Picturing Yourself

By now, a lot of people have blogged about this image:

which is a salon-style photograph of women with a variety of short haircuts. What fascinated me about it was the comments like these:

“I was so happy to have found this poster recently. When I went to the salon last week, I pulled this poster up on my phone and pointed to the haircut I wanted. For the first time EVER, I got the haircut I actually wanted.”

To look the way this woman wanted to look — to envision it in her own head, and then convince others to help her to attain it — she had to have a picture of it. And she was not the one who created that picture.

When I was 15 or 16, I was a fan of Sinead O’Connor. Around the same time, I thought it would be neat to have a haircut that looked like this:

Then, the next year, my friend Francis got extensions for his hair that looked like this:

And ever since then, I’ve wanted to get extensions just like that for my hair.

Neither Sinead’s hair cut, nor Francis’s, would have been conventional haircuts for me, a white woman, but as a teenager, I was interested in being actively unconventional, looking creative and perhaps even provocative. But what I find fascinating is that even given my own explicit interest in appearing creative or unusual, I had to have a model before I knew what I wanted to do with my own hair, my own body. I was — and am — creative, artistic, and comfortable with my hair and my body looking different. But how many of my ideas about how I wanted to look, or could look, or should look, came from my own creativity?

How many of your own ideas about how you can look or should look or would like to look are actually your own?

Maybe none of them.

How does that feel? What does that mean?


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