Blue Haired Pariah

I was never popular in school but nor was I a pariah. In years seven and eight I was referred to as ‘the dictionary’ (How do you spell … ? Dunno, ask ‘the dictionary’!) but given this name usurped ‘Stiffy’* I was pretty pleased with the change. I managed to develop a pretty thick skin after a few years of unpleasant encounters in primary school, so by the time I was about fourteen I reached a point where I didn’t need to go to parties or wear short skirts just to feel socially accepted. Cool, for me, was being different. I had a ‘different’ crowd of friends and flitted about with the confidence (and, I daresay, arrogance) one exudes when one doesn’t care what other people think. This was especially difficult for my sister who had to deal with being related to a bit of a nut. It’s generally in our family, but she turned out fairly normal.

Cue *mumbletenmumble* years later and I am a bit calmer (sometimes) and slightly less obnoxious (sometimes). I care about looking nice and I follow fad diets fastidiously until I cave (and boy, do I cave) and, reflecting on it now, I realise that somewhere along the line I’ve forgotten how to be myself without worrying about acceptance.

A few years ago (quite a few) I auditioned for a place in a performance-based degree (several places at several institutions, actually). I failed. Not a single call back. Too young? Not talented? The wrong type? Whatever the reason, I didn’t make it. But I didn’t care. I was heart-broken, yes, but I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and waltzed (it might  have been more like a macarena) to more literary pursuits. I had this amazing confidence and resilience which I look back upon and envy. Seventeen years old and I was traipsing around (where there was a performance-based degree, I was auditioning) attempting to be an actress, and I failed.

And I survived.

How? Why? What?! You survived failure? What’s your secret!

Which brings me to a recent experience with my hair. I do not have tattoos, I had to remove my nose stud (twice) because it just never healed, and I don’t wear outlandish clothing (anymore). Recently, however, I acquired blue hair.

A cloud of concerned ‘Will your boss mind?’ and critical ‘I could never go that colour – can you imagine? Me?’ and judgemental ‘You’re going to a job interview with that hair?’ and skeptical ‘Really? You’re sure?’ wafted around me as I sat in the salon, suddenly – and a tad abruptly – exposed to judgement.

I am accustomed to having my writing judged. I welcome it.

I am accustomed to having my lifestyle judged (it’s not an especially unique lifestyle, but there are regular questions as to why I am doing my MA, what my plans are for the future, and suggestions that I might want to do something in general). I’m the biggest judge of all in that regard.

I can even tolerate judgement about clothing and general presentation – being told if a skirt does or doesn’t suit me, or being gently told that – yes – perhaps you should get out more.

But I’m not accustomed to judgement about something as fickle as hair.

I thought about. Does having blue hair make me less capable to work? Less capable to study? Less capable to function in the world at large?

And then I think back to the first audition I went to when one of the judges addressed a group of eager-eyed wannabes.

“One or two of you from this group of forty might get a call back,” he said. My heart fluttered. Oh! to be one of those two! “And neither may get a second call back. All of you need to know that this industry is tough. You have to develop a ‘stuff* them all’ attitude. When you get rejected, you say ‘stuff them, I’m better than they think’ and you keep going. When you get told to give up, you turn up your nose and say ‘stuff them, they just don’t appreciate my talent’. When you get told, repeatedly, that you aren’t good enough, you say ‘stuff them’ and keep going. If you believe you’re good enough, then you are. Stuff them.”

I had forgotten about this little piece of advice. Perseverance. Resilience. Confidence in your abilities. It was the reason I survived my failure as an actress (an attempted actress, anyway) yet I had forgotten it. I have been caught up in anxiety over my dissertation (which remains incomplete and neglected of loving attention), depressed about my lack of direction, and completely distraught over my general state of ‘being’. I am the one putting pressure on myself – the perfectionist within has been quite dominant of late – and I need to have a chat with her and tell her to get stuffed. I need to reclaim some of that confidence so I can get back to writing, studying, and living. I need to work on my ‘stuff them all’ attitude.

