I dye my hair every year. Once a year, I mean, and with the cheap and kind of tacky dye that only lasts four weeks. I even choose to dye it the same color I dyed it when I was fifteen, a shade of red that has never honestly occurred in nature, and never will.
Why would I do this?
Because it’s fun. Because it reminds me of being fifteen and having a friend help me dye my hair before going to a play where I was working backstage and loving every minutes of it. No, it’s not just because I miss that friend, although I do, and we haven’t spoken in probably more than ten years now, and I doubt we ever will. It’s not because I like to think back to those days when life was laid out before me and I existed in a world full of seemingly infinite possibilities. Hells no. I’m not even thirty yet, people, my life is not over. The possibilities may be far from infinite, but it’s not like I need to dye my hair to remind myself of those that still exist.
In some way, it’s to be a rebel. I have a really stable existence. I have made a pretty solid career in a field that interests me. I have a great partner in my life, and I live in a pretty nice East Coast city that I’ve really made my home, far from my Midwestern upbringing and all the things I wanted to rebel against. I have a routine that I like. I am very in control of my situation and my life. I work out every day. I cook healthy, delicious, (mostly) organic meals, and I blog about them. I am responsible (to a painful point). I get up every morning and I do work until there is no more work to be done. And when I am done, I feel satisfied and at least mostly fulfilled.
To put it plainly, I am really happy with my life. Sure, there are things I would change, but really, if things didn’t, I’d also be fine with it.
So instead, I dye my hair. Every year that I do it, it freaks me out. During the ten minutes while the (yes, for real) “cinnaberry” coloring turns my hair a plum-y red color that is supposedly medium auburn brown but is actually nowhere near auburn or brown, two colors actually in my natural hair color, I panic. I think: I shouldn’t have done this, I should have stuck with my normal look, I shouldn’t have changed anything. What if I am upset by the way it looks? What if (gasp!) others are?
And then I wash it out, and I dry it, and I continue to breathe faster and harder than normal as I see the red coloring in its fullest, brightest hue. I feel instantaneous regret, until I fashion it into some ridiculous up-do, put on a bright colored dress, and leave the house. Suddenly, I feel oddly empowered, as if the chemicals in the dye gave me some crazy little confidence boost. I feel good. Not because I look better, but because something got changed up, and it makes me feel exciting and free and young. Certainly not fifteen-type young again, which I would never actually want, but young in a very, very good way. Revived, maybe. It reminds me that I can pull off something a little out there, and that I can handle change. That I do not have to be, and will not always be, in control of every element in my life. Yes, I personally put in that hair dye, but every year, I have that ten-minute period of being genuinely terrified of what it’s going to look like, and then a couple weeks of glory. Which, honestly, is enough, at least when the glory is coming from cinnaberry hair dye.
Yes, coworkers and colleagues give me funny looks. I fear my partner thinks I’m a little nuts about this. Even my friends give me that oh-it-looks-great-but-why-would-you-do-that, wide-eyed reaction. But the thing is, it might look a little ridiculous to some. It might seem a little childish. And maybe it actually really is childish. But for a couple weeks, I feel a little like a rock star, because it is fun and different and just immature enough to be really enjoyable. And it cost me $6.48 at Target to feel that way.
Within two weeks, the color has basically faded out. By the end of the month, it’s completely gone, leaving just the tiniest darker tint to my brown hair. Soon enough, you can’t even tell I did it. But it matters that I did, because it reminds me that despite the fact that I am uber-responsible, that I am mature, that I am living an adult life and doing it pretty well, I can let that go. I can put my life (or just my hair, really) in the proverbial hands of chemicals for ten minutes, and then have two weeks of brightly colored hair that translates into a certain, inexplicable feeling of awesome that radiates long past the wash-out time, stretching across until the next August comes around, and it’s time to dye again.