"I think I've changed," I casually mentioned to Scott as I glided the flat iron through a strand of my light brown shoulder-length hair. "I've never gone this long without coloring or cutting my hair." It's true; I am always changing my hair color - I've been platinum blonde, jet black, all shades in between, every shade of red, and even blue, pink and purple - and usually when I say I'm "growing my hair out", I get to this stage and chop it all off, desperate for a change, for something a little more daring. But for the first time in my life, I am perfectly happy with my natural hair color and its length, and I have been for a while.
Scott responded with something like this:
"Maybe you're just more comfortable with who you are now."
A small, insignificant throw-away comment, but it jarred me. It stirred up a very uncomfortable feeling inside me that I've never even known was there until that second.
"Don't go there," I said smiling a little queerly.
I put the flat iron down and turned to look at him.
It was a disconcerting thought. I've always considered myself an individual, a confident, do-my-own-thing sort of girl. I like to make an impression, I like to be different. But what if, what if some of that was a reaction against the meek prototype people expect of Christian women and girls? What if, what if without me ever even realizing it, I was making a statement about who I was, separating myself from "those" Christians, by my wild hair colors, cheeky hair cuts, piercings and tattoos?
As much as I did not like to think of myself this way, it struck a very dissonant chord somewhere very deep within me. A very unhappy, unpleasant chord.
I was always pleased when people were surprised to find out I was a Christian. I took it as a compliment when people said I didn't seem like one of "those people". While I hoped that my lifestyle and actions portrayed Christ, I in no way wanted to be associated with the Bible-thumpers. Sure, I technically believed the same things as the Bible-thumpers, but I hoped my approach was entirely different. I was happy to be a Christian, don't get me wrong. My faith was my identity, Jesus as my purpose, and I wholeheartedly tried to live as such. But I never ever wanted to be the cardigan-wearing, sensible haircut-sporting, leather Bible cover-carrying type of Christian that comes to mind with the label. I never wanted to be identified as the stuffy, humorless, uninteresting Christian goody-two-shoes. So I chose to be different.
But I was still just being me, right?
I never considered it before, but now I wonder. I am still the same person, but I am so different now. I have nothing to react against anymore. I do not have to separate myself from a stereotype anymore, but surely that has nothing to do with how I look. Am I maybe just getting older, is that all this is? Maybe I'm just calming down a little with age. Or is it something deeper than that, am I actually just more at peace with who I am and not who I'm trying to convince everyone I'm not? With no flavorless stereotype to push away from anymore, have I lost the need to dye my hair pink and insist I'm something more interesting?
As much as I'd like to say absolutely not, that's ridiculous, I'm just not actually all that convinced.
And even after convincing my friends and acquaintances that I was not "one of those", I wonder if I was even reacting against something much deeper inside me. Bending without breaking to the little voice deep inside that I repeatedly hushed as she cried, "But WHY are you expected to be meek and quiet and unadorned? WHY is your attention to your looks considered vain and attention-seeking when God made you to be beautiful? WHY is being outspoken and opinionated considered coarse and ungodly for a woman? For that matter, WHY did God make you the way you are if the way you are isn't the right way for a woman to be? And furthermore, WHY are you not allowed to preach when you are so knowledgeable about the Bible? WHY are you not allowed to lead prayer in front of men when you are an equal child of God? WHY are you required to be obedient to your husband, who should be your equal partner, when you are both equally good and fallible? WHY WHY WHY?" It's as if my compromise between that voice and God's expectations was to just slightly push the boundaries of what was considered modest and appropriate for a Christian woman, without sinning but without fully submitting to the recommended model of a perfect little Proverbs 31 woman, or the recognized stereotype of a boring, squeaky-clean Christian.
But now, today, with no boundaries left to push...