Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: perception

Long groovy hair

why is this considered unprofessional?
Would it matter if this was four inches shorter?

Reading advice columns is my guilty pleasure (and I’m someone who doesn’t believe in guilty pleasures. All pleasure, no guilt!), and I’ve been fascinated by older posts in Ask A Manager about hair. One was from a woman whose husband had grown his hair in his last job and wore it in a low bun (at the nape of his neck). She was wondering if he should cut it for interviews, and the responses were fascinating. This was from April of 2017, which wasn’t that long ago. He worked in accounting, which is a pretty conservative industry. The responses were all over the map with one person actually naming herself ‘boys shouldn’t look like girls’ and labeled herself as a female, then had a incoherent answer about how the men in her job (she’s the only woman, the guys work in what she calls dirty jobs, but in customer-facing roles) had to have short hair and be clean-shaven because they needed to look professional. She was by far the outlier on the conservative side, but she wasn’t the only one who was hesitant about it.

A very interesting side conversation developed around whether it was more professional for a man to wear his long hair in a ponytail or a bun. Someone threw out the term man bun, which annoyed the fuck out of me. Someone else said, “Why not just call it a bun?” And, yes! I get that it was started as a way of poking fun, but there’s an undercurrent of, “Hey, it’s not really a girly thing at all–see, it’s a MAN _______.” Man bun, man purse, man boobs. None of that is needed. Someone explained that with the man bun, it was more about men scraping together barely enough hair to make a bun whereas most women have enough hair to make a big fat bun. I can see that point, but I still hate affixing man in front of things that are traditionally feminine.

Anyway, one person said that a topknot was unprofessional in general which was news to me. There was some regional difference as to whether a ponytail or a bun on a guy was more professional. Top of the head vs. nape of the nap. It was a robust argument, and all I could think was, “Who the fuck cares?”

There was another post about women and long hair and how it had to be pulled back to be considered professional. This was straight from Alison, and there was a lot of robust discussion in the comments. I have hair that goes past my butt–

Side Note: My hair has been waist length for nearly two decades. I cut about three inches off the ends every year or so and I’m done with it. However, in the last year or so, it’s grown about four inches and is now past my flattish yellow ass (used to be completely flat, but now there’s some ass, and it’s all in thanks to taiji). Initially, I attributed it to taiji because why not? But it makes more sense that it’s diet-related.

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If only I could see what others saw

a soup of negative emotions.
A peek into my brain.

Recently, I received two compliments from two women I admire and respect (my BFF and my taiji teacher), and I was really taken aback. For some background, I grew up believing that I was a toxic presence who had to earn my right to live on a daily basis. I believed that every day, I started with a negative number (never could ascertain what that number meant, exactly, but it wasn’t good), and I had to do good enough to get to zero and have no effect on the world around me. Then, I would go to sleep, and the counter would reset. Why? Well, that’s a story in and of itself.

Part of it was childhood trauma. Part of it was being Asian in a very white world. Part of it was family dysfunction, and part of it was culture expectations taken to the extreme. In Taiwanese culture, it was heavily frowned upon to say anything even remotely positive about yourself lest you look as if you were bragging. In the white cultural, I was ugly, weird, and a freak. I’m still a freak, but that’s beside the point. In my family, I was taught that my only worth was what I could do for others, and I had no intrinsic value in and of myself. Add to that a deep depression and an impressionable brain that twists everything into a negative, and it’s not surprising that I ended up firmly believing I had to earn my right to live.

In addition, I had all these elaborate rules as to what counted as a positive, and it was extremely hard for me to make it to neutral. I don’t think I ever did, actually, because I rigged the game in such a way that I was bound to fail. When I talk about it in the past tense, it’s clear to see how ridiculous it is, but at the time, it felt as real as the sun on my face. I was miserable because I was constantly failing, and I just wanted to die. I spent much of my childhood well into my thirties wishing I had the courage to kill myself.

I hated myself. I couldn’t find anything about myself that I liked except my hair and my intellect (though I saw the latter as a curse oftentimes). I couldn’t believe that anyone would like me for any reason when it was obvious that I was pure toxicity. I’m not saying it was reasonable or rational, but it governed my thinking for longer than I care to admit. I truly thought I was a worthless human being (while at the same time having an exaggerated sense of the impact I had on others around me, which is common with people who have low self-esteem), and I was miserable every day of my life.

Then, sometime in my thirties, I slowly started shedding this idea. I’m not sure how or why (probably because of taiji and therapy. I attribute most of the positives in my life to taiji with a shout-out to therapy), but a few years ago, I realized that I no longer had that mindset. I didn’t think I had to earn the right to live, but I wouldn’t say I had a healthy self-esteem, either. I still didn’t like myself, and I still didn’t like what I saw in the mirror (literally and figuratively), but at least I wasn’t actively thinking of ways I could passively allow myself to die.

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