Saturday, March 24, 2007

... a devil's choice?

i was discussing hair dye with a friend today.

my impression of the satisfaction that hair dyeing must evoke is pretty much summed up by a t.v. advert for (i think) clairol: she comes home in tears, slamming the door behind her - she slaps at the photo of the happy couple (bastard!) and it falls from the bookcase to the hallway floor - she stars at her panda eyes in the mirror - she grabs the hair dye in the bathroom - we hear tick-tick-tick-tick-tick - cut to her hair, the tresses being dragged out of the sink, shocking red, leaving a blood red dye draining into the plughole - she looks in the mirror again - she stands erect, glamourous, in tall, high-heeled boots, little black dress, firey red hair wild down to her shoulders - she steps uncaringly on the photo, cracking the glass, then out the door (so over it!) and out into her new life...

i imagine that when people dye their hair they must be looking for the feeling i imagine that woman in the tvc is feeling - screw the past, i'm making a new life starting tonight!

so i asked if she was feeling like a new woman, and we went on to discuss the inner satisfaction of the whole hair-dyeing experience. we talked a bit about why people dye their hair, the needs or perhaps more the... weaknesses(?) they are seeking to shore up by dyeing. later on, the conversation centered briefly on a comment by a balding man who claimed that if he could have hair transplants that looked utterly natural then he would get them regardless of the cost.

at first blush that to me seemed a little excessive. however, given the current near-ubiquity of cosmetic surgery of all kinds, from botox to more extreme makeovers, the comment is actually more genuine than excessive. to me, it says that for this man there are things more important in life than mere money; that the money in his life serves deeper needs than its mere acquisition, having for the sake of having. no scrooge mcduck this man, he isn't interested in swimming in a money pool. he would be willing to do whatever it takes to feel more like himself than he does now.

it does beg the question, who do we think we are? do we see ourselves in the mirror and say, look, there i am! or do we look in the mirror and wish we saw someone else?

in a quirk of coincidence, we turn to the seeming incongruity of matching light cheese with full-fat salami (on toast, for dinner). it reminded me of a routine by Christian stand-up comedian steve geyer, talking about being a guy taking a girl to mcdonald's.

guy: well honey, what do you want?
girl: weeellllll, i'll just have a cheeseburger - and just a big mac - just a quarter pounder with cheese, just a mc-b-l-t, just a hot fudge sundae... and a small diet coke.
guy: [thinking; oh great, miss piggy's on a diet, that's great...]

it reminded her of billy connolly commenting on pizza-eating and how someone will order a pizza the same size as the coffee table - and a bottle of diet coke...

so the question then, the devil's choice is, if you will: fat or sugar? would you rather be fat (and drink the diet coke) or toothless (and not drink diet coke). putting aside the sugar-goes-to-fat-as-well argument, it isn't a very nice choice to have to make.

i don't like diet coke. i won't drink pepsi and i feel mildly icky choosing from the soft drinks available at kfc (which only stocks pepsi flavours and solo, which i think is from cadbury schweppes). since moving to melbourne i don't think i've bought a soft drink from a vending machine and certainly wouldn't from a train station here (all pepsi machines). i like coke. i know i don't take great care of my teeth but i'm doing better now than i used to, brushing teeth more and drinking coke less. and if my teeth do all fall out, i'll be able to get false teeth like my gran and pop, whose amazing false teeth tricks i found thoroughly entertaining as a small child.

it seems to me that the devil's choice between being fat and being toothless (the diabolically logical end result of these two paths) is utterly a choice that comes to us from the world we live in. both choices will kill us, in the end, with the death of a thousand cuts. each time we take the diet coke, we salve our conscience about our decision to eat the coffee table-sized pizza; each time we take the coke, we salve our pride and say that we made our own choices and we're individuals not sheep like the rest of them...

neither one is true. the fad for diet drinks is just as much a fad as the fad of post-marlboro man individualism. both fads take our eyes of the real issue, they play to our weaknesses, the very weakness they purport to cure, though it is never said: they are the cure for sin.

isn't the greatest modern sin shame? shame of who we are, of what we do, of how we look, of how others perceive us? we're too fat, too skinny, too poor, too financially insecure, too selfish, too much of a walkover, too indecisive, too intolerant! we're too much ourselves - we need to be more like... them. more like someone else. less like us.

interesting... so where do we go from here? if all this is true, where do we go from here? how do we know who to be like? who should be our role model? mother teresa? she's good for tolerance, but not so great for financial success. donald trump? great for financial success, but not so great in the looks department. kate moss? gorgeous, but isn't she an anorexic druggie? tom cruise! he decries even drugs from a certified medical practitioner, doesn't he? yes, but let's face it... he's a bit of a pratt.

i don't think the greatest modern sin is shame. i think it's actually pride - which is less a modern sin and more the classic sin. lucifer is traditionally held to have been cast out of heaven for pride. pride cometh before a fall. and it's pride that says, "my little dreams aren't so big" - "it's not too much to ask" - "i deserve this..."

pride masking itself as humility. pride masking itself as generosity. Jesus condemned such pride. the pharisee declaring his own good deeds before no one but God was condemned when compared to the tax collector who was too ashamed to even approach the altar of the temple. those people who rang bells in the streets to say when they were giving to the poor, but who were more concerned about being seen giving to the poor than actually saving them from their poverty.

i know what i'm like. i have those little dreams that i don't think are so big. my generosity is meagre in nature and desires recognition in action. i think that more often than we care to admit, we're all like that.

the other thing i know is that despite this ugly truth, God loves us. despite this inability to rise above our nature, despite whatever earnest desire we may sometimes entertain about our ability to rise above that nature, God forgives us. and despite the wealth of evidence supporting God's love and forgiveness, we continue to ignore him.

we won't believe because we don't want to, but we can believe because God wants us to. you don't know he's not calling out to you.

so how do i know he's called me?

i know because i answered. i turned around from my faults and failures and admitted to God that i couldn't run my life the way it needs to be run. that i keep turning back to God after i go awry is more evidence of God's forgiveness and love. that i keep needing to is more evidence of my sinfulness. i thank God that his forgiveness is greater than my sinfulness.

he's greater than your sinfulness. don't believe me?

"oh taste and see that the LORD is good!
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
the young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing."
--- psalm 34:8-10 [esv]


erika said...


On the hair dye front, sometime you just need a change! I was a hairdye virgin till the age of 31 and had had the same haircut for at least 16 years - and I did feel like a "new woman" (and I only had layers put in and some foils!). There were things in my life I couldn't control, but at least I could control my hair (well apart from bad hair days that is...)

BTW - my blog has been rebirthed

Janey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janey said...

Adam - this is a lovely inspection on today's crap world and the hope God gives us. Thanks for the encouragement. On another note - changing hairstyles or going on that retail therapy shopping spree after a traumatic event IS actually liberating...maybe it's something we may not fully understand but the point is - if it helps you get through something negative and terrible and you're not committing a sin for doing so - why not? At least we didn't kill the bastard!