Monday, February 21, 2011

The Self Image

I have made a huge decision.  For me it is huge.  I have decided to let my hair go natural which is most likely... all white.  I have decided this because I have lost a lot of hair and it is a way to avoid all the chemicals of hair color.  It should be simple, but for me, it is a big change.  When I talked to my grandchildren about it, they told me "We cannot imagine you with white hair."  I told them "Neither can I."

Since I was a kid my hair has been dark brown. This is the image of me that countless mirrors in many parts of the world have reflected to me.  Over the years, I started to grow gray hair that came relatively early in my mid thirties.  I guess it was a family thing since I remember my mother and grandmother both with beautiful white hair.  But my grays had an easy fix.  A colorant, and my hair was like it always was before. Dark brown. That went on for a long time.

My "raccoon" self

Over the years, my hair would get thinner until I looked at myself in the mirror one day and thought "I need to put a stop to this."  The result is big white roots and the look of a real life raccoon.  I know, I could have my hair color stripped at the beauty salon but it means more chemicals and that was not acceptable to me.  So I keep it short, cut the dark tips and hope for the best.

Women have been coloring their hair for a long time.  Since Egyptian times there was evidence that they used hair colorant like Henna.  In old Egypt, women spent a great deal of time on elaborate coiffures and wigs;  over the years people wore their hair powdered, gray, propped, curled, long, tied, frizzy or wavy, treated; now we let hair fall mostly unnaturally with the help of many salon experts, products and many colors and additions to choose from.

Here in Colorado many men and women let theirs go gray naturally and the impact is lesser than going  suddenly white like mine.  I can imagine other people looking at me and wondering "What happened?" which brings me to the idea of self image.  I will have to get used to this new woman who will look back at me from the mirror and smile as if I should have known her all my life.  But no, she is new to me and will be new to many others.

How is the image we have of ourselves?  I have had skinny friends who see themselves as fat.  And fat ones who seem to think that they have a slim body.  We create an imaginary self not necessarily anchored in reality who says "hello" to others and walks the streets with us like our own double.

Many women do not like to have their photo taken.  The image they see on paper or on computers does not reflect the idea they have of themselves.  Faced with having to see an image they do not like, they stay far from the lens.

Celebrities like movie stars have a look that is often man-made and the image we see of them in films or on TV is not the one they have once the make up person is gone.  But we like their double and their image stays in our memory.  I have a tendency to imagine friends as they looked to me the last time I saw them, which is pretty far out and wrong.  Many I have not seen for a long time.  I imagine a full grown woman I knew as the lovely child she once was, and never got to rid my self of that image since we only e-mail now.  The same goes for many others that I knew in the past.
"How," I wonder "do they see themselves?"

I once was on the plaza of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and saw a very old lady with jazzy boots and pink leggings, a belt with a riot of rhinestones and a top covered by a glorious design accented with gold and silver.  Her face was made up outrageously with blond hair cascading in curls over her shoulders.  Like a tragic-comic icon, the image stayed with me and I can see that she never accepted her age; her self image was that of a fantastic youth whose looks then beckoned others.

How do you see yourself?  Young, thin, fat, not so fat, hair unchanged even after years of living?  Good even if it is not how others see you?   Bad even if you look fine to your friends?

Do not worry.  Most people are too busy to care truly.  They see us through lenses of friendship or love (bless them) or through distracted lenses while they are busy thinking of something else.  We live at such a hurried pace, forever ahead of ourselves, or focused on children, TV, the phone or the computer; the next meeting, the next presentation, the visit in front of the boss, or what to shop for and cook for the family; we hardly remember the looks of others no matter the care they put into  their self image.  Yet the world seems to demand and market a great look.  Each company battles the other for our infatuation and loyalty.

After all, we dress and use makeup primarily for us.  Or so it should be.  Our length of hair, our haircut or its color should be of no great importance in a world that supposedly would keep its priorities on hearts and feelings, thoughts, discoveries, wisdom and its results.  But as long as our looks matter as greatly as they do in our world, we will keep on getting implants, operations, Botox injections, body enlargements or reductions, hair coloring and clothes to stay ahead of what is only -- a game; and at that, a game perpetuated by big business.

Now, I better go back and get used to that woman who is calling me in the mirror.  After all, she is the real me now.

Copyright 2011 Micheline Brierre
Edited by Barry Kaplan


  1. Being completely comfortable in ones skin is the most alluring quality to me! One that at times takes many years to master.

    I love you and think you look amazing even with no hair at all! That is the power of inner beauty!

  2. You are not alone in your quest to go natural. There is a website devoted to those who have gone gray and white and they are beauties! Your transitional portrait is lovely. Hello to the authentic version of Micheline! You'll soon mellow into your double in the mirror.

    When Mom was in a skilled nursing home we stopped coloring her hair. It turned out to be the most beautiful shade of silver on the sides and gray in the back. She was lovely. And I believe that her facial skin was healthier-looking than when she wore foundation. It gave me hope for my future.

