Every morning as I walk to the nearby train station I pass a large billboard advertising a local private girls’ school. And just beyond that billboard I actually pass hordes of uniformed girls waiting for a bus to take them to ‘said’ school.
The thing about the billboard is that the girls are (while not overtly pretty) fresh-faced and earnest-looking. And all with long hair, pulled back in pony-tails. It makes me notice that all of the girls sitting on the footpath have long hair as well. So – in some sort of strange social experiment – I find myself scouring the crowds for young girls (and not in a weird way!) and I’m yet to see a teenage girl with short hair.
I know the realisation is hardly mind-blowing or insightful, but I’ve found myself mulling over it for a while.
Last Sunday I attended my 15yr old niece’s end-of-year ballet concert. One of the early dances involving The Divine Miss E was a group number. Miss E and others in her year all appeared on stage throwing themselves about as one does in contemporary dance (well, so I’ve learned from So You Think You Can Dance!). They performed well, but the thing I most noticed is that they all had INCREDIBLY LONG HAIR left out and loose so they could flick it about the place.
Miss E herself has hair almost down to her teensy little butt. So when I saw her later I asked what would happen if some poor girl had short, or even shoulder length hair. Miss E looked at me strangely and told me ‘You can’t do ballet and have short hair.’
I think I hurrumphed and blithered about free will and homogenous societies. Etcetera. (Yes, I am sounding like a nanna, commenting on ‘hair like rats tails’ and the need for frequent brushing and trimming!)
I suspect an eye roll was involved before Miss E clarified: not only was long hair ‘cool’ (my word, not hers) but she said, in ballet you NEED to look like everyone else. In fact, she told me some ballet companies make blondes dye their hair a darker colour so THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME.
I have short hair at the moment, but have – on several occasions – had long hair. So perhaps I’m biased when I find myself admiring those role models or celebrities who take a risk and go for a more individual style… while still being ‘marketable’ or (god forbid) socially acceptable…. And, I’m thinking of Michelle Williams and Emma Watson (pictured right) here.
When I was young I wanted to be special. I wanted to excel in something. I wanted to be famous. And – fame by association was even okay. I mean, it wasn’t like I was about to go on a reality television show (although they didn’t exist in the 1980s, as TV Executives had not yet run out of ideas for quality shows!), but I wanted to stand out from the crowd and I wanted people to look up to me in some way.
I had no real idea in mind as to HOW I’d become famous, though toyed with the idea of modelling, or excelling in some activity or other. And, of course, if all else failed I would land myself a famous boyfriend or husband and become a well-known handbag.
When I think of that now I cringe with embarrassment, although I suspect many-a-young girl goes through a similar stage.
Do I still want to be famous? Umm….well, I’d like to be super-rich and not have to work. I’d like to be doing a job or things I love and am passionate about. I’d like to get more joy from life and have fewer worries. But fame… well actually, fame earned through achievement (aka RESPECT) would be better.
But do I want to be different? To stand out? Well, not at the moment! In fact, lately I’ve been thinking how much I’d like to be normal: blend in with crowd, if you will. I mean, sure I’d like for people to be gobsmacked by my outstanding beauty, wicked wit or achievements…(!!!) but mostly I want to NOT attract attention for all of the wrong reasons.
I don’t want people to see a picture of me and think, ‘Well, she’d look better if she lost some weight.’ And I don’t want people in the street to look at me and notice me because I’m bigger than everyone else.
Today I followed someone along the street and as she waddled along (very slowly) my own judgements and prejudices kicked in. I found myself thinking mean thoughts and eyeing her shopping bag (in which I could see blocks of chocolate) with disdain.
I’ve spent many a day hiding my unhealthy purchases or not eating in public so that I don’t attract unwanted attention from others. I mostly wear black – and not because it’s slimming or I’m making some sort of statement. I just don’t want to stand out. I want to blend in.
I hope that changes some day. I think I have a ‘big’ personality when I make the effort. I can walk into a room and overtake the conversation (not always an attractive trait I realise). So I just hope that one day, I’m confident to walk into a room in something eye-catching and different and attract attention – for all of the right reasons.