burlesque teacher and classes, my yoga classes and teaching experiences, and the fantastic photographers who I have worked with over the years. All of these experiences combined have encouraged body positivity and have inspired me to “own” my look and feel happy and joyous just in being myself. These experiences have been incalculably valuable.
Me, age 26, rocking some pin curls (Photo by the exceptionally talented Matthew Gaynor (Empace), 2014)