Last week, I was in the SoulCycle locker room after my 6:00 AM class. I was blowdrying my hair straight when a girl with long flowing curls walked by.
"You have gorgeous hair," I said. (Side note: as anyone who has ever spent time with me in the wee hours of morning will tell you, I am an early bird and annoyingly chatty upon waking up. Perri, I'm looking at you. I see the way you look at me when we're doing our makeup together in hotel bathrooms and we haven't even had breakfast and I JUST WON'T SHUT UP!)
The girl smiled and then frowned. "Oh, thank you. I wish it were straight."
Why is the grass always greener on the other side of the fence?
I'm just as guilty as the next guy. I was born with curls, and when I was young, they were beautiful. As I got older, not so cute. My hair was thick and unruly. Over the years, my hair has thinned out and dries much closer to straight than it does to curly due to the many different experimental treatments I put it through. Recently, the Brazilian Blowout has simplified my life (and beauty regimen) beyond measure.
In all fairness, though, this girl DID have gorgeous hair. I wouldn't give an insincere compliment just because I wanted someone to chat with while I got ready. Long, wild blond curls with natural lowlights - a very free spirited look that complemented her professional ensemble. I felt so bad - a pretty girl with that head of hair and she didn't even like it!
For me, the past year or so has been about accepting what I've got and working with it. I think back to a few years ago and cringe; I should have been taking much better care of myself! But I try not to beat myself up about it too much. What's important is the present and the future.
What I've learned is that it's not about looking in the mirror and feeling beautiful; it's about looking in the mirror and feeling happy. It's about buying clothes because they're flattering and not just because they look cute on the hanger. It's about figuring out what makeup works best for me: that black eyeliner is superior to brown and that my face looks better matte than it does shimmery. It's about being careful in the sun, using lots of moisturizer, and fitting in an airbrush tan when I can. It's about fresh fruit and SoulCycle and sleep.
So much has happened and changed and I don't feel the same insecurities about my looks that I used to. I decided it was easier to embrace my flaws than fight them. Then again, I sympathize with the pretty-haired girl because I know how hard it can be to accept a compliment without being at all self-depricating. But I think the next time someone compliments me on my hair, or anything, I'll just smile and say, 'Thank you!"
I may never be the prettiest girl in the room, but sometimes I do think I'm the happiest. And I'll take joy over beauty any day.