Hair and comfort. Not so much. I used to have kind of longish hair. There are a few cute pictures from my childhood where my hair goes at least to my shoulders, maybe a bit longer with those straight, severe bangs, but they actually sort of worked with my face and the rest of it.
I even have a school picture of me in a pink jumper with a shag haircut. Very Jane Fonda now that I look back on it.
Sometime in the fifth grade it happened. The knots could not be tamed. I hated brushing my hair especially when a really large knot would form. I tried to hide it under the rest of the hair, but it was eventually discovered.
And that was it.
I remember my fifth grade or maybe sixth grade class picture. A brown outfit, a wide collar; some kind of striped atrocity beneath it, and short hair. Very short hair. Not a cute pixie, but a “boy’s”. Not a bowl cut, but not much better. Page boy? Who knows? It was…ugh
I let it grow in middle school so I could wear a ponytail, but that got tiresome. I couldn’t wear one all the time, and I couldn’t not wear one. What a mess.
I wanted Indian braids for awhile, that was very popular in the 70s, so I let it grow some more. Thinking it would work because my hair is straight and dark, I discovered that I didn’t know my hair at all. I was wrong because while my hair is straight, when it gets to a certain length, it begins to stick out on the sides, and there’s no fixing it. I have a picture of me when I was two or three, and my hair is exactly the same sticky-out way over the ears.
It was cute when I was three.
I cut it.
Sometimes I cut it myself. Put it in the ponytail and snip. It was not great, but amusingly still better, although not by much.
There was high school and feathered back, and don’t forget, I graduated in 1984, so … perms. Big perms and in actuality mine wasn’t really all that big.
I don’t know when I cut it all off. At some point, I decided I needed it gone.
My hair has had silver in it since high school. I never minded it. It gave me character. It used to be copper until it changed to silver. I planned on never dyeing it. It really never bothered me.
One Halloween, my friend had his annual holiday party. That year’s theme was Super Heroes and Villains. My boyfriend at the time, now my husband went as Green Lantern. I went as Poison Ivy so we kinda matched. It took me forever to decide to dye my hair red to be that character, although I would not let it grow out. I finally relented and dyed it red. I hesitated until the very last minute, but I did it, and when I looked in the mirror at my full face, yellowy-hued skin, not olive of the Mediterranean, but an undefinable not brown, not tan, not pink either, just kind of sallow and tallow and yellowish, and the red just there, framing my face, whatever big, plastic late 80s glasses I had at the time reflecting the red subtly, and I knew:
I’m a redhead.
Genetics had made a mistake, and no one told me. Why couldn’t we be one of those Jewish families with the one odd, youngest red haired child? They’re everywhere, but not us. We all had brown eyes like our Dad, dark, dark hair, like our Dad, and silver in high school, like our Dad. My middle son has a couple of strands of silver in his thirteen-year old head, but I think that’s from worry and stress that goes along with his personality. I think my mother’s hair was brown, but we never saw it. She either dyed it or wore a wig. Those were very popular. She had heads with wigs in her closet; at least three. I liked to play with them. I remember her being red for awhile, especially in one of my favorite pictures of her, so I guess our reds are hereditary.
But my short hair, my red hair, it’s me even if I had to create it myself. I wake up and I go. I almost never brush it, and I almost never look in the mirror. Some days that is not such a good thing, but it feels good. It is the one thing of me that is my comfort.
I wasn’t planning on going until closer to Thanksgiving, but this prompt gave me the opportunity to get my hair colored and cut last month, so I could end the writing workshop in comfort and with a much more tamable bedhead.
I once got it cut in Scotland. Pitlochry.
The idea of having a stranger cut my hair was almost anathema to me. And her hair…she was seriously 80s punk, and when she asked what i wanted, I said just do what you want. She did, and I loved it. I kept joking that in six months I’d have to return to Scotland to get my hair cut again.
It was the first time I’d done it on my own, and it created the mantra I live by today:
It will grow back.
My son wanted to know why my hair was all of a sudden silver. Well, Mommy can’t afford her ‘real’ color.
And yes, my hair is not grey; it is definitely silver. And that’s not vain. And it’s been turning silver since I was about 17 just like my Dad.
The thing is, I like the silver. I really do.
When I was dating my husband, we went to a Halloween party and I dressed as Poison Ivy, so I decided to dye my hair red for the party.
I looked at my (short) red hair against my brown eyes and sallow, yellowy skin and I realized that I was supposed to be born a redhead, and I have been ever since (a couple of decades now).
It makes me sad when I pass by a mirror and see the silver shine and sparkle because that’s just not me.
It’s not vanity or age; it’s just not me.
It’s very much the same feeling I get from Wales. Having not been born there or having any kind of Welsh heritage, I still feel ‘from there’. It feels as though I’m being given the feelings and images of who I’m supposed to be and I just need the courage to take those steps.
I’ve been to Wales and it is embedded on my soul.
As for my hair, sure I’ve never let it revert back fully to silver until now. People tease me thinking I dye it to ‘cover the grey’ but that is so far from the reason that it truly pains me when it’s pointed out.
I am sad that I can’t afford something so small that feels so good; that lets me be me.
My hairdresser helped me pick a cheaper over the counter dye until I can go back to her, so I will hope for the best and dye it back tomorrow.
Because while I do love the silver, I’d rather be me. Redheaded me is a different person, and actually perhaps reverting fully back to silver and starting my color over again is a good metaphor for my life and what the rest of this year is going to look like.