Thursday, October 11, 2007

First Impressions

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while all know that my chronological age -- since I have four children -- is somewhere between age of consent and power of attorney, and my latest photo icon tends to confirm that. The hair particularly.

Now and then I wonder at the wisdom of using it. Certainly ageism exists in the publishing industry -- as it does everywhere else.

On the other hand I have an aversion to the mutton-dressed-as-lamb syndrome ( to use an appropriately antiquated English expression) that seems to afflict some women; and so I have not the slightest desire to archly present myself as if I were still in my twenties -- or thirties.

Still, I was a little surprised by a comment left by the ever-charming Sid Leavitt on yesterdays's post: Again, I was struck by that silvery hair. Think of the time it took to achieve that perfection.

Without dissecting that comment with all the fervour of a newbie over an agent's rejection letter, my first thought was: Busted! Where's the Clairol!


When my hair first began to streak silver, I fooled around with colouring agents for a short while, trying out the blonde which was mine as a child (visible in one of my earlier icons), but, for me, the process was more aggravation than it was worth.

And I justified my lack of physical vanity with a frail conceit of another kind. There exists in the Western Isles a sidhe legend about certain silver-haired women.

Certainly, like a good book, I've gone through more than one impression, but I wonder sometimes if the hair is enough to have me remaindered.

We all stereotype. We all judge books by covers. It's a practical process and often correct.

As a side note, I have never thought the way I look -- to some people's surprise and chagrin. The photo above is the only one that ever captured what my children persist in calling my eyes of death.

They were always very well-behaved children.


spyscribbler said...

I guess I'm lucky that I appear pretty young for my age, but my hair is a completely different matter. I have more gray hair than my mother, who is over thirty years older than me! I figure it's the teaching and the worrying about the kids. Irks me, but I'm lazy about the Clairol, too. I do it when I'm in the mood, but when I'm not?

I mean, I earned this gray hair, every last strand.

StarvingWriteNow said...

I have an intimate friendship with Lady L'Oreal. I expect it will continue for another 10-20 years in varying shades of brown that will grow lighter and fade quicker until I finally give it up as a loss.

And FYI: those aren't gray hairs. They're platinum highlights.

Bernita said...

I always have looked younger too, SS, but methinks I've reached the tipping point and the it.

Platinum is a much nicer word than gray, Starving.

Anonymous said...

My hair has grey. But you can only see it when I wear pigtails.

bunnygirl said...

I'm at the point where clipping or pulling the white strands is no longer a rational option, yet I hate fussing with hair color. Such a hassle, not to mention that it's almost certainly carcinogenic!

But since my face and body are still quite youthful, I feel I must keep up the fight with my hair for at least the time being.

Fortunately, my hair shows every sign that it will one day be pure white. Yay! I've always thought I'd look fanatastically dignified with a snow-white chignon... in it's proper time, of course. Like, when I'm eighty or something. :-)

Jaye Wells said...

This post struck a nerve with me. I'll refrain from ranting because it's not my blog. I will say this: I like your hair, but I don't give a damn about it. You're a good writer and an interesting person. That should be enough.

Amy Lavender Harris said...

The eyes of death in reality were actually much more ... frightening. I'm going to go clean my room now.

It's a lovely picture. And I hope to go silver in exactly the same way -- looks like I'm on my way already.

Robyn said...

I color my hair, since it was becoming more salt than pepper.

Eyes of death. Kids are wonderful, aren't they? In our house, it's the Look of Glarey Death.

Ello said...

I love your hair, it looks beautiful and in keeping with your character Lillie! For all the hoopla about the young attractive authors and the magazine spreads etc, it ain't the looks it's the writing that is important. Publicists like when they can package looks with talent, but I do think that this is one of the few industries where age and looks is really irrelevant. At this juncture query letters do not require head shots and so it still is about the writing. PR people are the ones that have caused this superficiality of looks in order to generate more sales. Anyway, I agree that I dislike mutton dressing (funny!) and I respect aging gracefully. And love your glamour shot!

Bernita said...

Hee, Seeley, I gave up pigtails when I was about twelve.

My body's still quite youthful too, Bunny.
~ where's that paper bag?~

Thank you, Jaye!
It will have to be, won't it?

~just looks at Amy~

Robyn! Sister!

Thank you, Ello.
Unfortunately, headshots or not, google tells all... but as the sweet potato said, I yam what I yam.

Savannah Jordan said...

There are too many standards of judgement, too many beholders to judge beauty. Regardless of age, Bernita you are brilliant and beautiful always.

Me? My hair has been everything from blond, to burnette to ravish red. I liked the red best, but it was such a buggar to maintain. I'm nowhere near as pretty as I wish I was. Or as thin. LOL

Robin S. said...

Hi bernita,

Your 'eyes of death' comment made me laugh out loud, and I had to comment. My family has a 'look of death' - and apparently I have inherited that look down the family line, and then some. Hey, we do we we need to do.

I've always looked younger than I am - when that ends - I'll see what happens. Don't know how I'm going to react.