Ah, but you’re curious about the blue hair …

So I am sitting in the salon being judged for getting blue hair. I considered what the other hairdressers and clients were saying to me (Did I detect a hint of envy for my brash choice of colour?). I considered how my life was going to change now my hair was blue (er, it wasn’t). I actually fought tears – briefly – as I wondered what I was doing. Red hair had some semblance of normality, and even dark purple could be accepted, but blue? Bright blue?!

It took me some time and quite a few more passing judgements before I (very politely) said: “If people wish to judge me based on the colour of my hair, I will take great pleasure in knowing that I have sufficient intelligence, experiences, and confidence to turn that judgement around.”

Stuff them.

*It’s not what you think … or maybe it is? In year five we had a Japanese teacher who pronounced my name ‘Stiff-nee’. While it was a bit of a taunt back then it is now the affectionate name used by my closest of friends. It has many variations, but only my sister calls me ‘Stifballs’.

*He used a stronger word than that but swear words sound better than they look, so I won’t write it!

14 comments on “Blue Haired Pariah

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  4. Good for you for getting the hair color you wanted! I have friends who have had blue hair and one who even had bright green hair for awhile and I thought it looked great. Hope your blue came out just the way you wanted it.

  5. ahhh, so much inspiration here that invites response… may I just say that my stunning sister Bronny has made me cry – wow, wow, wow. Thank you Bron. You are so talented – sometimes I think our procrastination and fear is more about WHAT to choose to do when there are so many choices. How many people are equally talented at law, study, writing, photography, baking, mothering, acting, singing, listening, loving, caring, counselling, tour-guiding, organising… thank you for showing us that it’s never to late to follow your dreams.

  6. Hey Stef,

    Thanks so much for your comments and for those books you’ve mentioned I’m really keen to hunt them down and devour! Books are so amazing.
    My mum and dad practice meditation and have done since I can remember. I never really sought out information on Buddhism because I just took it for granted as the backdrop to my childhood. However since having my daughter Rosie I found it hard to stay balanced. Mainly because I couldn’t get much time just for myself where I could read or watch a film or just sit or SLEEP! It’s because of this that I became highly aware of how much junk my mind creates. Junk often in the form of judging myself or others. So anyway I’ve been doing some reading about Buddhism and in particular mindfulness and it’s been really amazing. It’s been helpful in dealing with my junk.

    I think blue hair is awesome! I love the colour blue. I really liked it on Kate winslet in ‘Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind’.

    I’m enjoying your blog too.

    • It’s very hard to meditate in a neighbourhood full of dogs, a house with a parrot (and two dogs of its own), and the delightful sound of leaf blowers in the suburbs. I try not to judge the makers of the noise, but they really confirm that I’m best suited to a country cottage surrounded by cats. If only! I do understand what you mean, though, and I think the practising of being centred and calm (which I’m working on) certainly helps with self-acceptance and thus adapting the assumptions that underpin the judgements we make.

      I hope you enjoy the books! Sonya Hartnett, in general, writes beautiful, intricate novels. She’s one of my favourite writers.

  7. As a current student of performance and mouldy old aunt of yours, I have to have my two bob’s worth here. Are others really judging you Steffie, or are you just judging yourself?

    I was so frightened of judgment for a long time that I would not even try. I admire you for even attending an audition at 17. At 17 when I wanted to go to drama school, I already knew my thighs were too fat and my hair too mousy to be an actor. Acting was for those glamorous arty types with blue hair! It took me 24 years to realise that most people are so busy worrying about what others think of them that they really don’t care how fat your thighs are, what colour your hair is, or whether you have a banana sticking out of your ear. Some may comment, stare, question or run away, but it doesn’t matter!

    My confidence has come from failing and more importantly, from no longer judging and condemning myself. I thought others were judging me, so rather than become an actor – a frivolous, self-indulgent job – I became a lawyer. Respectable, prestigious, enviable. I was frightened that I wouldn’t be a good enough lawyer, that I would let people down; I might fail; people might judge me. So I quit the legal profession. I went into business with my husband so I could buy things for others to measure and judge our success by; we went bankrupt. My first precious baby girl was born and I realised the one thing I could really succeed at was being a mother; four miscarriages followed. I turned up at playgroup with my trousers on inside out. I left my baby in the local library.

