The Emotional Trauma of Getting a Pixie Cut

This is what it’s like to get a pixie cut.

Spend a whole year thinking about it.

Search “pixie cut for round faces” half a dozen times, decide your face is more long than round, search “pixie cut for long faces” twenty times, and then just look at generic pixie cuts because you can’t figure out your face shape.

Find the perfect pixie cut.

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Procrastinate on setting the appointment.

Panic and set the appointment as soon as possible.

Spend a restless day and a sleepless night psyching up for this moment.

Ask your husband a million times if he’ll still love you with short hair.

Feel like you’re going to puke, pass out, or burst into tears in the hours leading up to your appointment.

Think about texting your husband that you feel more nervous now than you did on your wedding day.

Delete that text because you don’t know what that says about you.

Drive past the salon a couple times.

Look completely clueless and lost at the salon, especially because everyone’s dressed up as reindeer.

See lots of pretty young hairstylists with gorgeous long hair.

Make awkward small talk with your stylist who (thank God!) is dressed as a normal, sensible human being. With gorgeous long hair.

Feel liberated when she chops off two feet of hair. Yes. This, like marrying your husband, was something you wanted and needed to do.

Wonder how this hair style looks remotely like the picture you showed, but she knows what she’s doing, right, and maybe there’s special pixie cut magic five minutes before you leave that makes it look just right.

It doesn’t look right.

Don’t say anything because the stylist loves it, and her supervisor loves it, and the random stylist who sees you sitting there forlornly loves it, and you’re a people pleaser, and you haven’t had time to overcome your besetting weaknesses, and you’ve been sitting there for two hours, and it’s five o’clock, and you can’t believe you spent half of your year freaking out over getting a pixie cut only to not get a pixie cut.

Feel upset.

Stylist gives you chocolate.

Still feel upset because you’re a complicated woman and chocolate doesn’t solve your problems.

Get home.

Sister tells you that you look cute.

Stare at yourself in every mirror in the house.

Decide she’s right.

Take bathroom selfies.

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Oh, and here’s the back:

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I mean, for not being a pixie cut, it’s still pretty fly.

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Newlywed Christmas

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Erich and I are forgoing the family celebrations to spend our first Christmas morning together at our own apartment. I learned a long time ago that holidays aren’t half as fun without children under the age of twelve, so I wonder why we’re doing this to ourselves.

I want to resurrect an abandoned Bergmann tradition — looking at Christmas light displays. We used to load up our twelve-passenger van, drive to the local Sonic, order some chocolate shakes, and joy ride around the rich neighborhoods (all in our jammies, of course). Christmas music, the dark, warm van, the random caroling — those were good times.

P.S. I am beyond excited to play Santa this year. I’ve already got plastic bags filled with stocking stuffers, so I’m working out when to do the deed. Erich’s up late, so I’ll probably sneak out in the morning, fill ‘er up, and then go jump on him until he gets out of bed. He better leave me cookies. But not milk. I think our milk is a couple weeks old. (I’ll go check on that.)

Help a newlywed couple out: What are some fun holiday traditions for two?

Faith: Real or Not Real?

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Remember that idealistic thought in November about me participating in National Novel Writing Month? Well, I didn’t really. I got about a week into it, got ridiculously busy, life fell apart, baby niece and Thanksgiving happened, and then it was December. Seriously, NaNoWriMo — pick a month that doesn’t have a major holiday in it. Like June.

Despite typing only 10,000 words in the month of November itself, I haven’t stopped work on this novel. It’s helped me explain and work through my questions about faith and life.

Plot summaries always sound stupid, so to protect my pride, I’m going to give you a vague one: A girl is told she has a special, amazing gift and goes off to receive training for it –- but she finds that nobody there, including herself, possesses a “special, amazing gift” at all. Their gifts seems like ordinary human faculties that anybody could possess –- not something objectively impressive or miraculous. She must begin the hard, dangerous work of sorting fact from fiction. What’s fake? What’s real? And what’s potentially real?

