The first time I colored my hair I was completely smitten. That word gets overused but it is exactly how I felt. For less than ten bucks, I had a box of Clairol Natural Instincts Temporary hair color in what I remember to be “Navajo Sunset”. A shade that promised to liven up my locks to a fiery red, I could not wait to witness what was sure to be my awakening. I was also in middle school.
I loved everything about the process; the plastic gloves and hair covering, the directions thoughtfully translated to three different languages, the reassuring 800 number provided to help in a crisis and of course, the Holy Grail; the dye. Since that first leap, I have been various shades of blonde, brunette and redheaded. I have sat for hours with foils on my head in a salon and for twice as long with some incarnation of a natty towel over my shoulders at home while I waited to see what exactly I had gotten myself into.
The results varied wildly depending on who was wielding the power of the color and how well that person was being compensated for their time. I learned quickly why it was important to leave the color on for at least the recommended time (even if it set you back less than ten dollars, you want to see some change). I learned even faster why you shouldn’t leave it on for too long (hair can only take so much before it breaks or even disintegrates). Because I had grown up seeing my Mom color her hair it felt ritualistic but commonplace, as if it was simply a step in the maintenance process. Keep moving along here, folks, it’s just a tough shade, it will mellow out in a few days…
At this point it’s been years since I committed to color. I have been feeling the pull towards doing something to my hair more and more lately. Maybe I needed a jolt, just a shade or two brighter, or blonder, or darker, just something. Flipping through magazines I see such ranges – each calling to me in their own way to try them out. I envisioned myself with the ease of a blonde, tennis whites and a lemon wedge in a glass of my iced tea. Then I think about how horrible I am at tennis (and how I don’t actually own tennis clothes or drink iced tea much). Darker is better, I could pair a few shift dresses with oversized glasses and Jack Rogers (nope, that would be Jackie and it is safe to say I am more of a Marilyn). I was running out of options. I would need to go full Navajo Sunset.
This morning I was actually in Walmart staring at the walls of hair color when I realized it wasn’t the hair. It was never really about the hair. The first time I colored my hair I didn’t just want to look different; I wanted to be someone different. Here I was twenty years later and I really don’t want to be someone else, I am finally feeling comfortable in my own (imperfect) skin. I don’t look like a socialite or a mysterious spy or villain but I never did because I never was.
When we came home from Walmart I changed into an old pair of basketball shorts and pulled on a pair of work boots my husband wears when he cuts the yard so that I could do just that (he was at work today and we were due for rain again). What hair color says I am the kinda girl that does that? After I was finished I ran through the shower and painted my girls’ nails per their requests before we headed out to our nephew’s first birthday party. I didn’t have time to do my hair or put make up on shy of a few swipes of mascara – (there is almost always time for mascara) and we were out of the door.
I wanted to get a picture of the kids together before we left, which meant we had to put down my coffee, my water, both their waters, my handbag, my Sister-in-laws belated birthday gift and my nephew’s birthday present too. One kid jostled the other and the coffee shattered, I said SHIT and then I got over myself because stuff breaks and in the grand scheme of things it could have been far worse.
We ate cake and cheeseballs and took pictures of that sweet little one year old and chatted along with his almost four year old brother about broccoli and fake sicknesses. It was a sweet celebration and I felt lucky to be a part of it all. When we pulled back into our driveway, Big Sister mentioned that we never got around to taking the picture. But by then Little Sister was starting the sugar high crash and didn’t want any part of a photo. It was just the two of us in the car taking the world’s umpteenth front seat selfie. I wanted to send my husband a picture to let him know we missed him and we were thinking of him, so I forwarded that one along with a “Love you”. “Love you too” came back his reply, “Did you change your hair or is that just the filter” he asked. This means that he is still noticing me just as I am – and that is something that doesn’t come in a box. Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat.