Declaration of Reinvention

by Emily Listfield
Photograph: Photo by Sofia + Mauro.

Why do we sometimes choose to change? The reasons are entirely individual. Change often stems from a desire to reclaim a part of yourself that has gotten lost along the way, out of either neglect or necessity, in your rush to meet other goals. Consider Hillary Clinton. (Do we ever stop considering her?) As secretary of state, she has passed a global test. No one can doubt her toughness, her intelligence or her resolve. Her signature pantsuits are the most practical of uniforms, armor (albeit multicolored) in what is still a man’s world. She has at last arrived on the high ground of unassailability, so what does she do? Grows out her hair—an assertion of femininity if there ever was one, a flouting of the social consensus that women of a certain age should have a certain hairstyle. That choice comes, one would like to think, from her being strong enough, confident enough, to allow a softness (dare we suggest, even a girlishness) to reach the surface. It is an acknowledgment of a complex self: I am this, but I am this, too.

Change the outside, and the inside will often follow. If you’ve had short hair for years, the sensuality of longer hair, the mere act of releasing your locks from the neck of a sweater as you pull it over your head, of feeling hair fall against bare skin, can summon memories of a time long gone by, a more carefree time, perhaps, in which you didn’t bear quite so many responsibilities, when spontaneity was still an option. Like a perfume that awakens a distant memory, making it real once more, like Proust’s madeleines, the simplest change in presentation can reverberate in your bloodstream, change your pulse. Perhaps no one but you will know why your step has become just a bit lighter or your laugh a bit readier, but that is part of the great synergistic power of any transformation. It is internal and external; it is private and public.

As anyone can attest who has ever tried on a bolder lipstick or a totally “It’s so not me” blouse and been surprised by her own image in the mirror, the reward is a frisson of pleasure and self-discovery. “You gain self-confidence when you take a risk,” says Foltyn. “It may even help you make other changes in your life.” In other words: Who knows where a lipstick might lead?

First Published February 10, 2011 First published in the February 2011 issue of MORE magazine.

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