Songs for the Struggling Artist

How a Haircut is Different in My Forties
November 6, 2015, 12:47 am
Filed under: feminism | Tags: , , , , , , ,

As a young woman, I got a lot more haircuts than I do now and many of them were terrible. I would never really know how it happened – but I would regularly come home in tears from adventures at the hairdressers. I finally figured out why at my last haircut.

The guy cutting my hair was a 20-something super stylish fella with a brightly colored pompadour. When I told him how short I wanted my hair, he balked. “Really?!” he said. “Yes,” I said.

So he cut it, clearly full of reservations, telling me how my hair would puff up, how it would be too short, etc. And, when he finished, it was not as short as I’d asked for. So, I told him it should be shorter and finally, I got the cut I wanted.

If I’d been my 20 something self, I’d have been sure that this guy, whose job it is to cut hair, knew more than me about what to do with mine. I was susceptible to suggestion, judgment and other people’s opinions, especially in matters of appearance.

But experience has taught me a lot about my hair. I know that it’s straight underneath and curly on top. I know how much shorter it is when it’s dry. I know that it’ll look weird for a minute after I leave the shop until I can get my head under a sink and let it dry naturally. I know a lot more about myself now too and I don’t actually care what a stylist thinks of me. I can’t be bullied into something that isn’t right for me. Not anymore. Not in my 40s.

This is true in a great many other aspects of my life as well. I am much harder to manipulate. I’m not controlled by young men’s opinions. Or old ones’ for that matter. I just don’t give as much of a damn about what people think of me anymore.

I have found my 40s challenging. I have felt acutely the way our culture only values women while they are young and demonstrating a particular kind of beauty. Theatre for a New Audience posted a casting notice asking for a “stunning” woman who “ends up” a woman of 40. This was a stark illustration of the way women my age are perceived.

But dealing with a punk-ass kid who thinks he knows my hair better than I do, I recognized some of the good things about “ending up” as a woman in her 40s. We take less shit. We are harder to manipulate. We know what we want and will take the necessary steps to get it.

That stylist thought I was crazy and a little difficult. (Which is hilarious because I am, by most accounts, insanely low maintenance.) But it’s so nice not to care. Caring what everyone thought of me is always what got me into trouble. It is what made me so easily molded, so willingly manipulated, so off my center so much of the time. It is why I cried after 9 out of 10 haircutting experiences when I was younger.

Women over 40, we’re a little dangerous, I think, in the best way. We’re dangerous because we’re learning how to let go of all the expectations laid on us in our youth. We’re freer. These are the benefits. Aging is hella worth it , y’all.

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“You are Such a Free Spirit!”
July 29, 2015, 10:31 pm
Filed under: clown | Tags: , , , ,

As I was leaving a dance class I’d attended, an observer of the class said to me, “You are such a Free Spirit!” This surprised me because I do not think of myself in this way at all. Maybe this is because the phrase “Free Spirit” conjures gypsy skirts and patchouli oil with maybe a crown of flowers over long flowing hair. The idea of a free spirit conjures flightiness, and a general disregard of others. So it’s hard to take being called a free spirit as a compliment. In fact, the tone of it made me a little angry. (Which is probably why I started writing this post. . .)

But – I suppose I do enjoy a certain amount of freedom. I recognize that I am rather freer than your average bear. I think what this observer was seeing was my ability to be uninhibited while dancing, to embrace the unexpected and to generally not be afraid to have a good time. All those thing are hard won, though, and have more to do with how I cultivate those qualities than any particular free spirit within me.

I am not so much a free spirit, as a clown. And there’s a bunch of training behind that. I learned how to enjoy myself wherever I can, how to take risks and generally not be afraid of making on an ass of myself. I really don’t mind being the first out on the dance floor. I will happily look like a fool. (Which, I think is really what this observer was implying with her comment. Subtext: “You look foolish!”)

And too, I think, by virtue of just having spent the last 20+ years choosing my own path as an artist, I am basically not afraid to be unconventional.

I see other dancers afraid to make any sound at all when we do the punching movements in this class (even though making the sound makes the movement easier and also feels good.) I see others trying so hard to do things right that they miss an opportunity to enjoy the moment.

Maybe being a free spirit is the same as being a clown, I don’t know. But a clown in a gypsy skirt is still a clown – and I guess I could really take being called a free spirit as a compliment. You won’t catch me wearing any patchouli, though.


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