Sometime, somewhere, they gave classes on being a girl. And I was absent. Like the day they taught right and left.

I can’t do my hair. Both of my sisters are excellent at hair. I can’t seem to manage it. How do I get to the back of my head, and how do I do it without burning my hand on the curling iron? What do I do with the pieces I’ve already “done”? What product should I use, how much, and at what point in the process? And where are all my hair products, anyway? I swear I used to have some hairspray somewhere.

I have always been a bit of a failure at being a girl. Growing up, it was the thing my stepmother and stepsister were good at, not me. I was good at school. When I was in college, I got a job at Aveda, and my family kind of laughed at me. “You?” was the general consensus. “What are you doing working at Aveda?”

I think working there helped me a little. I learned how to apply eye shadow. I started washing, moisturizing, toning, and exfoliating my face regularly. I kept my nails polished and neat instead of biting them because customers would see my hands when I showed them our products. I used to marvel when I got ready to go to work that I could go from looking like me to looking like a girl who wouldn’t have talked to me in high school in the space of about ten minutes.

But I never mastered hair styling. Even when I was working there, if a customer needed help with hair products that went beyond the hair product descriptions printed on little cards on the shelf, I went and found another salesgirl. And I remain totally hopeless now.

It’s the new year, and so I’m feeling a little reflective. I’ve always been sort of nerdy, scruffy. And, in high school at least, that meant scorning the other kind of girl, the kind of girl who blow-dried her hair to perfection even when she was just putting it up in a ponytail. And I went to college with a bunch of other nerds. That meant that, while I was not nearly the most fashionable person in the room at any point, I was also rarely the scruffiest. But I’m a grown-up now, and I’m feeling a bit torn about the whole thing.

On the practical level, I can’t really look like a fashion plate every day. I have a 16-month-old. If I don’t have someone else in the house to watch her, in some other location, I can’t turn on the blow-dryer, because it’ll scare her, or the curling iron, because she’ll find a way to burn herself on it. My clothes will be covered in drool, snot, or spilled food ten minutes after I put them on.

But on another level, I’m feeling a little low due to my scruffiness (which is part and parcel with my weight). Growing up, it was okay with me that I wasn’t good at the girl stuff, because I was good at the school stuff. But I’m not in school, and I only have a small, part-time job. So the scruffiness is both worse than it usually is and more bothersome to me because I have little else to feel like I’m doing well.

That sounds too depressing. Let’s reframe it. Maybe it’s just the only thing I feel I’m not doing well. I do my job (pretty) well and I like it. My house looks pretty nice. It needs a lot more decor, but I’m fine with taking that slowly. I may not be in school, but I read an awful lot. I am a good cook and I’m getting better. My daughter is doing just great. I try to keep myself from resting too much of my self-esteem on how she’s doing. It’s dangerous for me and for her. But for now, I suppose I can take a little bit of maternal pride in the fact that I have the most wonderful, adorable, beautiful, smart, curious, and capable child in the whole wide world. 🙂 It’s just my hair. I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to manage it in the next few months.

Happy New Year!


2 thoughts on “Fail

  1. RebLeah18 says:

    I totally identify. I've only recently realized that it is possible to be good at school/work/life and also take pride in one's appearance (and that the latter might actually help with the former), and I feel about a million years behind. I missed the "being a girl" classes too, especially the one about how to gracefully get in and out of a car while wearing a skirt (Britney apparently missed that one too!).

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