Dear Captain Awkward,
An anniversary is coming up, but I am so frustrated with my husband! When I met him, I looked a certain way (i.e. hair length, weight, etc.).
I used to be a fitness instructor and went to the gym in my spare time, all the while juggling multiple jobs and trying to go to school. So, I was always toned out and at a happy place with my weight. I then got a full time job that still requires me to work out, but not as often as I used to.
Anyway, due to the heat, my new job, I wanted a change to my hair. I did not want to change my hair if my husband would not have liked it. So, I asked him and confirmed close to a million times as he kept saying, “Yes. Do it. I can’t wait to see how it will turn out.” and I did. Chopped it all off and it was a drastic change that took me a long time to get used to. In between that time, my husband kept asking me to do different colors and styles of my hair. So I did with no hesitation (okay, maybe sometimes, but I still agreed and went with the flow). He loved every single look I did and the one he had the brightest reaction to was dying my hair back to my original color. Other events in between all of this, he would bring up my previous hair style and how attractive I was with it. The insecurities crept in and crawled under my skin. But he stopped bringing it up when I came home with my original hair color.
Anyway, now, he brought it up again, mentioned how I used to be, how I used to look, the past this, the past that. So now, I feel almost guilty for ever beginning to change my hair style the way I did. Now, it’s going to take months, maybe even years to get it back to how it used to be. So now, the insecurities really dug under my skin and are clawing, scratching hard inside. During me trying to get my look back to how it used to be, I feel like it won’t amount up to what he wants–the original “me” until then and it worries me that when I do get it back, he’s going to keep addressing what I used to look like during this time, or that time, or that he wants me to go back to my current look. If that makes sense Am I over thinking this? Am I wrong for being hurt and feeling the way I do? I have been at a loss for words with talking to him about this situation and whenever I would try, it would be me jumping to conclusions rather than trying to calmly address the situation and find a happy medium for both of us.
Trying to remember my breathing,
The Palette Wife
Dear Palette Wife,
First, some reading: You Don’t Have To Be Pretty.
Next, I think it’s time to say something like this to your husband:
“Husband, it was really fun for a while to experiment with my hair and get your input on all of it, but these conversations about ‘going back to how I looked when we first met’ are really stressing me out and hurting my feelings. We’re hopefully going to be married forever, and I’m going to look lots of different ways (as are you, by the way!) over the years, so it’s time to change the way we talk about this. I’m the boss of my hair and how it looks, so, I might cut it, I might grow it out, I might change the color again, who knows? I need to take this back as something I do for myself by myself rather than something we decide together. I’ll let whatever it is be a surprise for you, and the only input I’m looking for from now on is ‘Hey, wow, you look great!'”
The only good answer, and I mean the ONLY good answer when your spouse says something like that to you is some version of “Of course, babe, it’s your head & your body! I always think you look great! I’m sorry if I was stressing you out before.“
NO adding “…but I just think you look better with x kind of hair” on the end of that. None. Zero. He could feel that way inside his head, but you don’t say that to someone who just told you that it hurts their feelings.
I would accept this as an alternative answer (no transcript but the lyrics show up on screen):
More than acceptable:
If we’re time-traveling here why not go all the way to Everybody’s Prom, 1991? (Why did people think this was a cool song for 17-year-olds to dance to?) A marginally passing effort:
The first 2/3 of this poem by W.B. Yeats would also suffice:
“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;”
Compare that to the poem that men who think that they own their wives’ appearances seem to be writing:
What’s this “old and grey and full of sleep” b.s.?
When you are in your 80s
You’d goddamn better be well-preserved.
Wait, I meant to say “Time does not pass for us, my love”
Or something else romantic. I wrote it down somewhere.
When I say “I miss how you looked when we first met”
I guess I’m just trying to say I miss being that young with you,
and it makes me think about being old. That’s depressing!
Like, yeah, I theoretically want us to grow old together –
– But that doesn’t mean actually growing OLD-old –
It also gratifies my ego to know that you’ll change your hair, for me.
Don’t you want me to be happy?
Don’t worry, babe, I know I can count on you
To always look terrific, to be the perfect accessory.
I know you’ll always do whatever is necessary
To save my eyes and my boner from the fate of
having to look at some wizened crone.
For now, let’s stick to constant exercise and tone
And running all your hair decisions by me first.
We’ll save the plastic surgery for later, for when we really need it.
Aw, babe, don’t cry, you’ll ruin your makeup!
Stress isn’t good for the skin!
I like you so much and we get along so well,
I really don’t want to replace you with a younger version,
with the next best thing.
It’s okay that you want to feel a certain way in your body, it’s okay that you want your husband to admire how you look, it’s okay to have complex feelings about aging and changing bodies and attraction. It’s okay to renegotiate how you talk about certain topics, okay to say “Hey, you probably don’t mean it this way, but that thing you’re doing is making me feel bad, so, can you not?“
Guess what? It’s actually extremely okay to not like someone’s haircut all that much and also to keep that information firmly to yourself, forever. Not every opinion you have needs shared! Amazing, right? (For those of you who watch The Good Place, remember the parable of Chidi and The Red Boots).
Over time, you enforce the boundary with “Hey, we agreed – you’re not my Hair Critic, you are my Hair Cheerleader!” and/or “Hey, let’s agree to be really gentle about how we talk about appearances. I always love your face and your body, and I gotta know that you love mine as-is, that’s the only way this can work.“
It’s also okay to invest in some wigs if the idea of “Hey, surprise, look at me in my new secret identity!” turns you both on sometimes. There are ways to be fun and playful about this without making work and anxiety and awkward growing-out-stages of haircuts for you! (This is a suggestion for far in the future when you feel much better about all of this and your husband has shown with time and actions that he respects your autonomy, NOT something to pull out next week like your job is to please him).
It’s 100% not okay for your husband to seek some former version of you literally at the expense of the present-tense woman in front of him today, so, remind him not to.
Above all, fall in love with the person you see in the mirror and don’t let anyone give her any crap. ❤