Marked Safe from My Exi-Stension Crisis

Marked Safe From my Exi-Stension Crisis. Or, What I learned From Getting Hair Extensions, Lash Extensions, Acrylics, and Removing Them All in a 7-Day Period of Time

Exactly one week ago, recovering from surgery and staring intently at a medical photo of my actual liver with a red circle around where my gall bladder used to be, I noticed how shitty my nails looked. It was a really fleeting and mundane observation but it triggered something in me that set off a chain reaction that ended today with me taking this selfie holding my actual fake hair.

As I stared at exactly four sad looking laparoscopy wounds, I decided I needed to do something to feel like I was healthy. I wanted to look so healthy and luscious and feminine that there would be no question that I was healed, and back in control, and untouchable. Haha isn’t it funny when I try to be in control?

As this identity shift was brewing, I shuffled my 3 boys and their Batman backpacks, snacks, etc. onto the special needs bus for full-day kindergarten and first grade for my oldest. When I closed the front door I was alone with my thoughts for the first time in six years. First I cleaned. Then I read some books, like six. Then I bought some salmon to cook with dill potatoes from a recipe I saw on Barefoot Contessa (which inevitably rotted untouched in the fridge and was thrown away). Then I sought a complete Mommy Makeover to quell my racing thoughts – beginning with a past life hypnotherapy regression, and ending with weft hair extensions, lash extensions, acrylic nails, two bundles of sage, a new moon ritual, and $247 in Sephora products linked at the bottom of Jamie Genevieve’s YouTube beauty blog.

The extensions were wonderous – like next-level-test-driving a Lamborghini Testarossa amazing. But then reality and life and four kids and potty training hit, and I was left with the hair equivalent of a high-maintenance sports car with suicide doors that I couldn’t fit my groceries or car seats into, needed expensive oil changes and touch-less car washes, and elicited a combo of eye rolls and envy. In reality, I had an itchy, hot scalp weighed down from pounds of "Remy Human Hair" that I had to wrap around meticulously and arrange on my pillow just to sleep a few hours per night. My fawn-like lashes burned my eyeballs and I had to brush them with a spoolie at night so they wouldn’t clump and rip out my lash hairs. If you know me, and my routine with four kids under the age of six, two with autism, you know that I rarely have the chance to shower, much less lather my fake lashes and brush them out with a special instrument.

The farce that was my "exi-stension" crisis reached a fever pitch when I went to blow out my recently-procured aromatherapy candle near my bed a few nights ago: An actual spark got caught in my extensions and seared some of my hair off. I had an out-of-body experience, watching myself from above, furiously patting my fake hair and then I actually sat on the extensions which yanked one of them near off my scalp, and when I screamed my fake lashes got stuck to my upper eyelid (since my eyeballs were opened so wide) I had to physically pull them down, but my acrylic nails were so long that they scraped my contact lens, which then fell onto the bed (and it was my last left-eye lens). 

So I cried. I really cried for a solid 20 minutes over this ridiculous, embarrassing situation, knowing that I was really crying at the failed attempt to pull myself out of my funk. I was crying because I felt shame for spending money on myself, for looking for ways to physically look better so that I could heal faster, for feeling frustrated and impotent in my search for answers for my boys’ autism, for having anxiety about who I was since I’d spent the last six years either incubating babies, feeding babies, or being mama. I cried knowing no amount of extension, lengthening, or glue product could hold me together enough to heal what was actually wounded. I cried because I had tried something (yet again) and it had failed – I had failed – and I couldn’t handle another failure. I cried because I was embarrassed that I had dared to pay attention (and money) toward my own physical appearance.

So, I took an Uber to the women who extended my hair in a fit of shame, desperation, and tears, and removed it all. Then I went to the eye doctor and got new contacts - the doctor commented on how my lashes were getting in the way of his air puff gadget and looked at me with disdain while my acrylic nails tried in vain to scoop the new contacts into my eye for a fitting - so that was a little unexpected bonus. Then I tried removing the lashes by soaking them with olive oil (this just gets better and better) and burned my eyeballs so I drove to the eyelash place to remove those as well. Then I hung my fake hair on a hanger and laughed for a solid twenty minutes before cleaning my daughter’s poop off the rug.

At first I was mortified and didn’t tell a soul. Then I figured – what the hell? This is part of a larger lesson that other women need to hear.

When I wrote my thesis for my master’s degree I spent a solid 28 days locked in my bedroom and turned in no less than 9 iterations. Finally, on the tenth shot, when I had scraped the bottom of the barrel, worn out all of my tricks and embellishments, and written something bare and truthful, my advisor said: OK, now you’re ready to begin. Maybe now, after all of the self-indulgent, ego-driven garble, I’m ready to finally begin the process of healing.

It’s OK to beautify yourself. It’s OK to do something over-the-top to try to feel yourself again. It’s also OK to realize it’s not working. It’s OK, at any point in any situation, to change your mind. It’s OK to go back to where you started, and start again. And again. And again. It’s OK to be ridiculous and laugh at yourself. It’s OK to forgive yourself. It’s all good, Mama. It’s OK.

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