It’s my body and I’ll change it any way I like

English: An ethnic Adivasi woman from the Kuti...
Image via Wikipedia

Loved this piece in The New York Times about women going seriously blond after chemotherapy:

A decade ago, the women who came to see Ms. Dorram, then at John Frieda, after chemo or radiation therapy did so furtively. They removed their wigs in the bathroom or booked early morning appointments so they didn’t have to be in a room with healthy clients.

“You feel vulnerable,” said Ms. Kreek, who met Ms. Dorram at John Frieda, when she returned to blond after her first round of chemotherapy in 2003. “You don’t want to come into a room with ladies with tons of hair, going, ‘I liked it when you did that last time.’ It’s like, ‘Shut up.’ ”

Now, for many women who have lost hair during cancer treatments, dyeing is empowering — and doing it in an open, chatty session makes it all the better. “They’re feeling good again,” said Alexis Antonellis, a colorist at Oscar Blandi who often sees clients who want hair colored after chemotherapy. “They want to go back to who they were. They’re so excited to sit back in the chair and get their life back. It’s really nice. You’ve got to see the smiles.”

I decided in December 2011 it was time to finally replace my arthritic left hip. I was, frankly, terrified of the whole thing. Four kinds of anesthetic? Three days in the hospital? A six-inch scar? Shriek.

A whole parade of strangers would soon be all over, and inside, my body. For a control freak like me, this was a little much.

So, after 20+ years as a (highlighted) blond, I went back to being a redhead — again. The last time I’d been red was in the 1980s, at the end of my crazy, fun-filled 20s.

Going decisively and suddenly red was also empowering.

I needed the surgery but I wanted a new look. When you’re about to face, or have just faced, a whole pile of medical intervention you really crave  doing something to your own body that’s fun and painless — and totally of your choosing.

(I’m not one for tattoos or piercings, so what else was left?)

I’m loving the new color, and have had nothing but compliments on it; a photo of me/it is on the “welcome” and “about” pages here.

Have you ever made a radical change to your appearance as a way to take charge — maybe at a shaky time in your life?

Did it help?

24 thoughts on “It’s my body and I’ll change it any way I like

  1. Interesting. I just ran into a friend of mine who had a baby about 3 months ago and she dyed her hair, as well, after the birth. I think yes, life-changing events make us want to do something to ourselves physically (speaking in the positive, here). As I’ve noted here earlier, I just went through a mastectomy. I already have some tattoos, though I have honestly considered getting a tat on the spot where my breast was. I opted not to have reconstruction, so that’s an option. But I don’t see myself going through with that. I also want to upgrade my wardrobe, but I’m not sure in what ways. I feel the need to do something transformative with myself, but again, I’m not sure. Maybe the hair thing is the way to go. I haven’t highlighted it in a few years. Maybe I’ll have that done.

    I got my tats to mark milestones in my life. The mastectomy is a little different, though, and I’m not sure a tat is appropriate for that. The hair, though…that could be good. 😀

    I think doing something transformative with ourselves after a surgery or a life-changing event helps us feel as if we’re able to meet the change and adapt. And I think it does make us feel a bit in control, especially if the event was traumatic.

    Thanks for blogging this.

  2. winsomebella

    After my divorce, I finally went ahead with long postponed dental work which did not radically change my appearance but did provide renewed self confidence. As you said, it empowered me. Love the red…really makes your eyes pop 🙂

    1. See…I thought as much! It’s such a powerful move to remake your body in any (healthy) way we can afford. I got divorced after a horrible two-year marriage and lost a ton of weight in the week I could not eat a thing…which got me a great new boyfriend. Score!

      Thanks for the compliment! I kept seeing pix of women with my eye color and skin tone and how great red looked on them.

  3. You have been through much worse than I, but I thought of you when I chose to blog this. It is a very strange thing to see your body permanently scarred and altered. It is a real shock, certainly at midlife.

    It was a very immediate and unregretted decision to change my hair color. It really stunned my colorist, who’s known me for a decade and knows how conservative I generally am with my appearance. But it felt completely right and I really like it a lot. It just feels stronger and more definite…everyone wants to be blond. I was over it.

    And — to be candid — it saves me $$$ and time. It’s half the price of highlights and one-third of the time sitting in the salon chair. I also see a huge difference in my hair’s health, much shinier than before. So it’s all good.

  4. I change my hair every single time something stressful or big happens in my life. It’s a small way to keep control. On a dimmer note, I developed an eating disorder early in my adolescents as a form of control and that is now something I struggle to fight daily.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 I like your blog.

    1. Interesting. I think that’s what made me change mine….I had been blond since the 1980s and my life has radically changed many times since then: jobs come and gone, a husband come and gone, friendships won and lost. I looked at my old pic and see someone a little too eager to please. I really wanted to ditch that persona!

      Sorry to hear about the eating disorder. I wish you luck in conquering it.

  5. 🙂 Enjoyed your post. I once got a tattoo of my boyfriends name. Everyone thought it was the worst idea ever because they were convinced if we broke up I would regret it. But I don’t regret it at all. While he and I are no longer together our split was amicable and every time I see my tattoo, I think about about how he has a tattoo of my name as well and oddly enough. I enjoy the constant reminder that I have been lucky to know love in my life. While some people may consider it stupid, it is my body, painted with my memories and although people insist I could have it removed, I don’t want to.

