the process of un-mullet-ing

It’s true – I had a mullet. By choice.

photo cred: Brittany Zeinstra

It looks a bit more like a hipster mullet than anything else in this photo, but it was as mullet as mullet is going to get on my head. And it went from hipster, 80’s-esque mullet to pixie cut, and then perpetual growing out mullet until now, over a year later, my hair has yet to reach my shoulders again.

The process of my un-mullet-ing is legen….wait for it…. DARY! It’s a story of humility, one of courage, and of figuring out what makes me, well, me.

Let’s start with why the heck I cut my hair into a mullet. I worked for this high school ministry my first year out of college, and our big winter retreat theme was “Mullets, Mohawks, and Mustaches.” Aka EPIC. Check out our promo video (awesome, if I do say so myself). Well, I had a conversation with some adorable sixteen year old ladies that were complaining about the theme being too masculine and kind of sexist. I flatly denied any such thing and to my horror, the words “I’m cutting my hair into a mullet” escaped my lips. Wide-eyed, in absolute horror, wishing I could stuff those fatal 7 words back into my mouth, those precious girls started laughing. And so just a few short months later, I did it. I went over to my friend’s house and asked her to give me a mullet. When she was finished  and swept up the loose  strands of my dignity off her floor, as I pulled on my coat she softly said, “Hey, Ali… can you not tell people I cut your hair? I’d really appreciate it.”

Thus the mullet was born. It paraded around with gel for a few days, rocked the 80s wave for a few more, and then just a little while later it was gone in a memory of photo and legend as students whispered, “She is so hardcore.”

That was a year ago. And as my hair has inched slowly past my ears over the past 12 months, I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned that eye makeup is sometimes a really, really good thing. And that dangly earrings are definitely in. I’ve learned the true extremity of a really, really, reaalllllly bad hair day when you can’t just throw it up into a ponytail. And contrary to what you might think, having a pixie cut is only not a mullet for the first, like, month. And then the process of growing out said pixie cut means that really you’ve just committed to having a mullet for an indefinite amount of time. Because your hair will just perpetually be longer in the back, no matter how many times you try to cut it… Oy.

Emotionally, having a mullet as a girl is quite a ride. You never think about how much having pretty hair feels like it is a definitive aspect of one’s femininity until you walk around with not much of it. It was shocking to realize how immediately I assumed that no one could possibly think I’m beautiful without a cute hair cut. And my pixie cut/mullet was cute, but no in a romantic, gloriously long wavy princess’ locks, sort of way. I felt spunky or something, and let’s be honest – is spunky really that cute? Or is it really just code for “they have a big personality…”

In my typical, critical-thinking, analyze-the-world-around-me-at-all-times way, having a mullet made me realize something. Sometimes it takes doing something outrageous to help you figure out what’s most important. To help you figure out what’s going on inside your head underneath all that hair, no matter how crazy that hair might look that day.

For me, having a mullet meant taking a risk with unknown consequences. It meant being bold and going against the grain. It meant getting to dress up like Ziggy Stardust for an evening. (If you don’t know this already, I love David Bowie.)

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In a cliché way, the process of un-mullet-ing has been one of refinement. It’s made it obvious what makes me valuable beautiful, or courageous in ways that I wouldn’t have ever expected. It was a foundational piece that tore down a lot of lies I believed about myself because it proved them wrong. Having a misconstrued understanding of femininity means ultimately that I just didn’t think that I fit it – and screw that! Over the last year, I have had moments where I have felt unbelievably un-beautiful and have had to choose to believe that I am. I am, no matter which magazine stereotype I don’t fit or how my hair or makeup looks that day. I am beautiful inside and out.

It’s also been refining in terms of what I believe I’m capable of. When I cut my hair last January, I truly believed that I was going to work in ministry the rest of my life and that my future was pretty much all planned out. A few weeks post-mullet, I woke up (with incredible bed head) and realized that my life was going to actually be going a totally different direction. And I wrestled through job searching and Peace Corps applications and living in my mom’s basement  this year, I was refined. Because I took a risk. Because I listened to Jesus telling me that my value and my worth wasn’t based on what I believed was either true about my life or what I believed my life needed to look like to matter.

Now my hair is long enough to finally fit into a little baby pony tail and doesn’t whatsoever resemble a mullet. You’d never think that a hair cut could matter so much, but here are a few more words that I never thought might come out of my mouth “I had a mullet and I’m a better person because of it.”

So here’s the take-away: Get a mullet someday. Or maybe not – but do something you’d never think you would sometime. Take risks that challenge how you’ve always thought about something – yourself or the world around you. Choose freedom and the unknown and trust that you’re going to end up okay.

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