Archive for December, 2012

Hair

Sclater St, East LondonI am obsessed with my hair. It’s long. There’s a lot of it. I spend entirely too much time worrying about how much more shiny it can be (Moroccan Oil, people – works wonders).

Men also love hair. Think of your last quality kiss? Bet he was up in your hair. I bet he even enjoys a bit of hair-pulling. You probably do, too. I’m not judging.

Hair is great. For me, it provides a few things, which the writer in me can’t help but to alliterate:

  • Comfort — If I’m writing, thinking or stewing, you can also bet I’m twirling.
  • Cheat — I feel like if my hair looks good, people don’t notice what doesn’t look so good. Result.
  • Cover — When all else fails, I just hide behind it. Usually in photos. Turns out, this is both obvious and unphotogenic.

Anyway.

Why hair? Bet you’ve already guessed that my concerns are not entirely cosmetic, nor superficial.

To me, Christmas, the end of a year, it’s all very thoughtful. I take a lot of stock, not only in the year that’s passed, but on the passage of the years that preceded it — the choices that comprise a lifetime, all thrown into focus by a holiday that forces family and friends together and elicits status updates (delivered personally rather than on Facebook). A holiday that causes you to look around the table and note who is there, who isn’t — and who could’ve been.

So back to hair.

In my day job, I recently met a trichologist, a ‘doctor of hair.’ (And yes, I did inquire as to how I might make my hair even shinier). She informed me that long hair can be years-old. My own carries the last six years with it, at least.

And then it hit me — why hair and loss go hand in hand, or scissors in hand, as the case may be. In a movie, you know a woman feels loss when she stares in front of a mirror, wet-eyed and holding comically oversized shears for a DIY haircut. We read about women in books, who after tragedy, head straight to the hairdresser. When my own father died, I rushed to lop off about eight effortfully cultivated inches. I didn’t even think about it; it was impulsive.

Hair is an immensely powerful symbol. Certain religions mandate its cover to contain its energy, often sexual. Some cultures cover the dead in it, as it is technically dead, but still grows and thrives. And in countless cultures, mourners shave their heads to sever ties with or to honour those who’ve died.

But all this shaving might not be about symbology. Maybe it’s about cutting pain out of your life. In fact, after talking to the trichologist, I was half tempted to run to my stylist immediately and demand that she eliminate the bad memories of those six years.

  • The end of a 10-year relationship.
  • The heartache of the one that came after it, so full of promise — and stacked odds.
  • The toxicity of certain nights out and the toxicity of the men I met on them.
  • A bad job, followed by an unchallenging job, followed by the horror of acquiring an addiction to Mafia Wars as a result of boredom at said job.

Cut it all off, I thought. Start fresh.

But I thought better of it. Firstly, I love my hair. It’s the longest — and shiniest — it’s ever been. Shot from behind (and waist-up), I’m pretty sure I could be mistaken for a Kardashian.

And of course long hair is incredibly feminine. And I love being a woman.

But more than anything, I earned those memories. I learned from them. While I don’t always act it, I should be smarter by now. Isn’t it better to carry that with you than to cut it off and bury it deep?

You may have figured it out: I’m no Christmas girl. I’ve lived too long and I can happily buy my own gifts. And I think we should work to conjure ‘our better angels’ all days of the year, instead of just the one. But like long hair, I like to carry the memories of past Christmases — good and bad — and all the learnings of all those year-ends with me. Because we do get smarter. And that’s almost as good as shiny hair.

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Infidelity

With my flair for melodrama, I felt like beginning this post like Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, insofar as, when it comes to married men, I have seen the best women of my generation ‘destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked’ and roaming the streets (or their mobiles) ‘looking for an angry fix.’ Worse, a lot of them, the best, are stuck on a shelf, waiting for a commitment from a man who just won’t while denying a bunch of eligible bachelors the pleasure of their company.

I mean, we’ve all seen enough films, read enough books and heard enough anecdotes to know: this rarely works out for the other woman. And in life, it’s often best to assume you’re not the exception and then be pleasantly surprised.

