It was the week before Christmas vacation. My best friend and I had been sporting candy-colored streaks in our preteen hair for an entire semester. Her older sister had helped us bleach our virgin strands and color them back in Manic Panic shades of orange, green, and blue. We were the only kids at school whose parents had allowed them to rock a rainbow mane, so imagine my shocked little face when my BFF showed up in class brandishing a full head of brown locks. “We’re visiting my grandma for Christmas this year,” she groaned, “My mom said my hair was too much.” It was my first experience with holiday beauty oppression.
Years later I find myself standing by and watching friends and acquaintances going through new beauty extremes to mask their old beauty extremes. I’ve seen turtleneck sweaters worn through sweaty holiday affairs hiding a myriad of tattoos beneath. I’ve seen wigs considered over washing precious dye jobs away. I’ve seen piercings painstakingly removed, sometimes with hair worn at deliberate angles to conceal the holes. I’ve seen loud lipsticks swapped for balms, and characteristic eye makeup done away with till the new year. Exactly who says our beauty extremes are too much to take home this holiday? Is this familiar fear a family epidemic? It’s funny that so many of us feel the need to hide ourselves from the ones who are supposed to love us the most.
It’s sad to me that so many creative individuals are throwing their unique looks out the window for a few weeks every winter. I suppose in some family situations it’s better to blend in rather than stand out, but I can’t help but wonder how tolerance toward way-out ways of looking might improve if more of us chose to reveal our true selves to our loved ones—however risky it may seem.
I think there is definitely a fear a disappointment. I mean, lets face it—the way we choose to look is seldom the beauty routine our parents might assign to us if they could. We smile politely at Grandma’s soap, water, and cheek pinching rouge-ritual—knowing she may never find out the truth about our sunless tanner, eyelash extensions, and hot-off-the-runway lipstick picks. But surely our families love us—wild style or not. Will our dip dyes and penchant for purple eyeshadow really cause heart attacks back home?
Then there’s always the flip side that no one ever talks about. So maybe mom’s gonna crack when you show up with a septum ring and a face-full of your beloved black lipstick. Did anyone ever ask you how you feel about her poodle-poof bangs that haven’t budged since 1988? How about your bro’s tattered baseball cap he hasn’t washed since last season, or Great Aunt Agyness’ goopy, gunky mascara lash-look that she’s been cluelessly sporting ever since you can remember? Now that you think about it, you aren’t crazy over your loved one’s unique looks either. The difference is, you would never dream of guilting them into shaving their brows, blinging out their lids, or wearing wacked-out nail art simply to make you feel like less of a freak. Maybe they’re the ones who have it all wrong?
The bottom line: there isn’t anything wrong with being yourself—body mods, bold makeup, and blue hair included. Though hiding your beauty truths from your family might seem like an easy way out of dopey taunts and doofy questions around the dinner table, being honest is the best recipe to educate, and maybe even inspire your hometown relatives to think outside the box (before they stumble upon your Facebook profile and flip over the full-color chestpiece you’ve been covering up all week). It may take awhile, but love and tolerance go hand-in-hand, and if the holiday season can’t conjure up a little peace between personalities, what’s it good for? This season, it’s time to let it all hang out and let your true self shine. And if your folks feel a little spooked, hey, it’ll give them something to blame their grey hair on.
This article was originally published on December 19, 2012