A real life girl once wrote to Addie Zierman,

Sort of like Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games, I found myself thinking back to ultra-spiritual personal moments and wondering, “Real or not real?”

I wonder that every day: real, or not real? I think that I’ve encountered lots of “not real” in the Christian community and in my own faith — both flat out lies about science, others, God, and myself, and more subtle deceptions that I participated in.

As a young Christian blogger, I would share my thoughts and breakthrough moments about my relationship with God. I’d write a post about my conviction to read through the Bible, or my realization that it’s more counterproductive to bash yourself over the head for not praying at 5 AM that morning rather than just kneeling down right then and there to pray. Even then, I remember a little voice suggesting that, perhaps, it was a little dishonest to write about those things with any sort of authority, since, you know, I never actually developed a habit of reading Scripture and praying.

And I never did develop that habit. My breakthroughs and thoughts never helped me. But I’m sure it did accomplish one thing — convince other people that I had some semblance of a habit, perhaps guilt people into wondering why they weren’t as passionate about Jesus as Bailey Bergmann, maybe inspire them to have their own one week of fire for Jesus before disillusionment took over.

I would write and tell and teach about a relationship with God without really having that relationship.

I do the same thing with exercise. If I write a post about my new exercise regime, don’t be impressed. It’ll last a day or two (okay, really only one day), and then I’ll be back on the couch. Until I write a retrospective post on my months of training for a marathon, don’t attribute any sort of athletic self-control to me.

In the same vein, there’s a fad of genuineness going around the Christian world, where people are honest about their spiritual failures and shortcomings, and honest about their resolutions to change. But it’s all present tense — I am getting up at 7 AM to have morning devotions, for instance — and that could honestly be talking about one or two days, for all the reader knows. Not really impressive, not really helpful, but certainly discouraging to those of us who think they’re able to sustain a daily devotional habit.

We have a spiritual idealism. We talk about our ideals, what we should be doing, what Christ calls us to, etc., etc., but nobody — and this was my frustration with Christianity from the get-go — nobody knew what they were doing. Nobody knows what they’re doing, and everybody thinks everybody else does, so everybody feels guilty and inadequate for not doing what everybody else is doing, even though nobody is doing it.

And because idealism isn’t sustainable, the idealists get discouraged and burnt out and trash the whole project.

I get so disillusioned whenever I read a new work by a new author talking about his newfound discovery of some theological tenet or spiritual practice that’s got him all excited, because just like I don’t sustain my excitement about exercise or daily devotions, I question his ability to change just because of this one new thing.

That’s why I like reading mystics and saints and Ann Voskamp and Sarah Bessey. They write from a past tense of actual experience, not idealism. And even though I’m never going to be like them, it’s nice to think that a real relationship with God seems legitimately possible for some people.

With all of these thoughts rattling around in my head, I’m toying with the idea of starting an interview series with ordinary people about their ordinary faith. Their actual devotional life. Their actual doubts. Their actual beliefs. Their actual habits. Their actual gifts. The real, not the not real, not the idealism, not the right answers. The real.

I’m sure another major holiday and babies and life crises will  prevent me from getting on with this idea, but, as an idealist, I’m asking, would you be interested in this series? Who would you want to hear from?

The Gifts I Didn’t Buy

I like shopping as close to Christmas as possible. To me, shopping is a part of traditional Christmas festivities and must be done during the Christmas season. It’s the only time that makes shopping bearable. So if you’re like me, and still shopping for the elusive perfect gift, here’s the world’s shortest mall gift guide.

For her

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Sierra Tech Charger Clutch, $38, Francesca’s

A cute clutch that charges your phone on the go? Yes, please. Or am I the only one whose phone always dies when I’m out and about?

For him

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Plaited Wool-Blend Touchscreen Compatible Gloves, $14.95, Express

If you expect your man to text you back ASAP when it’s a bajillion degrees below outside, buy him these. (And buy me some too.)

For family

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Flannel Drawstring Sleep Pants, $6, Old Navy

Here’s how this works: get your sister the cutest pajama bottoms, throw in a thermal top, and then duplicate the look for yourself. Family jammies! (Matching pajamas would be a fun mommy/newborn or newlywed gift!)

For anyone

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Pentatonix, “That’s Christmas to Me,” $10.29, Walmart

Best. Christmas. Gift. Ever. My brother bought this for me last Christmas. I listened to it until the snow melted, and I started listening to it again well before Thanksgiving. It’s my go-to car jam. (You could also buy their new album, but this one’s better.)

And don’t forget to give the gift of yourself! Take your grandma out to eat, get your nails done with your best friend, go see the new Star Wars movie with your little brother, or learn how to snowboard with your hubby. (Been there, done that, got the medical bill to prove it.)

What’s your favorite gift you’ve given or received? I need to start gathering ideas for next year!

Bad Spirituality = Bad Storytelling

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Nothing’s better than pulling up a cheesy Christian movie on Netflix and laughing the night away with your sister. So my sister and I started Christian Mingle: The Movie with the highest hopes that it would be as entertaining as the movies from Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas.

Worst. Idea. Ever.

To catch you up on the plot, the desperate Gwyneth Hayden fakes her Christianity to sign up for ChristianMingle.com (because there are no other online dating websites in the world, obviously) and continue her budding relationship with the plaid-button-up good Christian guy she meets through the site. Of course, his mother and wannabe girlfriend sniff out Gwyneth’s fake relationship with Jesus, which leads to heartbreak, which leads to Gwyneth meeting Him instead — which the opening monologue already told you, so why did you waste a couple hours watching this movie?

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what bothers me most about this movie. The pink, outlined, Times New Roman font? The mother’s Botox overkill? The Christian cliches you didn’t realize sounded so corny until you watched them on the silver screen? The fact that the mother and wannabe girlfriend discovered Gwyneth’s fakery after Gwyneth could not answer the world’s toughest question on the problem of evil with a Bible verse? The other disturbing fact that Gwyneth wears high heels as a missionary teacher in Mexico?

Kidding aside, I puzzled and puzzled over why this movie, like so many other well-intentioned, decently-made evangelical Christian movies, bothered me. I finally found the words over a chipotle chicken avocado melt at Sunday brunch:

What if it’s not a coincidence that evangelical movies are cringingly awful? We blame the evangelical moviemakers for their lack of vision and storytelling, but what if part of the problem is evangelicalism itself?

Because it’s not accurate to say that Christians are bad at storytelling. Christians are some of the best storytellers in the Western literary canon. J. R. R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Flannery O’Connor, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Dante Alighieri — almost every single classic author since Christ’s death and resurrection has been Christian or at least steeped in Christianity.

But none of them are evangelical.

They are mostly Catholic, or Orthodox, in Dostoevsky’s case, or Anglican, in Lewis’s — but rarely Protestant, and never, to my knowledge, evangelical. Of course, those three traditions have held longer sway in history and literature than a movement less than a century old, but still.

I don’t mean this to be a hate-fest against evangelicals, as if they’re bad at everything. They’re not. Evangelicals are good at things like nonfiction, marketing, multimedia, preaching, and motivational speaking. But I don’t think they’re good at storytelling.

It’s just not in the evangelical DNA, really.

I mean, evangelicals revere some of the best literature in the world — the Bible — but nobody sits down and just reads it, or examines the poetic structures of Genesis 1 and 2 (unless they’re liberal heretics), or notices the remarkable storytelling of 1 and 2 Samuel. They get in groups and dissect whole passages into tiny chunks that makes getting through an entire book a three-year long process. They study it to death.

And when it comes to great art and literature, many of us grew up without it, because that picture had a nude woman in it, or that movie had a couple F-words, or that book depicted someone’s tragic loss or atheism or sin, and Christians are to avoid any appearance of evil. That’s why we watched PG-rated movies, exclusively. Our “literary analysis” often looked far too much like moralism.

