I was twelve years old when I dyed my hair for the first time. Not having a license to drive to a legit place like Sally’s with real hair color, I had to settle for Walmart’s fifty shades of brown. I picked burgundy, which is like the entry drug for unnatural hair colors. It's also what the stylist at the salon usually recommends when you bring in a picture of Jeffrey Star and say you want hair like his. They don’t want to be responsible for ruining your hair, they say. Your hair is too dark-it wouldn’t look bright enough, they say. The truth is your mom probably slipped them a twenty to not make you look like a rock star.
Imagine my surprise when my parents said, of all things, yes. Yes, sweetheart, you can dye your hair any color you wish. My mom’s only concern was that I didn’t get any dye on the shower curtain. Bless her heart, every bathroom I’ve ever gone near has been dyed to match me. After I did the burgundy, Target started carrying bright colors. Real colors too, not just brown with a touch of red or purple if you stand just in the right sunlight and vow to never wash your hair. I was in heaven.
My first bright hair color was pink. I must’ve fallen in love, because it has been my anchor color for the last twelve years. I cheat on it every once in a while, but pink has a pretty special place in my heart.
What began as a way to embrace self expression in the most genuine way I could, turned into a serious identity....thing...for me. Those of you who've colored your hair crazy bright, or have sleeves or gauges the size of soda cans can totally understand this. Stuff like that ends up affecting your whole lifestyle, and your find yourself adjusting everything around it. All the limitations, maintenance, sacrifice, it becomes costly after the fun wears off, but the committed ones stick with it. You get hooked.
In tenth grade, I began experimenting with other colors, and by 11th grade I was switching it every two weeks. I had it down to a science, and keeping the mirror guessing as to what color was coming next was my idea of a good time. It was that irresponsible, A.D.D. thing in me- every time I had a mental break down I instinctively dyed my hair. If I felt ugly and undeserving with green hair, the most drastic solution I knew was to bleach it out, chop it, and throw purple on it. That’s also why it never got past shoulder length; if I so much as watched the wrong movie I would start chopping at it. Some people get feelings of control and satisfaction using self mutilation. Hair mutilation is a lovely alternative you know.
I kept going with the constant hair dye obsession until the year I got out of high school, which was also the year I started college. Ugh. I accidentally enrolled in a conservative college where no hair dye was allowed. I painfully and reluctantly gave in, and was back to experimenting with browns and blacks and the ever controversial burgundy. The time off from the constant bright hair was pretty eye opening for me, and I felt incredibly...empty....without a part of me I'd grown to depend on. Needless to say, I didn’t go back for a 2nd year.
Since then, I've found it really interesting to note the change in reaction as unnatural colors have become more accessible. What once garnished odd looks from the cashier and anyone over the age of 30, turned into “Oh my daughter’s a hairdresser and she would just love your hair. She has a purple streak.” While I’ve many times wanted to be like “Um, cool. Good for her,” I've had to acknowledge the responsibility that comes along with having a look that can often be misinterpreted for “Look at me! I need attention! Now!”. So I make it a point smile and act genuinely interested in the dear cashier’s daughter.
I started dying my hair pink because at one time it was uncommon, but I think I'm actually kind of grateful for the increase in the trend. I don’t view the other pink haired chick at the coffee shop as some sort of threat, copy cat, or competition. Rather, I am excited about the future of hair and self expression, and thankful that the more popular it becomes, the less I’ll likely give off the unintended LOOKATME vibe, and the less old ladies there’ll be asking to touch it “just to see if it’s real”.....and the more customers I’ll have when I launch my own hair dye line. Just kidding. Kind of.