It didn’t seem that cold riding around the lake. It wasn’t that far from home really but even so I wrapped up with a large hooded jumper and even long fitness leggings to make sure I didn’t feel worse than I already did for most of the week. The pathway opens up from the trees at the corner of the lake, the sun a November watery hue with a sharp enough edge to produce long clear shadows from the line of trees on the lawn to the side.
A quiet place on private hotel land that turn a blind eye to walkers on a Sunday and where guests rarely roam. It’s so quiet that I felt surprised to past enough people to say ‘good morning’ to. The one side of the lake is a gravel path following along near the waters edge with the polar opposite west side winding tight between dense woodland on a thick carpet of autumn leaves. It was a quintessential British autumn scene and right on my doorstep.
I had taken my camera with me because I knew it would likely be a warm scenic place in a cold environment. I decided to set up a photograph of myself, something to send to my parents with the castle in the background and a full autumn bloom ancient tree on the side in pure tan tones. I lifted my cycle helmet off and placed it on my bag on the bench, setting the bike to the side, popped the camera at the end of the path and allowed it to time a self-indulgent photo.
I reviewed the photo. It was ok but with my hair tied back it didn’t feel like me. It was me and obviously looked like me but it felt like I’d hidden away a little bit of myself. I might have had my running tights on but even so, sat on the bench with my knees together, my warm jumper and gloves I felt something was still missing.
I pulled the elasticated bronze hair ribbon from my ponytail and slipped it onto my wrist allowing my hair to fall. A little rustle with my hands and I quickly jogged to the end of the path again, set the timer and ran back to the bench counting the ten seconds in my head and panicking that I wouldn’t get to sit down in time. I assumed it clicked and reviewed myself again.
“Oh wow, my hair has grown so long.” I thought for a moment. I mean it really did seem long. I knew it was due a bit of a trim to get rid of those split ends that the straighteners seem to help along, even so it seemed longer than I thought. Dangling down way past my neck and onto my chest with an ever so slight smile on my face I felt a little bit validated this time.
I guess it’s like the difference between a pair of trousers and a skirt. Trousers can say female by the way they are cut but a skirt is, by design, inherently female, with few exceptions. How was this different with a ponytail though. Surely a high ponytail with length says exactly what the skirt says?
It does in so many ways but with a head on photograph the ponytail, unless I turned my head for a bizarre photograph, was barely visible if at all. With my hair down, it’s length and thickness also said a similar femininity but was blatantly obvious to the camera. It said what I wanted without having to change the set up of a photograph.
I thought about wearing my hair down with my cycle helmet on but it didn’t look right at the time, slightly messy. I wasn’t sure if I just needed a bit more time to sort my hair out or whether it needed styling to make it tidier and give the same affect.
That’s the thing with photos, they are a representation of who we are. I can think back to the days when I used to go on nights out with other transgender people (or people as I like to call them) and photos would say all sorts of lies or masks. Thick make up covering growth and shadow, outwardly obvious clothes to disguise our true current physical disadvantages. It’s similar in everyday life. We all want to look nice in photos. Look how we feel inside.
Adjusting, correcting and altering our appearance to feel a bit happier about ourselves. It’s not really vain as such but just self recognition, introspection and alteration. That’s what it is. It’s our way of finding our way. Much like the rest of our journey in opening up, finding clothing style, introspection of our personality and looking at our future and the path we would like to follow.
So next time you’re out and about and want to take a photo of yourself, don’t be afraid of being vain, embrace it and find out where you are. Enjoy being you and who you want to be.
Until next time.