Without a doubt, a girl’s first complicated relationship is with her hair and – like all relationships – there is no end of well-meaning advice coming our way. If we have pixie-like hair, we may overhear an adult sneer, “You look like a boy with that short hair.” If our hair is windswept and long, we may be told to “You’d be so much prettier if you got all that hair out of your eyes.” As we grow older, we learn that the salon chair may involve discomfort, but “You have to suffer for beauty.” Should we wear it curled? Straightened? Natural? Braided? Updo? We have “Bad Hair Days” and humidity can cause us to despair. (And our Black sisters have even more freight to carry on this complex issue.)
Every generation has its own hair taboos. Until I was out of college, I didn’t fool around with the color of my hair. (I went to college in the late 80s – I was doing enough else to my hair! I see you, spiral perm and mousse.) At first, I used henna to get a reddish tone – I’ve always loved red hair. I occasionally used box color (sorry, every professional hairdresser everywhere. I really am sorry about that) and had fun exploring the reds, caramels, and – on one infamous occasion – jet black. (With my light blue eyes, it was certainly memorable, I can say that for that particular look.)
But gradually, I got more rainbow-y. And – merciful goodness – did people have things to say about that decision! Now, on one level, I get it. If you see someone with a bright cobalt streak in their hair, they are probably aware that it’s there and they probably expect it to be noticed. Moreover, if I were still a practicing lawyer, I probably wouldn’t go with some of the bold choices I’ve made over the years. (Whether or not people should judge you is one question, but you can rest assured in the sweet arms of Jesus that they will judge you.)
To thine own self be true.
The fact is, I like having blue hair. Or purple. Or silver. Or burgundy. Or pink. Or unicorn. Or “oil slick.” (Oddly enough, I’ve always stayed away from yellow and green. I honestly don’t think my skin tone could carry those off.) For years, I taught at a community college that had a cosmetology program and my willingness to try new things meant that I gained a reputation as a valued client. Not everyone saw it that way, and I
think know it bothered some people that their criticism didn’t bother me. It just seemed so arbitrary – if I had bleached my hair platinum, no problem, although that’s easily as artificial a color as fuchsia. I was always quite fastidious about wearing my hair in a professional style, opting for cleanly-trimmed lines when it was short and a variety of updos when it was long. (Seriously, a unicorn-colored French twist is quite a showstopper.) Professionalism, in my opinion, has nothing to do with hair color.
You just can’t let other people’s opinion of you matter. Dogs will bark. It’s their nature. And living by your own lights means that you will not be everyone’s cup of whiskey. You can make others feel comfortable, or you can be true to your own self. Sadly, it’s often a harder decision than it should be.
All that said, I now work at an institution where my brightly-colored hair is occasionally the subject of conversation, but in a far different – and far more positive – way.
I’d argue it all worked out for everyone.
Seek joy, Divas!