And I love it. I feel like a super hero. I feel like I am so much cooler than my minivan driving self has a right to be.
|Sweaty pinky-red hair is awesome|
I am somehow more approachable to random strangers. I’ve been shown the new rib cage tattoo of a female med student in the middle of a Starbucks. I’ve had total strangers yell at me across a parking lot that they like my hair. The women at Ulta, and Sally’s, and the MAC counter treated me like one of them. When I asked for a fun new lip color for spring, she brought out PURPLE lipstick. Purple! If your job involves wearing a black smock for a living, we would probably make an instant connection if we met.
I make eye contact and share smiles with a different group of people than before. Not just the moms wrangling children in the Target, but also 20-somethings and maintenance workers and the white girl with dreadlocks at my church. We apparently share the bond of people who feel slightly off inside.
The reactions I’ve gotten from people who actually know me have also been enlightening. “I wish I could do that,” “I wish I could get away with that,” and my favorite (spoken by a beautiful and graceful homeschooling mom) “I wish I had the balls to do that” have been the most common. There have also been people who have not mentioned it AT ALL. People I see at least once or twice a week who have made absolutely no mention of the fact that my head now kind of glows in the light. Can they not see it? Are they practicing the Southern proverb “If you can’t say anything nice…?” I suppose that’s better than the fair amount of “look at your hair!” (not a compliment), “wow, that’s different” (also not a compliment), and “THAT’S a big change” (still not a compliment).
Almost everyone asks me what prompted me to dye it all. And I haven’t given any great answers. I’ve always wanted to (true), I’m probably having a midlife crisis (possible), I just felt like it (weak, but technically true). The real answer is a little bit long and a little bit dramatic and a little bit because I’m getting older.
When I was in my early 20s I had very long, very dark brown hair. And, although I loved the drama of short hair and bright hair I just didn’t have the courage to change it. There’s a special sense of self-consciousness that comes with your 20s that you really regret in your 30s. Anyway, I found myself thinking “if I had nothing to lose I’d cut all my hair off and dye it red.” Over the next couple of years I saw a loved one lose her hair to cancer. A few months after she eventually lost her life I found myself thinking about cutting my hair again and realized that I actually have a lot less to lose than I thought. Some fleeting sense of attractiveness? The ability to blend in better with a crowd? I don’t know what I was afraid of losing, but I was suddenly aware that I might not get as much time or hair as I originally thought I would.
After that first radical change it was easier every time I’ve cut it all off or dyed it blond or red or purply brown. It’s been super short and pretty darn long and everything in between. There have been cuts I did not like. But it’s hair so it grows and people forget if you looked weird for a few weeks.
So why now and why so bright? Well, I am getting older. I will be 40 this summer and I certainly feel that crunch of time and the fear that my best years may be over and the worry that I will be less and less interesting from here on out. But that’s not the main reason.
Over the last year I’ve really struggled with feeling less-than. I don’t have a job, or an amazingly Pinterest-worthy house, or a side business that (according to what I see on Facebook) I’m apparently supposed to have. I have gained weight and not worked out. I’ve made some big life changes, but been really uncertain about why exactly or what benefit they may have.
And I’ve been hiding.
Hiding in my baggy clothes because my others don’t fit. Hiding in gym clothes because, really, why should I actually get ready everyday? Hiding by letting my striking pixie of two-plus years ago when I felt strong and brave grow into a nondescript shaggy mess. Hiding by refusing to write anything about any of this because I just wanted to sit on my couch and watch TV and eat chocolate in the quiet and not deal with my feelings.
So I decided I was done hiding. I don’t want to keep the extra weight I’m carrying or the fear I’m holding onto or the self pity I’ve wrapped around me like a puffy coat. A puffy coat made of my jiggly stomach.
I was explaining this to my friend Erin who, conveniently, used to own her own hair salon. I casually asked if she thought I could pull off pink hair. She enthusiastically said yes. She also spent two years of her life with a buzzed head that she bleached every three weeks so I probably should have seen that coming.
When I told Erin that I thought it might just be a midlife crisis I said, “if I get 40 more years, 80-year-old me will enjoy this memory. And if I don’t…” and just kind of trailed off. Erin finished the sentence for me with “And if you don’t get 40 more years and you don’t dye your hair your epitaph can just say ‘she lived a short life with brown hair.'” Which is hilarious and also clearly made me want to go ahead with it.
So I did. Erin did all the leg work and make cookies and brought out toys to entertain my kids which eliminated the bulk of the expense and inconvenience. And I got to just chat with her for 4 hours so that was also a plus.
And I am definitely no longer hiding. I feel brave again. Terrified, but brave enough to move forward anyway–with writing and actually losing this weight and just generally walking around knowing that I am not imagining it and that people are actually talking about me when I walk by. As my friend Allison said, “at least you know what they’re saying.”
I don’t have any idea how long I’ll keep up my pink hair. It does take maintenance and I have a towel that will never be the same. I also drip pink sweat at the gym, but I’m choosing to call that fabulous instead of horrifyingly gross. I do know that I certainly don’t regret it. Maybe I am kidding myself by thinking that I’m young enough to pull this off, but who cares? It’s fun and ridiculous and makes me smile. Also, my daughter gazes at me adoringly and says things like, “It’s just so PINK!” which is a grand compliment in her world.
You should do this. Maybe not pink hair, but whatever that thing is that you’ve thought “if I had nothing to lose, I’d…” You really don’t have anything to lose that you’re going to get to keep long term anyway. And maybe you’ll get to feel like a superhero, too, and then we can roam around the world saving it all together. With or without pink hair.