Culture

Mirror, Mirror: You’re always Exotic Somewhere

Daily Prompt:     Mirror Mirror:

Let me start off with this nugget. Sadly many women avoid looking at themselves even in the beauty salon.  Yet, the mirror can be an illuminating vehicle for understanding oneself and how one is viewed in the world.

I am a New Yorker. I’m a diehard New Yorker that walks everywhere and has never had a driver’s license. As such, every two inches or so it seems, I have a chance to look at myself in the mirror (or rather catch my reflection) in the countless storefronts that I pass on my way anywhere in the city.  I used to walk around the city with a very tall friend of mine who would steel a glance at her reflection any opportunity she got. She would then do the hair tuck move and sway her hips even more (not that she really had any hips).  That move of hers would annoy me to no end. Why did she feel the need to constantly check herself out?  I kind of imagine that is how Giselle Bundchen struts about Boston, or wherever her and Tom Brady call home.

One day I went to a new beauty salon that I never returned to, but had a major impact on me. I went to a salon that specializes in curly hair. They are all about the curls and making them shine and frizz down. My hair is one set of hyper curls that have a mind of their own.   My mom, bless her soul, never knew what to do with my hair for it like my soul (in her mind) could not be tamed. I was the Puerto Rican that didn’t want to learn to cook in order to please a future hypothetical husband. I was the Puerto Rican that didn’t eat beans or avocados. I was the Puerto Rican that was a vegetarian. I was the Puerto Rican that left the hood. I was untamable and so was my hair.   People at boarding school and in Spain loved my hair because it made me exotic! But when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see exotic.  I didn’t necessarily see the mysterious being that strangers on the street seemed to classify me as. Thus, when I passed the countless New York City storefronts I looked at my reflection the in the mirror, more often than not, to make sure I wasn’t walking around with my skirt tucked up into my underwear.

Back to the curly-haired people’s beauty salon.  This salon has been written up in New York City as one of the best. I thought I would give them a try and see what I could do with my mass of curliness.   I am seated with my hair stylist, who was this grand male with a mass of curls atop his head as well.  As I am seated in the chair and he is cutting away, he starts making conversation as hair stylists are prone to do. He asks me for my profession and I tell him I’m a psychologist. I didn’t go into specifics as my job is actually a little too complicated.  I was looking down at my phone when I noticed that he was trying to catch my eye in the mirror.  I look at him and he tells me “you would be amazed at the lost souls that come in here.”  I answer “I can imagine. I can imagine that you are probably treated as a psychologist confidante as well.”   He then notes “most women that come here are so broken that they do not look at themselves in the mirror. They are either too afraid or ashamed. They don’t  love themselves.”  I was struck by that statement and then made a pointed attempt to keep looking at myself in the mirror.  Then I wondered as to why I hate my curls so much.  Everywhere I had been, I stood out because of my curls that made me slightly unidentifiable to many. I am often asked “what are you?”  I was even once stopped in Seattle by a woman reportedly working for a modeling agency who came up to me, handed me her card and noted that I had a “very exotic” look that she liked.  She asked me to come on in to the agency. I took the card, pocketed it, and eventually lost it.  I was flattered but didn’t need that going forward.

Back at the hair salon, the hairstylist did a few things with my hair and tamed the ends a bit.  However, I didn’t care for it. I went home and curled it back up while I stared straight at myself in the mirror for a bit. Ok. I am exotic in that I stand out and that is fine with me.  I am often the only female in business meetings. I am often the only behavioral scientist in meetings. I am often the only Latina on conference panels and the like. But I am not a token. I am unique and have a wonderful set of combined skills and perspectives.  I still mostly look at reflection in NYC storefronts to make sure I am not walking around disheveled but I do sneak a peek at just my face and hair and smile.

 

Other thoughts on Mirrors

A poetic duet with Alex Hicks

Life as a country bumpkin

The hickey diaries

Words & Pics

Funhouse by Edward Hotspur

Bribri45’s Blog

Martha Ann Kennedy

Khana’s web

Concentrate on yourself

Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

The wisdom lines

Tommia’s Tablet

The Wandering Poet

Of rituals

Ferwam

A Russian Doll of Masks

33 replies »

  1. Mimi, I think your post is so thought provoking. I was always identified as “ethnic”. I was never sure what that meant, but took it as a defect not an asset. It’s amazing to think of the number of us that might change ethnic to exotic and watch our own transformation!

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  2. A friend of mine would say that your special gift is your uniqueness and that you should enjoy, love it, embrace it. I don’t know about that but don’t we all want to fit in, into what we’ve taught is the norm, what’s beautiful etc.

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      • Everyone wants to be someone else. Part of our problem and I think it’s an American issue is we are taught what ideal beauty is and then we all aspire to it. Everyone wants to thin, Everyone wants flawlessskin. It goes on and on.

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  4. Snap! I wrote you a note this am and it clearly didn’t post from my phone. I wanted to tell you how refreshing this post is. I mentor teenage girls and know first-hand how low self-esteem can get it a young woman – heck – women in general. I could go on and on about the causes of this – one especially guilty medium is the fashion and magazine industry pushing fake images of beauty – but I digress. That is all to say that you are spot on and that I truly believe that God has made all of us “fearfully and wonderfully” to His specifications – no matter the outward appearance. Our flesh is corruptible but our essence – our hearts and souls – well, that is something to be applauded. I will be sharing this post with “my girls” when we next meet. Thanks for sharing….and by the way – I just wish I had that “exotic” curly hair! 😉 Blessings!

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    • Your note is really so nice and touching to me. Thank you so so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. It’s so great that these young girls have you as a mentor. I would love to hear more about their reactions (if you can share generally). My curly hair is still driving me crazy 🙂 Have a wonderful day ahead.

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  5. I have the same feeling whenever I go to a salon that doesn’t know what to do with my curly hair. They try to blow dry it and straighten it and in the end I just feel like someone else. Because my curly hair is me, and I don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not.

    Great post. Really interesting and thought provoking.

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