    I am not yet ready to "come out of the closet" with my own head of hair. My natural hair is salt and pepper on the sides and solid brown in the back. I still make the monthly visits to my stylist and appreciate her ministrations. Though, I too am concerned about the chemicals spread over my scalp each time.

    Truely, I also have to admit that I'm not dancing through my advancing years with grace. My mind and reality don't quite match up. This is my angst. I'm not out there dressed in pink rhinestones and loads of make-up--rest assured. But, if I ever came across the elusive "fountain of youth" I'd sure be tempted to jump in!

    Good for you Micheline, I applaud you.

  3. Welcome to the club. Mine has been all me for a few months now. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see my mother or my grandma. Sometimes I feel old. But I am proud. XO

  4. Excellent Micheline!!!! Your new picture looks very fresh---------I love the look!! You will pull this off with the grace and beauty that is you!!! I am amazed at the difference and how nice you look, walk in confidence girl!

  5. "You look very beautiful in the new photo - as you are in "real" life. Thank you for the post. I'm going back to re-read it. Hmm....wondering if I have that Clark Gable color pattern :-)"

  6. "Bonjour Micheline, je trouve ton nouveau look tres bien. A mes yeux, il ne change pas radicalement ton aspect . Les cheveux grisonnants rafraichissent ton profil, ils te donnent un air plus classy. Je te trouve tres bien avec tes cheveux blancs. Le nouveau look est reussi."

  7. Bernadette wrote:
    "You're a natural beauty, always have been, always will."


  9. Dear Micheline,
    I think this picture of you with your almost all white hair is absolutely beautiful. I think you face looks more serene and soft when it is surrounded by lighter hair color, don't you think? As far as I'm concern, I really hope that you will come to like your new you as much as we all do, so that you won't be tempted to go back to dark hair. I always said to my Mom that I wanted to see her with her natural white hair, but she never agreed with me and when she died at 80years old, I thought it was strange to see her with the dark brown hair in her didn't go well with her face.
    I really think this new you is very much the Micheline that I envisionned when you told me about you decision, and it's fabulous. I'm hoping that you agree with me and every one else that commented on your new self. I love it!
    Love, Micheline in LC

  10. Julio wrote:
    "I love you, you look fabulous"

  11. Josseline wrote:
    "Ma courageuse t'admire.."

  12. Thumbs up from another natural platinum blond! I adore my white hair, and yours, too. :D

  13. Beautiful Micheline: What a precious treasure you are! I love you, just the way you are. Always will, Ami

  14. As always, it's well worth reading what you write. You have such a wonderful way with expressing your thoughts! I know you will get used to your new look, as you are as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside. "She walks in beauty" was written for you. I've always thought of myself as a redhead, due to many factors (not going there), and at one point a multitude of years ago, I colored my hair red for a few months. In addition to the coloring, I was perming my hair and had for many, many years, about 3-4 times a year. I couldn't continue with both the coloring and and the perming, and choose to continue with the perms. Since my health challenges, I've stopped having perms due to the chemicals, so I totally understand. I really love my short, mainly straight and mildly wavy hair. I have my Dad's genes, so at 65, I'm still mainly chestnut, and having had my shock of white hair birthmark at one temple, the gray that's there blends in, more or less, or at least, that's how I see myself.

  15. "Micheline; You show such grace and natural elegance-love your beautiful emergence!!"

  16. Micheline, I had to smile when I read your blog about your hair color. I am the only one of my friends who has chosen not to color my hair. When I sent this photo to another friend not in the picture, she said, "I always know who you are in any photo...the only one who will never dye! I choose to think this was a misspelling referring to my immortality! Laura

  17. I have a slightly different view regarding the opinion you express in the last paragraph where you say that we dress and make-up for ourselves (or, at least that's the way it should be). Going back to Desmond Morris, I recall his theory that women make-up to become more sexually attractive to men. The red lips mimicks the genital area, the blush on the face being reminiscent of the red buttocks of the female chimp in estrus, etc. And, lastly, I wonder how much men or women would dress-up if they were the only ones on a deserted island. Just food for thought.

  18. Funny that we would be coming to the same conclusion about our hair.. haven't done much to it since my mom died 4 years ago & have not cut my hair since Michael died in December. Time to at least trim it -- Alanna made that point yesterday! Frankly, I would rather just not have to do anything to my hair, other than wash it... Boy, am I going to look like a street urchin in no time!

    Why do we place so much importance on our hair? After all, it is just hair. Funny the things it makes you feel or think. I have gone from being a natural golden blonde to whatever color it is now. A little bit of everything I guess. I like to think of it as more an accurate reflection of my genetic background than my skin or eye color. Now that it is getting dark & a few silver strands, I like to think I am more connected to my mother's side of the family. Even the red that is in there comes from her side. Looking less like the Irish Catholic side & more the Western European/ Native American blend.

    I like that fact that you have "let your hair go". Do you feel this makes you less a slave to the external? ( Not that you were ever a slave to the external ) Is it a natural part of the female make up to fuss with your hair?

    I think you look wonderful, no matter what your hair color/ hair thickness is! Your beauty is intact, no matter what your external appearance is doing. We love you here in KC!!