"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
June 27, 2013
Stop Bossing Me
by Hannah Bird

I have long hair. I have not always. In grade school my hair was an unsuccessful take on Dorothy Hamill's famous wedge cut. It was the perfect hairstyle for someone with thick straight glossy chestnut hair. Sadly my hair was fine frizzy and oddly khaki colored so the effect was a little diluted.

In junior high my hair got a little longer. By high school it had gotten shoulder length and since no one looks good with khaki hair, I had started dying it a red shade that went perfectly with my complete lack of skin tone. And for the past 20 years it had hovered around shoulder length or a little longer. It remained frizzy. And the khaki bits turned white.

I am sure I would have soldiered on thusly for the rest of my life if not for the work of truly gifted chemists. Given their success and talents I now realize that they probably should have been spending their time curing cancer. Nevertheless, I am a fan of better living through chemistry.

So now I have long silky chestnut hair that shines in the sun and goes almost to my waist. My working theory is this — if one is stuck being fattish, old and plain, one should at least go for fabulous hair.

I get a lot of compliments on my hair. I keep my salon appointments obsessively. I wake in terror from nightmares in which my hair did not sparkle in the sun. The ends are trimmed every six weeks. It does sound high maintenance, but when you average it out over me doing absolutely nothing else, it comes out ok. Men compliment my hair. Women ask how I got it.

Which is all very sad because I have to cut it all off. All of it. I had not been aware of this rule. Sadly it turns out that when you are on the shady side of 40 and are fat and not Demi Moore, you have to cut your hair. I am not sure what regulatory body made this determination. I didn’t vote for it. Again and again, women tell me that I will have to cut my hair because I am over 40. I can donate my hair, they tell me. I can still color it. But fat, middle-aged women do not get fabulous hair.

When I was a little girl I went to my mother in tears. Frankly, it was a wonder I ever went to her at all. Once, when I tried to complain that my brothers were hitting me back I had to sit on my bed. Another time I said that Gabe had snitched the cookie that I had hid to snitch later and in lieu of a cookie I got my mother’s suggestion that I never start a life of crime. Still, hope springs eternal. So I went to my mother and said, “The boys are bossing me around.”

Mom said, “Did you do what they said to?”

I said, “no!”

To which Mother said, “”It’s only bossing you around if you do what they tell you. Otherwise it is just noise.”

So obviously the woman was just out to get me.

Of course she was right. The secret to not getting bossed around is not to confuse noise with power. People can make all manner of noises and demands. This does not mean they get to make choices for you.

Over the years I have heard a great many heartaches from women about expectations. We believe the world expects us to be thin, eternally 24, well-educated, and a fantastic homemaker.

If we are crafty we feel badly because we are not good at something else. If we are rocket scientists we feel like losers because the school made a rule just for us that all food had to be store-bought. We are a pile of inadequacies with feet.

But who enforces this? Did you vote on it? I didn’t. But we do enforce it. We think so and so it is odd. We feel subtly relieved when over-achievers screw up. We give the same advice we were given. We tell fat, middle-aged women to cut their hair because someone once told us that.  Then we feel inadequate and sad over all the boxes we cannot and may never check.

Once, a heartbroken wife confided in Brigham Young that her husband had just told her to go to hell.  President Young responded, “Well don’t go.” We get to choose which voices to listen to. The rest can be loud, but it is just noise. So what would you do if you didn’t know what you weren’t allowed to do?  What would others be able to do if you were not there to remind them what they should do?

I am going to keep my ridiculous hair. So that expectation is just a little more bruised and battered today. You’re welcome. I hope that you love the things that you are not doing too. Each time we don’t give in to the noise, it becomes a little quieter for everyone else.

There are things that we absolutely must do. The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are fixed stars in our journey. But there is unending space around to do and be and feel and live without the noise.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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