Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Unstick your style

Photo by Flickr user purplbutrfly.

Something happens as people get older: We get stuck-er.

We cling, fearfully and fervently, to ideas, memories and ideals that no longer serve us -- and are no longer relevant. In trying to maintain some sense of control over our ever-changing lives, we become more conservative, more judgmental and more set in our ways -- both conceptually, but also physically.

Not only do we fight to keep the status quo -- "back when I was a young whippersnapper, this is how we did things and that is how everyone should do things forever and ever and never evolve" -- we also become comfortable in our own external expressions of our identity.

Women go decades without changing their hairstyle, in an attempt to stop aging, or because they begin overly identifying with their rut, or because those ratted bangs are an anchor to the past when everything else has changed so much. Men have the same clothes in their closet for 20 years. They don't stop aging, but they stop evolving.

Maybe people get scared. Maybe they're lazy. Complacent. Satisfied, just enough to be paralyzed.

I remember the day my dad shaved his beard. He'd been a bearded cowboy for 20 years. Then one day, without warning, he had a chin and upper lip. It wasn't a midlife crisis; it was an epiphany.

"The older I get, the more liberal I want to get," he explained, not talking about political slant, but about acceptance and the willingness to stretch his perceptions and comfort zone. "You start dying when you stop learning and changing."

I think he's right.

And it's fun to never be the same girl twice. To redesign yourself, your hobbies, your patterns. In the past 10 years, I have gone from butt-length platinum blond hair to chin-length brown to shoulder-length black, and every shade in between.

There are endless ways to tweak your style. Add in influences from an old decade, or a few pieces of trendy jewelry, or temporary hair extensions, or a nail color you've never tried before.

Every few weeks, for no reason whatsoever, I wear fake eyelashes (under $5) of a different style or color. It can be as simple as wearing something different to bed, or putting on your make-up in a different order. Try on something that is totally not your style, even if it's just as subtle as thigh-highs instead of support hose under a long skirt. Constant little surprises are like exclamation marks in your life.

Plus, they keep your style from dying -- a slow, boring, easily reversible death.

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