Tuesday, February 17, 2015

With Purple Hair

On December 2, 2014 my family and friends received a bit of a shock.  Without telling anyone - not my husband, best friend, or children - I dyed somewhere between six and eight inches of my hair purple (actually, my amazing hairdresser did).  Bright purple.  Troll doll purple.
Troll doll with purple hair
Me with purple hair
Reactions varied.  My husband and my best friend both loved it.  My kids had mixed reactions; mostly I think they just needed time to adjust.  My son worried that it increased the chances that I would hurt myself (I had received a diagnosis of Bipolar 2 shortly before this, although I'd had symptoms for years, and have a history of self-harm).  We got through that.  They adjusted.  Everyone adjusted.  And even though people were surprised, there seemed to be a general, "Oh, that's just something Robin would do" attitude.

They asked why.  I said it was just time.

The reasons are many.  First let me say, I'm color-blind.  I've done various things in shades of red in my hair many times in the past.  It has to be very bright in order for me to see the red in my brown hair.  When it fades, which it does very quickly, I can't see it anymore.  Other people can and they still comment on how great it looks, but I can't.  And that bothers me.  I dye my hair for my own entertainment.  For my own pleasure.  Because I like the way it looks to me.  That effect is nullified when I can't see it.  And that's a lot of money to like what I see for only a few days.

Also, a part of me has always wanted to do something bold and shocking with my hair.  I'm generally only rebellious in subtle ways.  I'm not really a whole-head-purple or shaved-head person.  I'm more of a comes-out-with-a-couple-washes purple-streak-for-Halloween person.  But for some reason, it was just time.

And purple has never been a favorite color of mine.  But since my daughter was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation a couple of years ago and purple is the color of Chiari awareness, it's grown on me.  Purple has a special place in my heart now.

My hair has gone through many phases as it's faded.  My hairdresser told me it would, but I wasn't quite prepared for it.  When it lost the very intense brightness I was sad.  But then I saw all the variation emerging and it became fun on a different level.  It became My Little Pony purple.
My Little Pony with variegated purple hair
Me with variegated purple hair
Truthfully, once it got to this stage I still only saw it as purple.  My husband would point out where it was purple, where it was blue, and where it was pink - but it just looked purple to me.

And, see, that's part of the point.  While I couldn't see all those colors, I could see the purple.  Every step of the way I could see the different color from what it used to be.  That made me happy.

Then it faded more and my friend told me it looked like Meryl Streep's hair in Into the Woods.
Meryl Streep
Seriously, how can you go wrong when you're being compared to Meryl Streep?  Even if it's when she's playing a witch.  (By the way, that's one of my favorite semi-recent photos of myself.  My hair looks good.  You can't see the bags under my eyes or my double chin.  It'll be my profile picture for a good, long time.)

That was about a month ago now.  It's faded a lot more.  There is definite white showing through.  Since we had to bleach my hair in order to dye it, just letting my hair go back to its natural color isn't going to happen.  Without the color my head would look like the hoof of a Clydesdale.
Clydesdale hooves
My bleached hair before the purple
It's time for something new.  Tomorrow I'll be getting it colored again.

So I thought today would be a good time to reflect on what I've learned in the last two and a half months.

As much as I pondered this, (and it was planned for more than two weeks before I did it) I didn't think through all the ramifications.  I was prepared for the way my family, friends, parents, neighbors, and ward (parish) members might react.  I wasn't prepared for the way strangers would react.  They either stared or refused to look at me.  Except the younger ones.  The ones my kids' ages and younger would come right out and comment on it or just move past it.  The ones my age and older either glared at me (seriously?) or glanced and then turned away quickly (while sneaking secret looks when they thought they were out of my field of vision). 

I get it.  Especially when it was bright purple it was a bit shocking.  But some of the looks I got, many in fact, felt like judgments.  Like me having purple hair meant I was a certain type of person who believed a certain type of things and acted in a certain type of way.  And worse, like it was something to be embarrassed about.  My daughter (who shaved her head almost two years ago in support of her sister who was having brain surgery) said she went through similar things.  In fact, she was flat out told to hide her head more than once.

Let me tell you something, judgy-judgers, most of you would be hard pressed to find more conservative people than me and my daughter.  We are both very active in our church and attend every week.  Neither of us has a tattoo.  Neither of us has ever done drugs or had illicit sex.  Neither of us has been to jail.  We both vote in every election and take that right/responsibility seriously.  In fact, neither of us has even ever had a ticket.  By most measurements of the world, we are quite boring.  We just did something fun with our hair.

The other thing I wasn't prepared for was how I would feel about these reactions.  It's not that I care so much about how others feel about how I look, although the first time (when I was completely unprepared for it) I felt very self-conscious and couldn't wait to get back to the safety of my own home.

No, the reactions of other people served to point out how public this experience was.

Okay, so that should have been obvious before I did it, but it wasn't.  I dyed my hair the way I did for me.  I wanted it to be distinctly different from my natural hair.  I wanted the lift it would give me in the middle of winter.  I wanted the fun of that little bit of rebellion.  But I was irritated by the fact that I couldn't do this fun thing - that I couldn't play - without the whole world watching.

I went to a high school basketball game a week or so after I had it done.  I don't know how many people fit in our gym, maybe a couple hundred.  But as I walked in and felt the eyes of so many people on me I realized I was the only person in the room with purple hair.  I don't think I've ever felt so much in the spotlight as I did in that moment.  And it was not something I enjoyed.  I prefer to blend into the crowd.  That moment kind of freaked me out.

But I've adjusted.  I've acclimated to the new temperature of the waters.  As I prepare for the next color, I'm ready for whatever it brings.  Because I've been there before and the personal joy it brings me is well worth the cost.



:) I've loved the Meryl stage. ��
When I went platinum, I felt the "judgy-judgers" bore through Me as well. It's funny what some expend energy on. *sigh Love you, Friend.

Camille said...

Yep! I was one at the basketball game! And I DID stare! Do you want to know what I was thinking? I was thinking, "How in the world did she DO that?" Because there have been several times over the years when my kids have wanted blue, or purple or pink in their hair, and I couldn't figure it out! (Too poor to take them to the hairdresser at that point!) I dyed my son's hair jet black (like mine) and he wanted some bright purple streaks in it (we lived in Tooele at the time and that's the color). I tried my best, but at the time I didn't realize you had to bleach out the part you wanted a color. I tried, but it came out pink, which he actually LOVED. (Thank goodness.) I was honestly not thinking any negative thoughts about you at all, merely, "what a brave woman!" I love people who dare to do the "unthinkable!" I'm so glad I met you that day, and I hope we remain friends. It was a bold move for me to dye my hair jet black, I am in fact a blond. But I did it! People stared, people made rude comments, a lot of people love it, but most importantly I LOVE IT! And someday, when my hair starts turning gray, I have already decided to bleach it white and put pink in it. I've already forewarned my children, and I'm not sure they believe me, but it's going to happen. I love your hair...it looks really awesome, but more than that, I admire your ability to be yourself! Besides, I have problems with my vision and I love that I can always find you in the basketball crowd....

Pam said...

Wowza, that is a gorgeous purple! Interesting sociology experiment too, for sure! I love the color(s), and I love your bravery. My daughter (21) has wanted to do that forever. It's funny how many assumptions about character people make, associated with hair! I've never understood that. So nice to visit you again. I had been away from blogging a few months, and I am missing the SITS roll call!