But I don’t blame fundamentalism for chasing the evangelical movement away from good art. I think there’s something inherent in evangelical spirituality — stripped as it is from the larger Christian history, from a sacramental emphasis, from the sensory elements of bells, incense, and spires — that makes evangelicals so bad at storytelling.

Maybe our stories sound cliched because evangelical spirituality only allows for a one-size-fits-all relationship with Jesus?

Maybe our stories are moralistic because our spirituality is moralistic?

Maybe our stories tie up in neat little bows because we’re always trying to tie up our suffering and doubt in neat little bows?

Maybe our characters are one-dimensional because there’s something suppressed in our spirituality?

Maybe our bad guy-versus-good guy is so black and white because our worldview is so black and white?

Maybe our portrayal of atheists, agnostics, Muslims, and nones is so off-base because our religion doesn’t allow us to listen to other people’s narratives?

Maybe our stories are preachy because that’s what’s most important to our faith — getting people to agree with us?

Maybe our stories, music, and art are ugly and trite because we think that truth can be divorced from beauty?

I’m not 100% sure whether this is the fatal flaw of evangelical storytelling — but I strongly suspect it is.

App for Unplugging

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Over the past several years, I developed what seems to be an honest-to-goodness, real, awful addiction to social media.

Did you know social media addiction is (probably) a real thing? Social media sites are set up to “induce changes in some brain reward pathways that are similar to that seen in drug addiction” (or so says an article asking, “Are Frequent Internet Users Addicted? Their Symptoms Could Resemble Those of Drug Addiction”).

I wrote about this before. I deleted all social media apps off my phone. It worked, for a while. But what with Google saving the URLs for me, it became just as easy to get lost down the rabbit hole with a simple click on my phone’s web browser.

I finally downloaded an app called Offtime. You choose what apps you want to remain open during your offtime, and which apps you want to block yourself from. Then you click a fun little start button, and the app kicks you off every time you try to open a blocked app. “Now, now, now!” it might say. “That’s not really necessary, is it?”

It’s like having your no-nonsense mother helping you learn self-control all over again…except that it never sleeps, so you can’t sneak it under your bed covers after hours.

Do you use any apps or programs to regulate your internet usage? I’m still on the lookout for a good computer program!

Real Christmas Trees

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On a Sunday just like this, with the first snowfall of the year turning everything into a winter wonderland, Erich and I got our first Christmas tree together — and my very first real Christmas tree.

As exciting as it is to watch my dad pull out fake branches from a battered cardboard box and fit each branch to the right color-coded spot…I’m in love with the real Christmas tree experience.

We went to a family tree farm up in Grafton, WI. It was a small, homey farm. College boys dressed in Santa hats and puffy coats stood around a bonfire, waiting to net and load up trees. Santa sat inside an old, wood stable, just in front of a free hot cocoa bar. The ladies at the register wore elf hats, gave us shots of Jameson whiskey, and made us kiss under their mistletoe (twice, because the first kiss, they said, wasn’t good enough).

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As for the tree itself, we picked out a Balsam fir, a six footer without too many awkward gaps. Erich threw down the tarp, handed me the saw, and told me got to cut down our first Christmas tree ever. It was easier than I expected, even with kneeling at an odd angle and sawing with no visibility of the tree trunk.

All the way back to the bonfire of Santa-hatted college guys, I couldn’t stop pestering Erich: “We got a real tree! A real tree!”

It’s been my Christmas dream to cut down a real Christmas tree with the weather as wintry perfect as this, and this experience didn’t disappoint!

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(Of course, I forgot to bring my phone, and Erich’s phone died, so we didn’t get any photos of the hot cocoa or Santa or mistletoe or me twirling around in the snow. We’re bad at documenting special moments.)

So what’s the verdict for your family? Real or fake?

Are You a Pessimist or an Optimist?

