Monday, April 25, 2011

Hair, hair, hair.

Hey look, a thematically appropriate picture! I scanned this out of a magazine (hence the crappy quality) ages ago. It's pretty much my dream hair.

I wrote an essay on haircolor recently. It was supposed to just be a quick ten minute free-writing exercise but, if I may quote Blanche Devereaux, "it came to me and the words poured forth like liquid from a stream." What can I say, hair is a subject I have lots to say about. Click through to read it, if you're into that whole "reading" thing!

     I have had every naturally occurring hair color on earth. And a couple unnaturally occurring ones, too. It's something of a source of pride for me. I started out with flaxen locks that set me apart from my siblings; while they were born tan with full heads of dark hair, I came into this world a pale, blonde bowling ball. I was, rather literally, the Golden child. As I grew, my hair went from a fuzzy halo to little blonde ringlets, which did nothing to lessen the expectation that I would be an angelic child. And I don't want to brag (I do, and I'm about to), but for a while, I was.
      I let my hair grow throughout elementary and middle school, so that by the time I was ready to start high school, I looked like a young hippie that had accidentally tripped through a time machine: long, straight hair, parted down the center. This didn't bother me, as I was convinced I had been born in the wrong era by some cosmic mistake-- clearly I was a flower child, destined to leave my footprints in the mud at Woodstock.
     Upon entering high school, my dreams of hanging out with the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix had not dissolved, but I had been enlightened with an awareness that long, stringy hair flattered no one. It was also around this time that I began “seeing” the world for what it really was: a series of hoops to jump through to prove you were a functional human being. This profoundly depressed me. Had I not been warned a thousand times that in high school, my intellectual abilities would be put to the test? And yet...more of the same. “Complete this worksheet,” “Take this practice test.” SOLs, SATs, none of it mattered, and none of it challenged me.
     I mentally withdrew from the high school world, barely passing many of my classes. I refused to do meaningless busy work, but aced every test. I felt that was enough to prove I knew the material, but clearly it was not enough for my teachers. This refusal to act (a sort of defiance through laziness), combined with my realization that the hippie hair was doing nothing for me, translated to the short, messy haircut I chose. In the mornings, I would haphazardly slap some sort of product in it and shake it around, then carry on with my day. Having the long, thick, “pretty” hair everyone else wanted was just another hoop that I felt no motivation to jump through.
     Then I discovered hair dye. I was so bored with everything and everyone that it became an escape-- an aid in becoming whoever I felt like at any given time. I bounced around between reds, blondes, dark browns, and even black (granted, black was a mistake- it had turned out much darker than the chestnut brown the box depicted. With my pale coloring, I looked like Snow White in a darker, more gothic time in her life that Disney never mentioned).
     After a few years of going steady with regular hair dye, I became aware of a dangerous new stranger in town: Manic Panic. The hair color brand of rockstars, weirdos, and angsty teenagers like me. When I showed up on the first day of school that year with brown hair streaked through with a fluorescent flamingo pink that glowed under a blacklight, reactions were mixed. Some were surprised, some impressed. Amid compliments and queries, one particularly...ahem... tactful friend blurted out “what did you do to your hair?” I still laugh at him to this day for his unbelievably smooth reaction.
     With college around the bend, I had new hope that it would be different from high school. Full of like-minded peers hungry for knowledge, and classes about only the subjects I actually cared to study. I wanted to enter this new endeavor with a clean slate, so I returned to a close approximation of my natural haircolor, with only occasional and tame variances in tone ranging from dark blonde to chocolate brown.
     Of course, once I got to college, I realized with sadness that it was more of the same. Classes that I had to take, though they weren't related to my career goals in any discernible way. People who seemed to have little to no interest in learning. More hoops. I was so disgusted with one class in particular (in which the professor intended to teach us how to read for content- as if I had somehow made it that far without knowing how) that I refused to attend it at all, resulting in failure of a one-credit class that should have been the easiest A in my entire educational career. And so, feeling disillusioned with the educational system, I fled back into the arms of my old familiar friends, bleach and dye. Maybe the world could trick me into going to college, but I could still have a love affair with grape-colored bangs, or an ill-advised dalliance with cherry red.
     After countless nights of anxious freakouts during my first two years of college, always to the same tune (“Why am I even here? What am I doing with my life?”) I realized what I should be doing: writing. It was the only thing I was good at that didn't also feel like a complete waste of time or a tedious chore. On the contrary, it came naturally and could even be fun. But I had already spent so long blundering through other majors that I was sure it was too late to change paths. Luckily, I had a friend who pushed me to ask for help from an advisor (and I mean actually push me-right through the door into the office). Then little things seemed to fall into place here and there.
     I still have those freakouts, but now I just tell myself it's a tortured writer's thing, and at least it's better than developing an opium habit (lookin' at you, Charles Dickens). Though I still put my hair through terrible abuses (a recent foray into madness with platinum blonde completed my “haircolors of the world” checklist), it's no longer an escape from a life I felt I played a passive role in; had no real control over. Rather, I now see it as an innocent way to have fun with my appearance. I've returned to my natural haircolor and settled into a life that I don't feel afraid of or forced into. Though I can't guarantee I won't dive headfirst into the rainbow pool of dye again, for now, being my natural self feels rebellious enough. 

No comments:

Post a Comment