All weekend the blogosphere and Twitterverse were abuzz about an issue that could affect the future of every man, woman and child in this country.
You know what I’m talking about: Mitt Romney’s hair.
On Friday, the most influential newspaper in the land devoted some of its prime real estate to an in-depth examination of the Republican White House candidate’s hair — or “the Mitt” as some people call it. (If you missed it, you call read all about it here).
I don’t know what you make of the front page story but here’s my takeaway:
- Romney’s hair is by far his most distinctive physical feature
- It represents everything that people like or don’t like about him, e.g. it’s commanding, reassuring, too stiff, too slick, too perfect
- The man who cuts his hair is a “barrel-chested, bald Italian immigrant” named Leon de Magistris
And there’s more: For years, de Magistris has begged Romney to loosen up his look by getting him to mess up his locks a bit. “I said to him, ‘Let it be more natural.’ ” But Romney has consistently brushed off (sorry, couldn’t resist) de Magistris’s suggestion. “He wants a look that is very controlled,” Romney’s barber of 20 years told the Times. “He is a very controlled man. The hair goes with the man.”
There are other interesting facts, too. For instance, that Romney’s hairstyle is gel and mousse-free and that it holds its shape under all but the most extreme conditions. But as my teenage son would say, “tmi.”
So what does this have to do with hopeful adoptive parents?
Two things, for starters:
- People judge you on your looks
- Your looks project values and beliefs about you
How to stand out
The first point may seem trite, but it’s true. And it applies to us of us, not just presidential candidates. People make snap judgements about us based on our appearance all the time. Bottom line, don’t underestimate its importance in your parent profile.
As for the second point, for better or worse, your appearance (and I’m not talking about the size of your nose or whether your ears stick out or not) sends signals to prospective birth parents about your values and what you represent.
Having a distinct look can help you stand out, which is good. After all, in order to connect with expectant parents, you need to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack.
But it can also be a liability. It really depends on what you do with what you’ve got. And whether your look is consistent with the rest of the message you want to convey to expectant parents who may be considering you as parents for their baby.
In Romney’s case, the way he wears his hair is meant to suggest a sense of authority and control. Some people like it, others don’t. So be it. He’s not changing it — and that’s part of his message: I’m a leader. I’m confident. I know what I’m doing.
Connecting with a woman with an unplanned pregnancy
That may work for Romney, but it likely won’t work for you. You’re not running for public office. You’re not trying to connect with millions of people. You’re trying to make a connection with one person — a woman with an unplanned pregnancy who may be scared, confused, overwhelmed or all of the above.
What she is looking for is a reassuring presence. Someone warm and understanding, who won’t judge her or jump to conclusions. In other words, someone approachable. Real, not perfect.
So don’t be afraid to, in the words of Romney’s barber, mess it up a bit. Your hair doesn’t have to be perfectly coiffed. Your clothes don’t have to look like they just came out of a catalogue. Your photos don’t have to be professionally lit and staged. Think simple. Think informal. Think real.
Remember, your goal is to come across as down-to-earth. The kind of person who’s easy to talk to, that you’d like to sit down and share a coffee with. In other words, the kind of person that a prospective birth mother or father or family would be naturally drawn to if they were to come across your pic in a stack of parent profiles.
Choosing photos for your profile
So, when you’re putting together photos for your profile, go easy on yourself. As long as you look clean and presentable, you have nothing to fear. Dressed up shots have the potential to make you look stiff and stuck up. Older, too. So if you’re concerned about your age and how prospective birth parents view you, save the blow dryer for Saturday night. And keep the suits and formal wear where they belong: in your closet.
Getting back to Romney for sec: On the plus side, the fact that a successful multi-millionaire like him has stayed with the same salt-of-the-earth barber all these years and that they’ve bonded over simple things like family is a very good sign. It shows that he’s just a regular guy. After all, if his barber can relate to him, so can you, the average voter. And that’s another reassuring message to keep in mind when you send out your parent profile to expectant parents: Connections can happen at any time, for any reason.
What role do you think looks plays in a parent profile? Do you think prospective birth parents choose waiting parents because of their appearance? What are some of the ways you’ve dealt with your looks in your adoption networking material? And while we’re at it, what do you think of Mitt Romney’s hair?
(Photo credit: Hello Chicago)