my body is a wonderland, my haircolor is a mood ring

Last week, when I was in Salt  Lake, I went out to lunch with E and his coworkers, all of whom are pretty awesome. We have lunch every few weeks, in fact, and it is always lovely to see them, even when everyone starts talking about work and coding and callbacks and the business and my eyes glaze over.  It had been awhile since I had lunch with them, though, because one of the first thing E’s boss said to me was, “So, is that your natural hair color, then?” I could not remember what hair color I might have had, the last time he had seen me. And it’s been a while since I’ve done anything at all, with my hair, and I wasn’t really sure what color it was right that second, anyway, because I hadn’t looked particularly carefully in a long time.

Instead of explaining that, though, I said, “No! It might be close, though! I haven’t seen my natural hair color since I was 14!” And this is true. When I was 14 years old, I finally convinced my mother to let me dye my hair platinum blonde. She wasn’t going for the Mohawk, no, not at all, but the platinum would be okay. And my hair took to it like you wouldn’t believe, and I stayed blonde for the next few years, and sometimes I was blonde and permed on one side, shaved on the other. My high school graduation photos are very hilarious.

Around the time I got out of high school was when I found Manic Panic,
and then I spent the next few years dying my hair pink and green and
purple and blue. I was really bad at it, so I also spent those years
with a pink and green and purple and blue scalp and ears and sometimes,
when I was particularly ham-fisted, a pink or green or purple or blue
neck and shoulders. My aunt would sigh, every time she saw me, and tell
me that I would be bald before I was 30. I did not believe that. I
kept bleaching out and then dying my hair colors that made me happy,
until I graduated college, and had to find a real job. And that’s when
I started on the boxed colors.

I’ve been every permutation of red there is to be from strawberry to
copper to The Little Mermaid. I’ve enjoyed a range of browns from
golden to chestnut to burgundy, as well as every subtle nuance of black
from midnight blue-black to shoe-polish black, and I usually sneak back
into blonde every handful of years. I have always done it myself,
because it is so ridiculously expensive to get your hair done in a
salon. You can tell that I do it myself–10 years of cracking open a
box and massaging the crap onto my skull, and I still haven’t quite
gotten it right. I miss spots. It’s not a good look.

I am lucky my hair is strong, and resilient, stays healthy and shiny no
matter what I do to it, and I am not bald yet, because I’ll keep dyeing from boxes. I can’t
afford to do it any other way, because I do it so often–every time
there is something that makes me restless, uncomfortable, strange and
unhappy in my life, I get the urge to dye my hair. Sometimes twice in
one month. I am very aware that sometimes, what I’m obviously trying to
do is remake myself, to change myself in some superficial way that I’m
hoping with sink down through my scalp and past the plates of my skull
and into my brain and fix me, make me better, some how. Or try to find
the real me, who has got to be a redhead, because she is obviously not
a brunette because things are working out pretty poorly, right now,
with all this brown hair.

When E’s boss asked me if this is my natural hair color–it’s brown and
it’s got red it in–I realized it had been forever since I had colored
my hair, or really had paid attention to it. Early March, I think? And
I was happy, because I thought, look, tangible proof that I really am
pretty damn happy! Or maybe just way super busy. But of course the
question had me going to the mirror and examining my hair and thinking
hey, maybe it’s time to go blonde again! I’m going to find myself in
the hair care aisle this afternoon, I know it.

5 Replies to “my body is a wonderland, my haircolor is a mood ring”

  1. I do the exact same thing, less dramatically now that I’m 27, but there was that time in college when I was accidentally strawberry shortcake pink for a month.

  2. In my opinion, “Is that your natural hair color?” ranks right up there with “How much are you weighing now?” and “When are you due?” (I’m not pregnant, douchebag!) in the category of RUDE QUESTIONS. But you handled it with grace : )

  3. I’m exactly the same. I even started dying my hair at 14 as well, although I chose strawberry blond at the time to match a photo of me when I was about 6.
    I learned right away that hair that light was too much hassle, as I hate dark roots. I’m ocd about roots. Not cool.
    So I was red or auburn for years. Then one year in college I was black cherry and then chestnut. And then I was deep burnt orange red, which was gorgeous but I have a hard time finding that particular color.
    Somehow I found black cherry again, and chose to keep it for a while. I find I like my hair dark when I want to look more intimidating–as I’m part Italian and dark hair brings out my nose & olive skin tone.
    But my hair absolutely changes when I’m anxious or unhappy. Or happy for that matter. I’d definitely say it’s a way of projecting the personality I want to be defined by at a given moment.

  4. I tell the nosy-parkers that “Why yes, it is. This is the haircolor I had from birth until 17 years of age, when I started going gray.” Now, after 20 years, it would be all white with some dirty-looking red streaks in the back. (Not at all attractive.)
    I prefer to think of it not as “artificial” color, but rather as returning my hair to its “natural” color.

  5. I don’t really feel offended if someone asks whether my hair is its natural colour, maybe because not long ago it was always a colour so outlandish as to make the question foolish (“sir, no one’s hair is this colour naturally”).
    I had dyed my hair every colour imaginable since grade 10. It was only last summer that I stopped, and I’m not entirely sure why… I think it was initially due to a really busy patch in my life, and then I was pleasantly surprised that I LIKED my hair’s natural colour.
    I may keep it this way for a while (I’m finding it far healthier and shinier)… or I may see red in my future…

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