Very nice pictures, by the way- BOTH of them.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Savannah.
"ravish red" - hmmm,I like that phrase.
I don't mind "looking my age" - I just don't want to appear older than I am - so I've been wondering about the hair thingy and automatic judgments.

Thank you, Robin.
Your family inheritance reminds me of L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon books with reference to an expression known as "that Murray look."
Intimidating, apparently!

Lisa said...

The obsession with appearance in our culture irks the heck out of me, but that doesn't change it. I have never cared whether anyone knows how old I am or not and despite the signs of age my skin is now showing (crows, stop standing on my eyes at night!), my hair color hasn't started to grey just yet. There was a good article in either Time or US News and World Report recently about women and the question about whether to color or not. Apparently, something like 70% of those of us with grey hair do color it. I think you look lovely and I say, I don't believe something so superficial can actually make a difference when it comes to getting published. I am frequently wrong and may be on this one too, but somehow, I doubt it.

Church Lady said...

I need some eyes of death--my children laugh at me when I try for a scary face. :-(

I agree with Robin. *Both* pictures are beautiful! I can't imagine a different face with your writing.

Bernita said...

"(crows, stop standing on my eyes at night!)"
- great line!
Lisa, thank you. I can only hope.
My one-time next-door neighbour is still defiantly blonde at eighty, so there you go.

"I can't imagine a different face with your writing" - that's an interesting comment.
Thank you, Chris.

Don't make faces. Apparently, the trick is all in the eyes. Like gimlets. Steel.

Sid Leavitt said...

I am crestfallen, Bernita, that you would think my comment about your silvery locks was pejorative. The subject, after all, was "sex and its preliminaries," and you hoped they "aren't just another appetite. I'd like to see a little glamour. A little more romance." I was simply suggesting another ingredient to that mix -- contemplation -- because it's an act that requires time, the very quality that has produced your beautiful hair.

It's that same quality -- time -- that has made you a beautiful writer. And it was the beauty of your writing, you may recall, that first appealed to us at Readersandwritersblog. Now I'm sure there are 20-somethings out there who are beautiful writers, but in our excursions around the blogosphere, especially the celebrity and chat blogs, we haven't found many. Not that we'd care to spend much time reading.

The comment by Ello, above, is close to the mark: "I love your hair . . . (but) it ain't the looks, it's the writing that is important." I couldn't agree more. But your good fortune is that you've got both.

'Eyes of death,' indeed.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, I'm in the colouring stage, but so far it's only single hairs that stand out too much in my auburn.

But a more even mix, or entirely silver, can be very beautiful.

raine said...

That's a lovely photo, Bernita. Striking.

And I had to laugh...your 'eyes of death' are what my sister's kids used to call "the look" from me--in hushed, somber tones, lol.

This post struck a nerve with me too. I've had gray hair since junior high school, and have never colored it. I've never posted my pic on my blog or elsewhere, nostly because I like my privacy, but also because it shouldn't matter what I look like (although I know it does in this business).

I'm thinking now I may copy your 'eyes of death' photo and use that instead... ;-)

Precie said...

In a way, it's frustrating to be tagged in any way according to a natural attribute...female, hair color, ethnicity, etc. The amorphous "they" attach so many connotations to characteristics that are such a small part of our greater selves.

I say...embrace who you are, including your radiant silver...or perhaps the much stronger steel or titanium!

(I feel a "plastic surgery" rant coming on, but I will endeavor to suppress myself.)

And note to self--must practice "eyes of death." (

Bernita said...

Ah, Sid, you're such a lovely man!
Thank you. I am as wine- or good whiskey.
I apologize for my naughty way of using your comment to lead off today's topic.
(But you did seem to emphasize the silver, you know you did, just ask your wife..)

I have always admired auburn hair, Gabriele, but missed out on my grandfather's red-headed gene.

Thank you, Raine.
Another eyes-of-death sister. Perhaps one of those instinctive recognitions - besides your beautiful writing and blog - that drew me to you.
Would be flattered if you did - recalcitrants and wrong-doers beware!

Precie, easier on the hands than the mildest detergent!
One might as well; it's futile to rail against certain set perceptions.

Scott from Oregon said...


Methinks there needs to be a nickel-topped revolution...

"The Buffalo Soldiers"...

Pardon the stereotyping, but I think your picture makes you look elegant and wise, two things that would make me want to buy your books...

Sometimes, I think, the goal we set for our own projections can be the wrong ones.

Angie said...

I noticed my first silver hair (thank whatever silver, like my mom, and not flat grey [wry smile]) the day after my thirtieth birthday. I've never plucked nor colored; never saw the point. It's thinning at the top -- my scalp is clearly visible -- and I'm not doing anything about that either because I don't want to be chained for life to a product I have to use every day.

