by Jonalyn Grace Fincher
My mom hung a little cream placard with blue letters in our kitchen. Growing up I’d read it often, “You are who you are when no one is looking.” It plagued me with confusion about who I really was. The me in private? Or the me in public?
In the movie, Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen hears Peeta Mellark explain that he doesn’t want the games, even the killing he may do to change who he is.
“I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into something I’m not…If I’m going to die I want to still be me.”
So who is the protagonist, Katniss? The girl dressed for the Hunger Games’ crowd, or the girl at home with her sister Prim? I’m sure The Hunger Games series plans to iron this question out. The truth is, we all dress up for the show. We all have different “me’s.”
Who is the real you? Is it the one at work or the one at home? Or is it the you behind closed doors in solitude? Is this as fair to extroverts as it is to introverts? How much of ourselves do we let hang out and how much do we comb into a presentable appearance? And is it fake to do that combing work? Or is it a way to honor others? Was Katniss fake in her flaming evening gown? Or was it true of her? As true as her cotton blue gown?
My artist friend from Laguna Beach has often said women don’t get dressed up for men as much as they get dressed up for each other. He’s told me women are always trying to out-compete others in how they look. I realized he’s gathered his facts from women–a few who do, in fact, dress to impress, contrast and outshine other women.
A majority of my friends dress up for other women, but not to compete with them. They dress to honor. Like Katniss in her mother’s blue dress honors something sobering and difficult—the reaping.
We wear a dry-clean only skirt to a wedding to honor someone’s marriage. We wear our hair flat-ironed and pinned up into a French twist because we honor a birthday. We pull on several fishnet stockings until we get one without a snag because we honor girl’s night out. We get dressed up to show others we care, and sometimes our public face and dress code is as hindering and false as Effie Trinket’s ensemble in The Hunger Games.
Take our hair for instance, most of my friends with curly hair don’t like their God-given hair texture and therefore straighten it. One told me it was because a study had shown guys prefer straight hair to curly. She sighted this “study” as evidence, in which the blogger proves that her straight look gets more hits at the singles dating site than curly.
The blogger, Naturally Curly, does go on to date those who’ve chosen her profile wearing the opposite hair-do of the profile pic. Most of the dates don’t seem to care, but Naturally Curly does let it slip that she’s not comfortable with frizz.
As a woman who drew her husband because of her curly hair I have long wanted to comment to Naturally Curly’s blog.
Once I seriously straightened my hair to surprise Dale after a long business trip abroad. On the way to the airport I received more attention/harassment, whistling, comments, etc. And my hair was not even really straight, more so wavy and tousled like Jenna Jameson. The fact that Jameson is a famous porn star is exactly the point I’d like to make.
When I met my husband at the airport he failed to even recognize me. He nearly walked by me. My theory: my hair straight looks more like a porn star’s Aqua-Netted masterpiece–more like the up-dos in the Capitol of Panem–than me. Dale told me afterwards he noticed the wavy-haired me and thought, “Oh, there’s an attractive woman, but where’s my attractive woman?”
It was on his second take that he realized the face was still mine.
My theory: women who “do” their hair to look substantially different than their natural look can accidentally achieve the porn look—the look that says, “I’m here to be consumed by your eyes.” Of course, our hair can look naturally tousled, but how much more honest this look is after a day of gardening, painting or biking.
That disgust of the consumption of her death is why Katniss mocked Cinna’s (her stylist’s) mandate to “Make her beautiful.” She knew it could hide who she was and what she was about to be forced to do.
Cinna went beyond beauty to, “Make an impression.”
Perhaps that’s a good guide. To dress up to make an impression, but not to conceal the soul within. Another theory of mine is that the more we try to imitate another person’s look, the more bland we become. But, the more we look and act as we were created to be, the way God made us to be, the more one-of-a-kind unique we become. The more we’re the only person like us in the universe.
Can we make an impression without disguising ourselves? Can we look like…ourselves?
The look of most hairstyles today are usually heavily configured sorts of things, more like Effie Trinket than Katniss Everdeen. Except, of course, in places where women do things. When your day consists of eating, driving and shopping, you don’t have to create. Creating puts hair in proper perspective, as well as our entire appearance.
After spending time in Los Angeles awaiting my new nephew’s birth and then flying home to Denver, I was immediately struck by the naturalness of people’s hair out here.
Not everyone, but more women in Colorado let their hair fly out, naturally wavy or puffy, flat or curly. Women here have things to do beyond their hair. And in the end, I feel they’re letting me see the realness in who they were originally born to be.
And it’s an honor to see them.
For those women who are slowly learning to put the flat iron down and embrace their waves or curls or frizzy bigness (or even the straight-haired ladies who are learning to let go of the curling iron), I salute you. You haven’t let the games change who you are.
How do you stay true to who you are through your appearance?