    I don’t want to let go of ideas or memories which warm my heart.

    1. Thanks!

      I guess it also depends (?) how big the tattoo is, where it is and how other men in your life since then have also felt about it.

      But I agree. It’s always our body and ours to do with as we choose.

  6. I like your red hair! I think it totally changes the amount of strength you project in the two images. It makes me wonder what you were thinking when you had them taken and what was going on in your life at the time.

    In my thirties, I made a decision to change something that had bothered me but no one else seemed to notice. I’m not sorry I did it and and I would do it again, but I made a discovery afterward that surprised me. I wrote about it on my blog if you’d like to read more and see the before and after pics. (Sorry to have so many links, but it was a story told in threes and the pictures in each are important to the story)

    1. Thanks…I agree the two pix are very different indeed.

      In the past 12 months, my life has changed a lot: I put my mother into a nursing home and (for a pile of reasons) she no longer speaks to me; I got married; my 2nd book came out and did well (but demanded some tough negotiations over its rights), and I had major surgery. It was a busy year! So my hair color is very much a reflection of a newer and stronger sense of myself and it’s good to know others can see it.

      Thanks for the links…I’ll check them out.

      1. Gracious! That is a lot of change and I can empathize with the non speaking mother piece. Mine quit talking to me back in 1996 for the second time after a long period of no contact from 14 to 24. How anybody can do that to their child … I just don’t get it.

        Your hair though … it’s definitely a stronger look, more of a whole energy shift in your photographs. I like it.

        I forgot to mention that I have a tattoo smaller than a nickel that I love. It’s a tiny spider in a place that is easily covered and there’s a whole story that goes with it that I can’t share online except to say that I wouldn’t change it for anything.

      2. Thanks…Having a tough Mom really shapes you, doesn’t it?

        Thanks very much for the compliment about my hair — and the shift in energy. It’s been a year of many epiphanies and a subsequent stiffening of my spine. I suspect that shows…:-)

        A spider. Very cool.

  7. I stopped colouring my hair and straightened it. That was liberating! I felt I had professional hair vrs clown hair for the first time in my life. People took me seriously and more importantly, so did I. I love gingers, it is a colouring I don’t use because I become my sisters identical twin when I do 🙂

  8. It’s amazing what a difference one’s appearance (and self-confidence) can make professionally.

    Living and working in NY, where many women are *immaculately* groomed and dressed (and have lots of $$$$ to spend on it), will force anyone ambitious to up their game. Even during periods of severe income stress, I still invest in good cut and color as it’s an indelible first impression.

  9. emogeekface

    I read this post and decided to write my own on my experience with body modification and how reactions to my appearance has affected my working life so far.

    I have not been through anything traumatic in terms of changes to my own body which have caused me to need control, however, I have been though traumatic times (such as death in the family) that have invoked the same response. Feeling a complete lack of control over a situation, particularly one involving death, makes me feel like I need to do something that reconfirms that I am alive.

    It’s just unfortunate that by doing something that boosts your self-esteem can cause others to judge you unfavourably.

    1. It’s true.

      I have to admit, and no disrespect personally if this was your choice, I’m not personally fond of huge tattoos. It’s just not me, and never would be, although they’re clearly very popular.

      A small one, or several, in a discreet place. Or hidden by work clothing. But if I had to hire someone in a customer-facing position — depending on the shop or service’s clientele — I’d be cautious about it. As much as people who love tats and piercings are very fond of them, there are others (older, more conservative, whatever) who are uncomfortable with it. In my retail job (in contrast to every journalism job I’ve ever had, over 25 years) almost every single co-worker (ages 18-35) had multiple tats and some had some pretty intense piercings. But I’ve yet to meet a working journalist with anything like that visible; one of my jobs as a journo is to make total strangers, whether a CEO or a teenager, comfortable enough to speak with me easily…

  10. Hee hee…all my tats are hidden beneath my work clothes. 😀 Because yes, I did think about those things. I personally don’t care where others put their tats, but there are lots of people out there who might be uncomfortable with seeing them on others, and I agree that in some professions, that can be a not-so-good thing. Good point, that. I like the tats I got, and they did mark important milestones in my life. So, as the other commenter noted, they’re about memories, too, and I like the memories I have with regard to the tats.

    All that said, I think altering one’s appearance after surgery or a traumatic event is almost a ritual of sorts. Maybe a cleansing thing or a closure thing.

    Must ponder. Thanks.

  11. I’ve made some fairly big changes to my body because I am transgender. Each thing I do to get closer to having my body and brain in alignment is a great thing. The blogs directly related to this are here:

    I hope you’re recovering well from the hip surgery. Think of the fun you can have messing with people’s heads as you make up stories about the scar …. “Yes, we were going down the Amazon River when …”

  12. I am just so grateful to be mobile and pain-free. I thought the scar would freak me out more (although it does somewhat) but it will fade and be almost invisible within months.

    As my husband said, I’ve earned it!

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