“The girl in the mirror wasn’t who I wanted to be and her life wasn’t the one I wanted to have.” — Francesca Lia Block, Pink Smog

I turned 11 the summer between elementary school and middle school, in the fashion-challenged era of the mid-1980s. Given my new “grown-up” middle-schooler status, I had the brilliant idea to cut off all of my hair to reflect my obvious maturity (middle school, people! I had ARRIVED!).  So I found a picture in a magazine (most likely Teen Magazine or Sassy) of some unnaturally gorgeous teenage girl with short hair, and took it to the salon for them to work their magic on my naturally-wavy-yet-permed coif.

Needless to say, it was tragic. Hideous.

“Josie Grossie” from Never Been Kissed — yep, this about sums up my memories of middle school!

The feathered sides and teased bangs were only part of the catastrophe. The main reason for my complete loss of self-esteem had to do with the fact that whether I was a boy or a girl was anyone’s guess — I had not yet developed to the point where you would know without a question that I was a girl. I wish I could say the look was cooly androgynous, but it was not even close. I looked like an ugly boy with acne who was in desperate need of braces.

Oh, the joys of adolescence!

A hundred years and a million hairstyles later, sometimes I still expect to see a reflection of that unattractive, insecure, acne- and braces-ridden girl with the horrible short hair when I look in a mirror. I’m not sure why the horrors of these childhood years still cling to me — I’ve long been all right with who I am and how I look, and I no longer struggle with the overwhelming feelings of insecurity that guided my youth. But sometimes I still do a double take when I see the person staring back at me.

When did so much change? When did I get so “mature”? What would my 12-year-old self say if she could see my 30-something self? (outside of questioning my lack of perm-tastic hair and the non-teased bangs). What should I expect to see in 10 years? 25 years? Good lord, what will I actually see in 10 years? 25 years? Will I see a reflection of a happy person with a full and joyous life? Or a shell of someone I could have (should have) been?

I’m not sure whether or not the girl in the mirror today is who I want to be, or if she leads the life I want to have. Of course the challenge is to define who I want to be and the life I want to lead. I want to recognize this fabulous person if I ever have the privilege to see her staring back at me in the mirror.

So my journey continues … with a blow-out and lowlights.

Life After Normal

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