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I’m trying to write a post about why happy people annoy me (isn’t it awful?), and I’ve been describing myself as a pessimist.

I’ve been rethinking that. True, I default to depression and a glass-is-half-full mindset. I’m the girl who said, as an objective fact during a class discussion, that this world was a messed up, horrible place. My professor’s jaw dropped. “For someone who’s just about to get married,” he said, “that’s a surprising thing to say.”

I suppose I did say it with a bitterness too intense for a twenty-one-year-old to feel.

But at the same time, I think, deep down, that I am a hopeful person. Eventually, I pick myself up again and keep fighting, even if I don’t think it’ll make a difference. I get really passionate about truth and goodness and beauty, and really upset when they seem to be losing traction in this, quote, “messed up, horrible place.”

It occurred to me that maybe my melancholy doesn’t come from pessimism, but from idealism. I hope for the best, work for perfection, demand the ideal, and end up crushed when I, life, or my fellow human beings fail to deliver. Just because something has always been and always will be has never stopped me from raging against it to my reflection in the bathroom mirror.

That idealism, combined with a joy-sucking empathy of others’ pain, makes for one gloomy Bailey — but that’s not technically pessimism.

What about you? Would you describe yourself as a pessimist, an optimist, or something off the spectrum?

Have You Seen 13th?

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Feeling a bit under the weather this week, I finally watched 13th, an original Netflix documentary on the history of race relations and the criminal justice system in America.

To put it simply: my mind is blown, and my heart is broken.

I’ve always sympathized with the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent outcries against police violence. I tend to believe that people with personal experience get more say on the issue than outsiders weighing in. How am I supposed to know what black communities actually face? I lived in middle class white suburbia my whole life. The only black people I knew were adopted by a white homeschooling family in Texas, way back when I was ten.

Even though I give a lot of sympathy to the movement’s concerns, I didn’t realize until watching this documentary how very little I understood those concerns. I had no idea mass incarceration was out of hand (or a thing, to be honest). I had no idea it was explicitly but covertly tied to keeping blacks down. I hadn’t given a good, hard think to how our country handles the war on drugs, or criminalizes people requesting a trial. I didn’t even grasp the extent of my own ignorance, how I, that compassionate, liberal-minded white person, still unwittingly bought intro black stereotypes. .

The credits of the documentary are photos of real black families, doing the same things photographed in my family — a big sibling holding a little sibling, kids laughing in the backyard on a summer day, a toddler running on the beach in her baggy swimsuit, and lots of photos of daddies with their kids.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen any photos of young black daddies with their children. I just see them dead on the news, the catalysts of a movement that, frankly, I as a white person will never fully understand.

I think everyone, liberal, conservative, and moderate, needs to watch this documentary before they open their mouth or their Facebook page on this issue again. If you’re worried about your particular political beliefs getting smashed, well, take heart that both Democrats and Republicans share an equal amount of guilt in this issue. This is a moral, social issue, not partisan politics.

Have you seen it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Our First Niece!

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On Thanksgiving Day, I sat around with my other siblings anxiously waiting for our niece to be born — the first grandchild in the Bergmann family! We got to visit her the next day. It’s been years since I snuggled a baby, so that was a happy moment for me.

Both before and after this cutie’s birth, we’ve been tossing around names for aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Aunt? Aunt with a British accent? Auntie? And should it be Grandmere or Grandmommy or Nana?

My family has been fairly traditional with names — aunt, uncle, grandpa, grandma. One summer, we toyed around with calling our paternal grandpa “Gramps,” which later morphed into “Teddy Gramps,” but that never stuck. My mom’s side of the family is a bit more unique. We have a Grammy, Granddad, and Grandmama. We call our uncle “Inky” (no idea where that came from). His grandchildren call him and his wife “Cool Bobby” and “Auntie LaLa,” respectively.

Obviously, we’ve got quite a ways to go before the baby starts calling any of us anything, but I’d love to hear what you call your extended family — or what fun names your nieces and nephews have come up with!