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>Naked Without Makeovers

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Tomorrow BOOKLEAVES is getting together for our June meeting, and I’ll be meeting Shanna from Ruby Ramblings for the first time. Through Bookcrossing and blogging, Shanna and I have known each other for about 3 or 4 years. I’ve been the happy recipient of some of her books and a great music CD that she made.

I’m excited to meet Shanna, but after last night, I’m wondering what she’ll see when she meets me.

Let me flash back a little. About this time last year, I made a new female friend. Soon after we established our friendship, she began to assess my appearance. She pushed for me to get new glasses and a new hairdo. The roundish frames I was sporting were just wrong, all wrong for my face. Since I really wanted some rectangular frames, I readily agreed.
The hair? Since it’s rather fine and thin and seems to have the market on cowlicks cornered, keeping it short is my best bet. I had also added some highlights. Not really working, my friend let me know. Too harsh. I should get more subtle highlights or just let the gray grow out. I did a pretty big chop with more subtle highlights. I have to admit, it was all much better. Starting last fall, I was finally beginning to be pleased when I saw myself in photographs.

In April, I decided on my own to go boy-short with the hair and was pleased with the results. It grew out very quickly, along with the gray. It’s at an awkward but not unmanageable length right now, and my plan is to go back to Yongsan and get it trimmed up next week when I have some free time.

Last night, I had dinner with two teachers from my school. As we were munching on appetizers, one of them suddenly asked me to do her a favor and try on her round rimless glasses. I did so, and she murmured, “Yes, much better.” Apparently my rectangular frames are just wrong, all wrong for my face. After that, she said, “Can I touch your hair?” “Okay,” I said. “It’s really fine, isn’t it?” she commented. Then she told me how I should have it cut. It seems as if the bangs, the top, the sides, the back and the color of my current cut are just wrong, all wrong. Wow, five out of five. She stopped short of suggesting that we do a field trip to her stylist ASAP, but I’m sure that’s next.

When I got home, I laughed and shook my head, and I’m still laughing and shaking my head today. What the hell?! What is it about me that as soon as I become friendly with a woman (or, in one case, a gay man) they are inspired to boldly step up, practically panting and offer to mastermind my makeover? I can’t decide if it’s:

A. I’m so hideous-looking that they feel compelled by a strong sense of duty to shield the rest of humankind from such a sight,

…………………… *****OR*****

B. I’m a hairsbreadth away being good-looking so they feel compelled by a strong sense of duty to frogmarch me the rest of the way into spiffy.

When I first came to Korea, I was briefly staying with an American about my age. The moment I stepped off the plane, she grimly determined that something must be done and right soon. I arrived on Saturday evening. By Wednesday evening, she had me in the chair at the beauty salon, getting my sprinkling of gray covered. After that, a trip to the manicurist and a brief tutorial about how to put on eyeshadow properly, she seemed satisfied. I duly thanked her for rescuing me from the wreck of myself.

If I don’t seem to welcome this kind of attention, it’s because it reminds me of what I grew up with. My mother has never gotten over my having thin, fine straight hair. In her book, curly is the only beautiful hair. Even more disappointing was my longish face and my slightly protruding ears. They’re just wrong, all wrong. And now age is doing a frenzied hoedown on both my flaws and my few good points. Good thing I’m half a world away, or the poor woman would have wept her life away years ago, seeing all this imperfection on a daily basis.

The people in my life all look fine to me. They’re not movie-star perfect, but I can always find something to admire and even envy about them. I would never dream of shuttling them off to the styling salon or optical shop in great haste. Perhaps I lack awareness. Maybe I don’t have that flash of genius that can spot potential. Could it be that I have no standards, or is it possible that these people all look fine?

The last time I read Jane Eyre, I was struck by how many times other characters commented on Jane’s looks, or lack of them. If they called her plain once, they called her that a hundred times, but no one tried to make her over. Maybe my friends should just take the Jane Eyre approach, make a brief remark about my unbecomingness and go on to the next topic. I can handle it. Really.

Now that it’s too late for a rejoinder, one comes to mind. Dorothy Parker (who never needed a makeover and would have cut someone to ribbons with her tongue for even the merest suggestion) said it best in the verse below. She was writing about behavior, not looks, but it’ll do nicely in this case:

“I shall stay the way I am
Because I do not give a damn.”
Am I alone? Does this ever happen to you?

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