    I moved houses, states and countries. Somewhere along the way I came to realise that it didn’t matter whether I was a lawyer, a mother, or a mousy brown haired girl with fat thighs. Maybe living out the back of Tesco and queuing at C.B. was cathartic?! Whatever it was, a year ago I went to an audition at a London drama school. Nobody laughed at my thighs or my hair. Not only is my hair still mousy and my thighs even bigger than they were at 17, but I have wrinkles now too! If I was judging myself, I could add “too old” to the list.

    Just the other day I had to fill in a form. I got to “Occupation” and smiled as I wrote: ACTOR. Yes, in capitals! I used to hate that question. I was too busy to be “Unemployed” and “Home Duties” sounded demeaning so I often wrote “Mother”. More often than not, in case others were judging me I wrote “Solicitor” even though I hadn’t been one for fifteen years.

    I am now an actor because I stopped worrying about what others might think. Nothing throws you more open to judgment and criticism than acting. I now welcome the opinion, judgment if you like, of others because I have stopped judging myself.

    My latest critic’s report says that I “looked and sounded magnificent.” No mention of the mousy brown hair or fat thighs. But my director said I am still too frightened to fail. He said: “Don’t be frightened of trying – it is only through creative experiment that an actor learns. We learn from ‘failure’ not success.” I think I know what he means.

    So, what am I saying? Enjoy your blue hair, but don’t wait til you are 42 to stop judging yourself.

    • Aunty Bron, that is beautiful. You know I am very proud (as we all are) of your acting and I’ve been very inspired watching you go for it with such enthusiasm and passion! Thank you for sharing – and I’ve always known you’re magnificent!

    • Now you can add “Wise Counsellor” to your list of achievements Bronny. Stephie – you can’t go wrong if you follow your Aunty Bronny’s advice. XX00♥♥00XX

  8. I am interested to learn more about comments that may come from curiosity, interest or surprise being interpreted as “judgements”… are they necessarily “negative”? Perhaps by your courageous demonstration of “different” (ie blue hair) it invites people to ask you about what your boss might think, or how you reckon it’ll be received in an interview… they are probably doing so to see if they could ALSO be brave enough to take the road less travelled. We can be different without sticking our middle fingers up… we can wear blue hair, dance to the different drummer without having to make those who tread a more traditional or conservative path “wrong”… I don’t know the answer to this but I am sure there’s a way for us to be our uniquely, beautifully different selves devoid of defensiveness? Does this make sense? You’re opening up a topic that has endless fascination for me!

    • I don’t think saying ‘stuff them’ has to be negative; it’s not about sticking your finger up when confronted with a different opinion but about being confident enough to say ‘if you want to judge this, that’s fine because your judgement won’t change the confidence I have in myself’. All external judgement affects our confidence, whether it’s negative or positive. Perhaps some of the people at the salon were envious – and there were a few comments of “I’d love to do that” but I was more deeply affected by the overtly negative judgements. It wasn’t curiosity or interest, but a very clear message of ‘you know this isn’t what normal people do, right?’. Interestingly, I consider myself pretty normal. Saying ‘stuff them’ isn’t a defensive attitude, but an attitude that should reflect confidence and self-acceptance. I don’t consider consertive paths “wrong” – in fact, I’ve flirted with this path myself in the past. To judge ANY path is wrong, and to receive judgement is even harder. I believe every one should be encouraged to be comfortable enough to be able to say ‘stuff them’ when they feel judged. And we do live in a fairly judgemental society.

  9. Stiff-Knee, Stiff-Balls, Stiff-the-lot-of-’em Stephie! You are unique & must stay that way. Blue hair, no hair, who cares? Looks don’t change a person’s beauty – that comes within and you are a beautiful young lady from within & out. XX00♥♥00XX

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