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Shannon Brady

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pig tails and lipstick got me out of a rut


Cotton balls and a prescription. That’s all. I’d planned to get in and outta there before the rows of eye-squinting fluorescent lights overhead at the corner CVS could have a chance to deepen the fine lines forming on my 47-year old face.

Ninety minutes later I made it out, thanks to a wall of Loreal Colour Riche lipsticks daring me to step in closer. I did, and to my total astonishment walked out with a lovely little brushed gold tube of Divine Wine lipstick. I haven’t worn lipstick in years. I work in a 95 degree room wiping sweat off my face between calling out Sun Salutations. What was I thinking?

Don’t let what you do define you.”

A family friend who has since passed away implored me to not let whatever current line of work I was in precede how I describe myself to others. I was in my 20s at the time, working as a concierge in hospitality and totally unclear on who I was or where I was going. We were in the library of my parents’ home, with several guests, glasses of wine, and what do YOU do? inquiries flying around. He caught me stuttering aimlessly for a valid description of myself during an interaction with a guest, and pulled me aside. I am many things, he knew and highlighted: a writer, a dancer, an athlete, a daughter, a traveler, a lover of fashion and self-expression. To name just a few, he emphasized, complimenting me on the out-of-my-typical-character coral shade of lipstick I’d chosen for the occasion. This late friend of mine, a talented artist and photographer with an incredible portfolio helped me realize in that moment that he, me, and everyone in the room could, and should, be defined far beyond the boundaries of how they earned a paycheck. How we present ourselves, he added, should be an expression of whatever tiles on the vast mosaic of our being is calling our attention.

That conversation came to me now, in the fluorescent-lit aisle of CVS. Because right now, I wanted the world to see a girl rocking a bold shade of Divine Wine lipstick. So what if I hadn’t washed my hair in three days. So what if I have to wipe it all off in an hour as I head to the studio in my lycra uniform of tights and t-back tank.

You’re a proper lady. You need to wear pig tails once in a while.”

Times used to be different. When I quit my corporate job in Seattle six years ago I couldn’t wait to consign away the Stuart Weizman stilettos and don’t-eat-that-extra-croissant pencil skirt collection gracing my closet. Yoga tights? Bare feet? Strappy little camisole bras and matching head bands? Woo hoo bring it on! But somewhere along the way, after a few years of teaching I let my hair get scraggly, gave up on mascara (it’ll end up looking like the anti-glare eye chalk favored by linebackers by the end of class anyway…), allowed my neon green Nike Airs to pass as stylish, and forgot the joy of expressing myself to the world as someone other than a yoga teacher.

The other extreme, of course, is reflected in photos from my corporate days: buttoned-up, hair blown straight to perfection, don’t-you-dare-ask-me-to-smile woman in dire need of discovering her inner bohemian.

There’s a balance to strike here I’m finally discovering. And after being referred to the hairdresser of a pal who’s side career could easily be modeling four-figure shampoo products, I got an honest assessment of how to find the balance. “Honey, you’re a very proper lady. And that’s all good but you need bring out your fun side,” he shared, having no idea how spot on he was with the crossroads I’d found myself in of late. “Pig tails! Or a barette! Or a tuck of a strand behind the ears!” I walked out with an entirely new look and re-ignited passion for looking cute again. No matter my age. No matter what I do for a living. No matter what anyone else thinks of me.

5 Must-Haves For A Kentucky Derby Party!”

Never been to such a party. And definitely don’t find favor with the requisite pizza-platter sized hats that go along with Derby-dom. I just spent a half-month’s mortgage on the aforementioned hair transformation after all, why hide under a hat? But the headline from an online fashion consultation site caught my eye. Could a few sassy millennials actually put together a hip ensemble based on my ten-minute personal style survey?

One of the side effects of getting older, and losing the ability to distinguish between workout wear and real clothes (another hoodie sweetie? don’t you have enough of those?? my poor husband regularly laments), is that shopping fashion trends is rife with land mines. My own initial attempt ended with a three shopping bag assortment of variations on a singular theme: gray, loose, conservative. So I gave the site (StitchFix) a whirl and received a few things that have since contributed to my journey back to expressing myself as I am right now: grateful, joyful, goofy, fashionable, and addicted to an eye-catching turquoise tote bag to liven up a closet full of gray.

So go ahead, yogis, ditch the tights and paint on some fun lipstick every now and then. Bonus points for pig tails.


One comment on “pig tails and lipstick got me out of a rut

  1. Don says:

    Every time I think of you, Rhea Sheehorn, from Better Call Saul, pops into my head. Pretty strong funny stylin loving gentle kind. Be yourself.

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