In my last year of high school, I decided to dye my hair purple. Call it rebellious, call it “cool”, call it stupid – I did it. It took hours of bleaching (damn black hair) and then applying purple hair dye but at the end of the day, I was a purplehead. That spiraled into a years worth of changing hair colours that marked memorable milestones such as attending my prom and graduation with bright pink hair and taking my grad photos in the most alarmingly unattractive green hair (tip: blue hair dye fades to dead-grass green). My head was a walking mood-ring of shades. Pink for the cheerful days. Blue for the more low-key occasions. Green for the lazy I’ll-dye-my-hair-later days. And well, I don’t even know what purple was.
Dyeing my hair came along with an equal amount of kick-ass confidence and self-consciousness. Walking down the halls of my high school, I knew people were staring and depending on the day I’d either embrace those stares and walk with a bit more strut in my step or I’d feel the immediate urge to run and hide in the nearest bathroom till everyone left. Needless to say, I graduated a tad scarred but ultimately sporting thicker skin. Skin that would later get inked multiple times and draw just as many stares.
It’s three years later and for some reason I decided it was time to summon the bottle of bleach again, the goal this time – red. Now contrary to Jezebel blog posts or all those Hipster Ariel memes, I wasn’t dying my hair to join the latest hip club of cool because, trust me, walking around high school with green hair excluded me more than include me into any clubs of any sort. The idea of becoming a redhead had been floating around for quite some time now but alas, leave it to my recent marathon of the UK teen-drama series Skins to give me the green light to go red. In the third and fourth series of the show, one of the main characters, Emily – a lesbian twin a la the Quin sisters but minus the guitars and well, the other twin is straight – sports a fiery hairdo, one that I became obsessed with. And so, after a weekend of not leaving my bed I decided to peel myself away from the computer and head to the nearest Shoppers Drug Mart. I remain straight though. The show didn’t influence me that much.
So thanks to Carmel and my friend Kayley, I was reborn a redhead. And again, I was greeted by the looks.
Sitting on the subway, on my way to a movie date with a friend, I suddenly felt like I was in a high school hallway all over again. I felt the eyes of strangers darting in my direction and a bead of sweat started to form on my forehead, making those handful of stops seem that much longer. Let’s face it, when we leave in the morning, we fear the judgement of others whether it’s your clothes, your shade of lipstick or in this case, the colour of your hair.
By taking my hair out of its natural element of black, I’ve stuck a giant flag on my head and although we all crave that bit of attention every now and then, that self-consciousness returned, full-force. The days that followed became a see-saw of emotions ranging from “I love it!” to “Oh God, what have I done!” as it occurs every time I decide to cut or dye my hair.
But at the end of the day, it’s red and I chose to do this. And with all things in life, there’s no point in regretting so, a week into this experiment, I’ve decided, to hell with self-consciousness! I’m going to own this red head like Hipster Ariel’s dad owns Pitchfork.
And with that immediate shift, I felt empowered by my hair and those stares became good stares. In fact, in the past week as a redhead, I’ve gotten more positive, reassuring comments than I did in all twenty years as a brunette. Whether those are pity reassuring comments or not, from people who felt my oncoming breakdown, I don’t care, I’ll take it. You like it? Why thank you!
Positive attitude that you put out is what you will undoubtedly get back, in one way or another. I sound like The Secret but hey, with red hair comes wisdom. Okay, not really but with experiences like this, you learn a thing or two. Sometimes you need a traumatizing high school experience, sometimes you need a few bottles of hair dye. Sometimes you don’t need anything at all. High school Melody, I’m sorry you had to learn the hard way.
But now excuse me as I must whip my (red) hair back and forth like the confident woman I am.
Cue Willow Smith.
Cue Willow Smith.