So I woke up the other day and scrutinized myself in the mirror.  “Hmm…” I thought.  “My hair is a bit long for someone my age.” I shook my head at my reflection.  Tsk-tsk’ing myself, I said (out loud), “I need to cut it or pull it back.”

But what I really needed to cut was the self-judging.

And what I ought to pull back is the fear, not the hair.

The fear that someone else will assess me in the same critical way and think less of me.  Because the length of my hair isn’t consistent with the RSS – Recommended Societal Standards for a woman over forty.  After all, if you listen to advertisers and media moguls, I only have three viable years remaining as a member of the coveted 18 – 49 age group.  And then, I suppose, I cease to exist.  That’s one of the many boxes I find myself in.

And isn’t this what we do every day to ourselves and to each other?  We do the surreptitious size-up.  You know what I mean… that up-and-down glance at other people to try to fit them into boxes in your mind.

□ Who are you?  □ More important, who do you think you are?  □ How do I compare to you?  □ How do you seem to think I compare to you?

This kind of us-versus-them, keep-up-with-the-Joneses mentality can be exhausting, can’t it?

So why do we do it?  Mainly, I think, because everyone else is doing it and it’s what we’re used to.  It’s a cultural norm.  Fancy name for what we’ve all tacitly agreed is the way we do things around these parts.

Here in central Jersey, we all sat in judgment on the Tanning Mom, Patricia Krentcil, for baking herself like a beef jerky.  It wasn’t that we really believed she had endangered her child; it was about the way she looked.  But if somebody’s got deep-seated issues, as she probably does, why don’t we all decide to drop the subject and let her heal?  Then I thought, why shouldn’t this rule apply to everyone?

What do we have to know about someone before we treat them with kindness?  Does there have to be a reason for the way they look or act – a condition, a brain tumor, a death in the family – before we give them a pass and decide not to pick them apart?

I’m giving this new approach a try, starting with myself.  I’m going to put down the gavel and give the bench of judgment a rest.  You be you.  I’ll be me.  We don’t need to be reasonable facsimiles of each other to be valid.  I’m going to blaze my own trail, think outside the box.

Maybe I’ll even let my hair down.