Here’s the thing about re-inventing your look past a certain age – it’s scary! Remember when we were younger and had a different ‘do’ at every hair appointment, never afraid to change something up to add a dose of spice and fun to your look, always sure that if it went wrong it’s no biggie. Whatever disaster would grow out or dye back, and sure, you can always get laser to get rid of that sleeve tattoo , right?
Right. Generally. Ah the bravery of youth…
Well I’m 38 and I felt like a change too, but boy did I have to mull it over! After a few years of epic turbulence in my personal life and a new existence as a single mum with a busy (but happy) career, things finally felt as though they were settling. But when I looked in the mirror, I saw the same old me. Nothing really wrong with my reflection, granted. But inside I felt completely different. Utterly different – unrecognisable to myself. So the old ‘look’ felt, well, old. I needed something that would give a nod to the new-feeling me. So that when I looked in the mirror, I could see a new dawn.
So I decided a change was in order.
The first thing was the biggest for me. I have worn glasses since I was 12. I played around with lenses several times, from the original hard ones to the soft, daily ones but they always left my eyes dry and sore. And unflatteringly red. Especially at the late teens stage where meeting boys under the awful fluorescent lights of Burger King made them look even worse. That scarred me! I was shy to look boys in the eyes as I knew that my eyes looked raging red and that would no doubt lead to comments which made me cringe. Oh teenage boys – how bloody pass-remarkable you were!
As I grew up, I learnt to accept my glasses and my love for them finally arrived (as did my self-confidence), so I’ve had loads of cool frames, and people always remarked how glasses suited me. My whole family wear them well too –the Balfes rock glasses!
But I do admit to wishing them away at times, especially on a holiday – swimming is impossible. As is any other cool holiday type thing to do – water-skiiing, scuba diving, anything! Finding nice enough looking prescription shades was holiday stress in itself, so I left it there!
So, having my eyes lasered has always been on my radar. I have quizzed friends mercilessly after their procedures – can you really see immediately afterwards? How sore? Each and every person has been practically evangelical in their major recommendation of the process. I thought the time was coming for me to seriously consider it.
Based on friends’ recommendations, I went to Optilase and after an extremely thorough consultation, they told me that my eyes were suitable for treatment (some aren’t). I was half delighted, half terrified. Not terrified of any pain or discomfort – the doctor who consulted with me allayed those worries, as did my pals. No, I was terrified of the change in my features. I didn’t really know if I did want to get rid of the glasses. I felt as though they defined me – I had ‘a look’ and every time I took my glasses off for people to see, almost everyone said, ‘oh, you look so different’…not necessarily in a good way!
After weeks of indecision I finally bit the bullet. My Dad brought me in to the clinic early one morning. I was kindly offered some anti-anxiety drugs for my nerves (nothing heavy – a light dose of Xanax), and I highly recommend taking it. The knowledge that there will be a machine very close to your face and a laser lifting a flap from your eye to expose the area for correction,and all the while you have to stay VERY STILL, is unnerving to say the least. I have to say that the nurses there really helped me to overcome my panic. They were soothing and caring, and really gave me time. There was no sense of rush, no sense of hurry. They were kind.
The procedure itself, like many scary things, was worse in the build -up than in actual practice. It genuinely took less than 10 minutes for both eyes. As it was happening, I listened to the doctor’s voice for my instructions on where to look. And here are the truths: #1 there is a slight burning smell like hair caught in a hair drier. #2 IT DOES NOT HURT! At all….
A nurse holds your hand and just as you’re getting used to the surreality of your setting, it is over.
Afterwards, I was checked over thoroughly, taught about the drops regime that I would embark on for the next few weeks and then my next appointments were made – the next day, one week after, two weeks after, three months etc…. It’s as though they are still holding my hand!
My Dad brought me home, I went straight asleep (thank you Xanax), and when I woke four hours later –I could see! Not 100% just then, but pretty damn near – it was the most exciting thing that’s happened bar my babies being born! To the very short-sighted, as I was, it genuinely feels miraculous.
The next day I went back to the clinic, and get this – I read from the 20/20 chart!
Over the next week or so, I had to get used to the different looking me. I couldn’t wear makeup for the first week and my eyes did look a bit red – but nothing I haven’t dealt with before. When the makeup went back on, I had to figure out how to emphasise my eyes correctly. I’m a makeup artist by training and even I had to experiment to get the new balance right. I was always a strong lip and dark glasses girl – now I could play up my eyes more than I ever had.
Two other great things happened. I bought gorgeous earrings – something I had never worn as I felt they were too much with the glasses. I also went sunglasses shopping and boy, that was fun. No need to scour to find correctly shaped lenses so as to fit the prescription lens – nope, just pretty sunnies, please. Finally!
It’s many months down the line now and I am so, so glad I did it. I missed the glasses at first – people’s reactions were embarrassing – they stare. And carry on staring as they, in their turn, get used to their new-looking friend, colleague, sister, daughter. Fair enough, I guess – I’d stare too!
But as I got used to myself, I wasn’t 100% happy with my overall appearance. I remembered that the glasses had lent me ‘a look’ and I felt as though my face, without the frames to break it up looked too long. It felt time for a fringe!
I scoured Pinterest for nice looking fringes, I pinned images of people with dark hair like mine and tried to figure out if I could rock a heavy, blunt style. Ever indecisive, I asked Twitter! I asked in the office… I gathered momentum. I steeled myself for more change.
And once again, I bit the bullet. I went to Paul Davey in Davey Davey, a cutter supreme whom I have absolute faith in. When he was adamant that it would be a good idea to cut in this fringe, I gave the green light. He did it in five minutes. And I love it!
Now, here’s the thing. I know it’s no big deal in the real scheme of things, it’s only changing my outward appearance. But for me, at this point in my life whilst recovering from a huge change in circumstance, these physical changes felt enormous. I worried would I be able to act like me, would it impact on my fledging (but growing) confidence as a single person again, would anyone fancy me again? Yes, I ran the gamut of indecisive self-doubt. The little things that the young ones don’t give moments to, became big things I gave hours to! Sure, it’s what’s inside that counts but what’s on the outside matters too. Never underestimate the power of a great haircut or any treatment that helps you feel good. In my case, the kind and skilled people at Optilase walked me through a major life adjustment in a way they couldn’t know.
And after all that, finally I’m happy with the new-looking me! Yes, only my cosmetic appearance changed to outsiders – just no more glasses and a new ‘do’. But in my internal landscape it’s huge, epic in fact. My new reflection matches my new inside. And that’s a good thing.