But rest assured, this is no moral rant. In fact, the older I get, the more grey the whole area of infidelity becomes. On the one hand, I can see the benefits for the ‘other woman.’

  • She has total visibility on the nature of the relationship and makes no assumptions about the man in it.
  • Her assignations, which can be few and far between, are all about heat and passion and lust… and good underwear. Things don’t get old; they don’t fall into patterns.
  • She feels like she’s winning…. That is, until she feels like she’s losing.

And that’s the part I don’t like so much.

  • She imagines herself and her lover in situations that may never come to pass. Forget walking down the aisle – a city break would likely do, but logistically may never happen.
  • She spends too many weekends and holidays alone.
  • When she’s hurting about all of this, she can’t talk about it. The moral quandary of her decision reserves its discussion to a very few, and even then, she may be glossing over the finer sticky details.

But let’s go back to the start. What really bugs me is the idea of a bunch of really smart and sexy women, with something very real to contribute, getting stuck.

I know us women.

I know that too many of us in these relationships stay home in primetime, wearing our best skivvies, waiting for the buzz of that mobile.

I know that sometimes we put on the clothes and the make-up and we go out with the intention of ‘getting over him by getting under someone else.’ (Pardon the crass line, but it neatly sums up the thinking.) We drink too much, we flirt with men who are not remotely worthy of our company – we may even end up with one of them in our beds. And the whole time, we do this as though he – the true object of our affection – is somehow aware. It’s like he’s nanny-cammed our locals and sleeping quarters. It’s as if he knows. We really got him, right? While he’s at home sleeping soundly with his family, we’re swallowing toxins and bedding strangers.

Sweet revenge.

(Note here, reader, that this behaviour isn’t just reserved for married or taken men. It could be your hang-up on ‘the one who got away’ or your lust for something unrequited. Or worse, your unspoken desire for someone who doesn’t know how you feel.)

Believe me, I’m not judging. Nor should anyone who knows what it feels like to want and seek love. But you could circumvent the pain and the longing and the uncertainty by looking at fidelity in that old way: to your own self be true.

Despite my earlier reserve, you are exceptional. Create situations that allow someone to surprise you by treating you that way.

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Brand building

brandingWhen you’re talking about how to attract men, making a marketing association is at the same time completely wanky and totally apt. After all, pulling is primarily a marketing exercise… and an association that plenty of relationship writers and single men and women have hastened to make.

I give you this example (those of you know me have heard it before). Once, I sat with a group of single women at a table in a pub.

  • Woman 1: I heard that the key to attracting a man is really nailing your ‘USP.’ (For those of you not in marketing, this is a unique selling proposition.)
  • Woman 2: Okay, let’s try. What are all of ours?
  • Woman 1: I think I’m funny.
  • Woman 2: I’m successful.
  • Woman 3: I’m really caring.
  • Me: I have a giant rack.
  • Man at neighbouring table: Unsolicited high five.

What’s the point of that story? I suppose I’m trying to entertain you, but in marketing terms, it’s ‘proof of concept’ that this blog is ‘evidence-based.’

So if I have convinced you in any way that I know how to market to men, perhaps you’ll allow me to give you some counsel on developing your personal brand.

And that advice is: don’t.

As soon as you start looking at yourself as a brand, it means your focus is external. It’s that old, ‘being looked at, instead of doing the looking’ thing we’ve discussed. A lot.

If you’re trying to sucker people into buying you, you’ll likely succeed, but you may lose focus on the act of shopping. I’ve discussed this before, too, in my post on bras. If we seek too much to be titillating, are we losing sight at who and what is doing it for us?

The point about good brands is that they are sustainable. Their vision, actions and missions have parity. People come to them instead of the inverse. And most of all, they themselves are discriminating. They are focused on the company they keep and the affiliations they make. It’s that kind of marketing that engenders ‘brand loyalty.’

Pursue that loyalty instead of grabby buyers. Those just come and go.

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