In the past couple of months, I have been experimenting with hair color. It’s not my first foray or flirtation with different colors, but this summer I have been throwing away all caution and going by gut and pretty dye boxes. You could blame it on age, or my summer working with teenagers, but I think I just wanted to try something different.
It has been loads of fun to say the least. I have enjoyed perusing the neon colors at the beauty supply store. I have loved the glimpses of strange hues in the morning when I brush my teeth. The haircut is the same short pixie cut, so sometimes I forget that my strands are not my normal dark brown-black.
I became “hair buddies” with a seven-year-old boy who liked my bright blue while I admired his neon green at the grocery store. We saw each other a couple of days later and his mom brought him over to say hi. Who knew that coloring could be so friendly? I have traded hair coloring tips with a teenager who is volunteering where I work this summer. It’s probably the first time in my life that I have been asked for “beauty” tips, and yet, she seeks my advice about her next hair project. I asked her to close her eyes and picture her hair the way she wanted if no one said a word. She said “bright purple” and when she opened her eyes and smiled, I replied, “That’s your color, then.” A seventy-something woman saw me at the botanic garden and she pointed to her hair and then mine without saying a word. I nodded and smiled, and whispered, “Do it if you want. With that beautiful silver, you can pretty much pick any color and it will show up and look amazing.” Should I become a hair color consultant? Ha!
That hair color has been a way to bond, however briefly, with strangers, reminds me that we are all seeking connections, both deep and superficial. Changing hair color also has been a way to look at things from a slightly different perspective. I perceive myself differently. Friends and strangers look at me slightly differently. My outfit choices have been more daring. None of this adds up to a huge change, and yet everything is different, somehow.
The change in color has also brought a change to my inner self. It’s more than cosmetic. It’s more than the surface. I walk more confidently. I am bolder in speaking up at work and not apologizing to an acquaintance for a personal decision I made. I don’t think necessarily that blue hair begats self-love and confidence, but my burgeoning inner work of the past couple of years is finally blossoming. Maybe it’s the growing inner confidence that led to blue and purple and orange and pink hair. If hair color can be one way to transform, maybe it’s a bit like a tarantula molting: simultaneously shedding an old exoskeleton and stretching into the new one.
Choosing a bold hair color is not the same as being brave in larger life choices, but I think it might be my warm-up. If I can sport crazy orange hair, and not care what others think, maybe I can be authentic about my long-buried desires. If I can take up the space of a confident woman, then purple hair is just a pretty afterthought. If I can bond with strangers on the superficial, maybe I can open myself up to new relationships and be more giving and loving in my existing ones. If I can love a new hair color, even when it doesn’t turn out quite like I thought, I can love myself, mistakes and all.
I can also see when the hair color choices might be affecting my hair’s health. Tomorrow, I might return to my dark brown, perhaps with a hint of burgundy. While I love the lighter, bold colors, it takes tremendous effort to lighten it for those colors to show up in my near black tresses. A return to my darker roots is not a retreat, but a reassessment. I will find alternatives that are healthier, all the while making bolder and better life decisions.
We make choices every day from the little to the life-changing. If we can be cognizant of those choices and how we bring ourselves to those decisions, then we can be braver and bolder. We can spend quality time on the ones that really matter and let the little ones fall away. We reach forward, but only when we truly release do we have the open hearts to be ourselves, changing and learning and growing. We can quit being so serious and have fun along the way. To do so, we have to open up to free ourselves and let go.