I've had lines on my forehead since junior high. Must be all the deep thinking I do. [cough]

Oh, and I'm also about 130 pounds overweight. I'm dealing with that as well as I can, and have lost a few pounds recently, but a gimpy knee makes it tough to even walk enough for it to count as exercise. I'd happily keep the silver hair if I could only have more of it, though, and the lines if the skin they were on didn't have to stretch around quite so much of me. [rueful smile]

I think we all have aspects of our appearance we don't like or at least would prefer to change if we could wave a wand. I think you look fine, for whatever my opinion is worth, and I admire how you write enough that you were one of the very first blogs I started reading regularly once I ventured off of LJ. It sounds like quite a few others here agree which means you have a pretty good deal going.

If someone offered to make me look like Catherine Zeta Jones in exchange for taking away my writing skill or my creativity or my intelligence, I'd probably go for my husband's gun to chase them away with emphasis. :/ Sure, I'd love to be beautiful but there are other things I want more for myself and a few of those things I actually have. I'll keep 'em, thanks. And I suspect you'd keep yours too. :)


Bernita said...

Not sure I quite get all your comment, Scott...buffalo soldiers makes me think I'm part of a herd going over a cliff!..but thank you for the nice compliment. I'll take "buy your books" anytime.

Definitely, Angie.I'll take brains and creativity over anything else.Those last and may even improve with age.
And I'm very happy and pleased that you take the trouble come and post and add your thoughts and insights to those of the splendid people here.

Lisa said...

I had to come back and look again. This photo is so striking and I knew it reminded me of someone. Did anyone ever comment that this photo looks quite a bit like photos of the actress, Sharon Tate?

Shesawriter said...

I've flirted with Ms. Clairol, but haven't made a firm pass at her yet. Though, God knows I'm due. LOL.

Whatever the case, I get really peeved at how writer's looks--and not the books they've written--are judged. What the *&^% does it matter what we look like?

We're IN the freaking words. That's where our essence lives. Forget the shell. Read the words. Every last ounce of us lives and breathes in them.

Okay, rant over.....

BTW, Bernita, loved the eyes of death comment. :-)

Shesawriter said...

Also, your pic reminds me of '70s star Joanna Pettit.

Bernita said...

My word, Lisa.
She's the one murdered by the Manson bunch isn't she?
I did some acting, years and years ago.
Another photo of this set was posted 2006/07/08.

Very useful, those eyes, Tanya.
Thank you. Those are exactly my feelings about it all.
Very well said.

Lisa said...

Well yes, but she was in the movie, Valley of the Dolls and she was a very beautiful woman. Sorry about the negative connotation!

writtenwyrdd said...

"eyes of death" hahaha! Bet you could stop an argument with a look when the kids were young.

I thought your photo was rather Emma Peale-like. What was that woman's name, Lynne Redgrave?

Anyhow, on to grey air. It's a good thing. I say that with bias, of course, because I've been grey since my late 20s. One develops a certain snobbery when one is that special (she says, tongue inserted firmly in cheek.)

Jeff said...

I don't see the "eyes of death" in the photo at all, Bernita. Rather, I see a contemplative look caught just moments before your decision and answer to a question.
It's a very nice photo.

As far as hair goes, mine is salt & pepper, but I dare say in the past few years the salt has made great strides in overtaking the pepper.

Anonymous said...

A picture taken on my wedding day shows Maman's Eyes of Death training menacingly upon the photographer while I smirk at her side.

I'm really a light brune - did the blonde thing in various shades for over a decade - then went mahogany red upon the birth of my son. Never looked back. Blondes are tagged "dumb" far too often, but redheads are always and only bitches. I like it.

Good writing, once released to the ether, is not dressed in the hair of its author.

whose own Eyes of Death are progressing nicely.

LadyBronco said...

I started to get 'platinum highlights' when I was about twenty or so. If I did not color my hair, now at the ripe-old age of 35 I would be showing a mostly platinum color scheme.

Frankly, I'm just not quite ready for that.

Feria is now my friend. The best thing about coloring my hair? I get to choose the color that I feel best suits my inner-diva.

And that would be deep red, thank you very much. ;0)

SzélsőFa said...

I love your gray hair, Bernita. What that commenter said was a sheer compliment.
Age, if compared with wisdom, as it is the case here I'm very much convinced, is a gift.

Bernita said...

No, no, Lisa. No connotation. Just a lovely, though undeserved, compliment.

I have a thing for boots, Written!
With me it's just resignation; but I approve of making lemonade.

Nice of you, Jeff, and thank you.
But I assure you the "eyes of death" are real.

And you look like something out of a medieval painting with that dark red hair, Asa.

Red hair is very beautiful, Lady B.

Sweet of you to say so, Szelsofa.
Indeed, Sid was very kind and it was bad of me to tease him so.

Charles Gramlich said...

I love the "eyes of death" and the "well behaved children." Strange how those things go together. I use to tell my son, "you see the fire in my eyes, boy." He usually thought it was funny.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Charles.
Not mine.To hear them tell it, my look was a speculation on which body part to remove next.

Demon Hunter said...

I think you look very beautiful and distinguished with your "platinum" hair, Bernita! :*)

Bernita said...

You're a dear child, my Demon. Thank you.

Demon Hunter said...

You're more than welcome, Bernita!