No One's Youer Than You Series Post 3: Beauty
Today we have an amazing guest writer on SlamminLammon who approached me about doing a collaboration on each of our blogs. Mac MacDaniel is someone I met through the dance world and is an incredible friend and human. When he asked me to collaborate, I was honored to be able to write for Last Syllable Press, and even more excited to have his writing showcased on my blog.
My posting on here has had to take a backseat lately due to all my travels and moving, but don't worry, I will cover it all for you when the time comes! Until then, I hope you will enjoy reading my friend Mac's writing and hopefully hopping over to Last Syllable press to read more of his writing, as well as what I wrote on my experience with the "New Works" show I was in most recently.
My name is Mac MacDaniel. I run Last Syllable Press, I’m a Shakespeare educator, friend of the Slammer, and most importantly — for this post at least — a hairstylist. Since Alex’s previous two posts have been about a theme and issue that matter to me and relate to our friendship, and since my most recent post over at LSP was about the last show that Alex danced in Richmond, I approached her about doing a cross-blog collaboration. I'm writing a post here at SlamminLammon and she's writing a post over on LSP.
So here I am with No One's Youer Than You Series — Post 3: “Beauty.”
I have bad hair — really bad hair — so bad that I once sat down in a hairstylist’s chair and had her outright refuse to cut my hair because she felt unqualified to deal with it. Everyone has a feature or a flaw that made them self-conscious growing up. Maybe you had a big nose, or a lot of freckles, or you were short. Maybe you had a stutter or crooked teeth or a disability that made you wish no one would ever look at you. When I was growing up, my hair was probably my biggest source of insecurity. In high school I grew my hair out long because I got into heavy metal, but also because the longer my hair is, the less susceptible it is to its frustrating cowlicks, growth patterns, and unruly texture.
When I was around 20 or so I finally got my first good haircut. I was dating a hairstylist and she was the first person to spend time learning how to tame my hair and make it look halfway decent. I remember the first time that I got a haircut that I liked; it was a revelatory experience. Of course my hair wasn’t my only source of insecurity, but it was a big one and having a good haircut definitely made me walk a little taller.
That experience made me want to become a hairstylist. I’ve been doing hair for a little over six years now, and the best thing that ever happens to me is when I am able to help a person navigate their hair in a way that is empowering and makes them feel good about themselves.
But working in the beauty industry is a double-edged sword. There’s a fine line between helping people look good, and helping people not look bad. We can inspire confidence in people, but some of what we do means profiting off of people’s insecurity. As much as I try to remain positive and think about what I do in terms of helping people be more of who they are, my heart breaks every time someone frames their hair experience in the context of wanting to hide something that makes them sad, rather than highlighting something that makes them happy.
My rule in the salon is this: You should always think in terms of what you want, not what you need. Cutting and coloring your hair in a certain way, wearing certain clothes and jewelry, doing your makeup should always be a choice and not an obligation. You don’t need to cover your grey hair, but if you want to, then you should. You don’t have to wear makeup, but if you do, you should wear as much or as little as you want and draw attention to whatever features you want.
My proudest moments behind the chair have been helping people learn to love the features they have and also giving them the tools to reinvent themselves. I love teaching people with curls how to style them beautifully rather than constantly flat-ironing them. I love giving my trans clients hair that helps them feel comfortable in their own skin. I love when children want haircuts that their parents don’t approve of. I love when people want to be themselves in spite of everyone telling them to try and be someone else.
One of the reasons I was extra sad to see Alex leaving Richmond was because she — more than almost anyone who’s ever sat in my chair — is so incredibly true to herself that it inspires me on a personal and a professional level. When Alex sat in my chair for the first time, she said that she likes to part her hair in a particular place to draw attention to a scar she has on her forehead. The second time she sat in my chair, she said she likes the damaged and broken shorter hairs in her nape because they’re characteristic of ballerinas, who always have to wear their hair in tight buns for performances and always have a lot of damage to the hair in the nape. Hearing someone embracing and praising their “flaws” rather than trying to hide them is a powerful thing.
It sounds counterintuitive, but I think it’s wrong to think of who we are solely in terms of our personalities; our appearance is — for better or worse — a big part of our identity, and taking control of that aspect of who you are is immensely important. Because of the pressure that society puts on people — especially women! — about their appearance, just looking how you want to look and embracing your beauty is an act of defiance that people underestimate.
It’s perhaps an over-used quotation, but e.e. cummmings said “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
Beauty is a battle.
And you are winning.
Interested in reading what I wrote in Mac's blog? Head over to Last Syllable Press and check it out!