How Much Of Your Life Do You Live For Other People’s Approval?

Have you ever looked in the mirror after a haircut and thought, “HOLY SHIT. THIS IS NOT WHAT I ASKED FOR!”?

I sat in huddled over my desk in my pantry-turned-office crying. I pulled the door closed so Philip wouldn’t hear me.

But he did. A knock, and then —

“You okay?”

No, I’m not fucking okay. Which is why I said —

“I AM FINE!”

Which is when the door swung open and Philip took in my mascara-streaked face and his now-spouse collapsed like a drunk, overstuffed carnival prize tiger on a $39 desk chair from Target. In a pantry. Next to the stackable washer/dryer and spaghetti.

I was crying about my hair — because what would people think?

My stylist of nearly five years was out of the salon on a leave of absence and I just needed a trim before heading out to a pay-my-rent-for-the-next-year gig in Vegas the following week. They’d put me with another of the salon’s senior stylists. I’m cool. I have pictures. She can’t fuck this up. Like, I have 20 pictures that show what my hair is supposed to look like when there’s not so much of it. Shorter. Less-er. Floofier.

But apparently, it wasn’t that easy.

By the time she’d spun the chair around, my hair was gone. I looked like a late ’80s DIY skaterboi. In fact, I had nearly the identical haircut (yet with less precision) that I got back in 1980-something when I stole away to Visible Changes — the “upscale salon” in Houston that charged (gasp) $40 for a “Precision Cut” — back in 8th grade and came home looking like a strawberry-hued skaterboi about a week before school pictures.

Which is exactly when my mother, in all her rage fueled by societal expectations, grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me like a human spray paint can as she exclaimed, “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?! WHAT WILL YOUR GRANDFATHER THINK OF THIS WHEN HE SEES YOUR SCHOOL PICTURES?”

I had no idea why grandpa would think anything because I didn’t do anything for my grandfather’s approval.

Which brings me back to my hair, or lack thereof, and crying in my pantry-office and telling my fresh spouse (like, we hadn’t even been married a month, y’all) that I AM FINE.

But I wasn’t. This person and this hair weren’t who this big gig had hired. There were thousands of dollars on the line. My agent would likely shit three bags of Reese’s Pieces Halloween candy because I now no longer looked like my headshots and the look that gets me into rooms for big brand commercials and callbacks based on my sweet spot:

Any item of clothing that hides my tattoos coupled with a *DING* Midwestern Snarky Mom-on-half-a-Xanax grin.

I was no longer Midwest Mom. I was hip and funky, “Do people with hair like that procreate?” Mom. Because in the world of commercials, a femme-identifying human’s marketability is solely based on whether said human has procreated because moms remain the single largest buying demographic in the mafuckin’ world.

Shit, shit, shit.

I hated it. It was a horrible cut. I had pieces of hair sticking up in places I shouldn’t and there was no style. It had just been CUT.

And OFF.

All I could think was, “What will people think?”

I already knew what I thought. I had a shitty haircut at a time that I couldn’t afford a shitty haircut and it wasn’t what I asked for and I didn’t even get to participate in the decision.

And as Philip held me and let me cry, he didn’t say it would be alright. He just let my newly anointed too-expensive-to-look-this-bad skaterboi self cry in his arms and said the last thing I needed to hear:

“I like you with short hair.”

Really. Really?! That’s rich. You like me with short hair. Well, thank a tiny, solid milk chocolate baby Jesus for that, my love. So on Monday, when I go to this rehearsal for this gig that’s going to pay my share of the rent for A YEAR, I’ll tell the folx who hired a human with much longer and “normal” hair that hey — I get that it’s shorter but my spouse thinks it’s swell.

Two weeks worth of wed right there. Not one of my prouder moments. And yeah, I said it.

And in all of this bullshittery about my half-assed skaterboi, I didn’t once stop and ask what I wanted.

Because the truth is: I’d wanted to lop my hair off for quite some time but hadn’t because of what everyone else would think of it.

What would Philip think?

What would my agents think?

What would casting directors think?

What would this massive gig think?

And while I had a fuckmuppet haircut that took the decision to cut my hair off out of my hands (I’m apparently big on using Muppets as a literary device — you’re welcome), I did have shorter hair.

And I couldn’t completely hate it.

So I did what I knew how: I went into the salon at 7:30AM on a Saturday morning and sat in the salon owner’s chair and said I’m here to participate. Let’s fix this. And if fixing this means making it shorter, I’m okay with that.

And he looked at my hair and apologized. Thanked me for giving them the chance to fix it. And he did make it shorter. I got the haircut I deserved in the process and while there remain wisps of hair that look 24/7 AFRAID and will for quite some time until they grow out… it’s okay. It’s better. And I approved.

Which brings me around to this asshole of a question: How much of our lives do we live for someone else’s approval?

And I don’t know the answer to that.

What I do know, howevs, is that the whole fuckmuppet hair sitch above began as one thing and turned out to be another.

It began as being pissed that the decision to lop all my hair off was taken away from me.

It ended with realizing that I gave everyone else’s approval more weight than my own.

And a week from this Saturday, I’m going back for another haircut and this Muppet Mop is going even shorter.

Now, if you’ve made it this far, we share a few things:

  1. You’ve been on the receiving end of a haircut you didn’t ask for.
  2. You’re thinking about decisions you’ve recently made based on what someone else would think of them.
  3. Neither one of us has the answer to the portion of our lives we live for other and the parts we reserve for ourselves.

We live in a world drenched with approval. Likes, loves, and various symbols that reduce our approval to a click. We have the ability to see who approves of what and tap into that approval (or rejection) like a drug — social rats conditioned to get a dopamine booster from a variety of apps. And it all began so innocuously — as a way to connect with people without actually having to connect.

Which meant that along with approval, rejection could seep in at flood-like rates and send us into a spiral seeking the validation we’ve come to not just want… but need.

And it’s not bad to want approval. It’s not bad to want anything — even if it’s for your ex- or that basic in line at the grocery to meet an untimely demise for being everything that’s wrong with the world.

But that wanting becomes toxic when we need it and can’t survive without it and give up more and more of ourselves to get it.

And yah, there are bigger problems than a shitty haircut and ones by far less fixable. We all want to do right by others, but how often do we do right by ourselves?

But what began as a haircut I didn’t want became the need to care a bit a lot less about the parameters I’ve allowed others to place on my worth and value when I’m the only one who’s gotta go through this world as ME.

BTW: your hair looks great today. Thanks for stopping by.

OR the NSFW version:

PS: I have a fundraiser going on over at FB for a dog rescue in Houston that’s helping re-home two strays that wandered into Mom’s yard back in May while I was in town settling her estate. We’re only $180 away from our goal of raising $1250 — this ensure the health, wellness, and transport of the two pups AND helps us ensure we can pay it forward for two more pups. If you indulge in the Facebook Shame Vortex, maybe stop by today and use it for good instead of evil. If you shun the FB (I applaud you) and you’d still like to donate, you can do so over at Lola’s Lucky Day. Just put a note on your donation that it’s for “Spirit and Butterball” — great names, rite?!

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