In almost every picture I've published of myself, for many years past, I have worn a black hairband. Originally it was to keep my hair from flopping around. Then it became something of a conscious trademark.
I rarely saw anybody else sporting one. That didn't matter. But in the last couple of years there has been a muted clamour from some of my friends to give the hairband up. One thought it was something of a 'comfort blanket'. Another thought it rather cheap and plasticky. Yet another said it detracted from my femininity.
I had to admit to myself that it wasn't a particularly 'grown-up' accessory, at least not for an older woman; and that functionally it didn't do its job very well, for my hair still flopped around in any kind of breeze.
But dubious functionality wasn't going to stop me wearing one. And there were other factors in play. A desire to look different, for example. Also personal stubbornness. Nobody was pressurising me to abandon my hairband, but my standard reaction to any kind of urging - even well-intentioned urging - is always to say no, dig my heels in, and be implacably defiant. So I have been giving all these 'encouragements' a flat rejection.
Then, a day ago, I changed my mind and took it off. This wasn't a climb-down. I felt I'd made the Great Decision myself - and would reverse it, if I so chose. But I felt I ought to go hairband-less for a week, to give the experience a fair trial. So six days from now I'll either continue - having got used to wearing nothing on my head - or I'll dig one out, and put it on.
The funny thing is that around my home - for most of the time on some days, in fact - I don't wear any hairband. I only put one on when I go out. So maybe the 'comfort blanket' suggestion has some force!
So far all is going well, except that my hair undoubtedly looks untidier than I'd really like. Untidy, wind-blown, tousled hair can look refreshingly and flatteringly natural, and even chic, but I'm not convinced that it suits me, and it certainly makes me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. That may pass, but what if it doesn't? I'll then be looking for some means to restore control, and I'm not sure what to do. I definitely don't like spraying my hair, nor smearing wax or mousse into it, nor pinning it into position. A hat? Only for some occasions. What about a ribbon, instead of a proper hairband? Hmm. I could look into that.
But first, let me see what happens in the next six days.
This is very much like not wearing make-up of any kind, after years of never appearing in public without carefully applying at least a minimum of it. My own minimum was lipstick. I'd feel naked and exposed without some on my lips. I now see that wearing that hairband was a secondary but still-important part of my 'going-out armour'.
The issue here might possibly be put like this: Am I a frightened child, needing formulaic confidence-builders? Or am I truly an adult, able to face the world without the slightest artifice?
Actually, it's subtler than that. Women - and human beings in general, surely - want to look their best, and that 'best' can take many forms. This is about presentation, attractiveness, allure, distinctiveness, the wish to be taken seriously, the ability to be a force on appearance and manner alone. Whatever device makes one at the very least confident and assured, is in my book a device that can be justified (although I exclude weapons, naturally). If a hairband (or the right shade of lipstick) achieves the desired personality boost, and gets attention and respect, then a hairband (or the particular shade of lipstick) is OK.
At the moment I don't feel properly 'me'. But that may change over the next few days. I might - thinking about it all - make my mind up to adopt a new hair style, side-stepping the need to use a hairband at all. The important thing will be to make the decision my very own, and not give in and tamely change my appearance to what other people want to see. Having your own agenda is absolute.