When I was a kid, I had dreams of dyeing my hair. I had this vision of showing up to school with jet black hair, not unlike Jan Brady in that one episode, and watch people try to figure out who I was. Long jet black hair that surely would not go with my fair skin, freckles, or brown eyes, but that didn’t stop my fantasies. Sometimes, I wondered what it would be like to just have brown hair or blonde hair. To not have what grew out of my scalp be my only identifier.
I was born a red head. As an adult, I know this is a wonderful thing, and that I’m truly blessed to have such nice hair. But as a kid, all I wanted was to be like everyone else. My hair was always the first thing people said something about whence they met me. And then the questions would come:
-Were you born with red hair?
-Where does it come from?
-Are you Irish?
My parents, tickled…well…red, at having a redheaded daughter, taught me to answer these questions early on. Before I even knew what the words meant, I would answer strangers’ questions with, “It goes back four generations.” My parents do not have red hair. My brother does not either. In fact, the only person I was ever told had red hair was some great-great aunt of my dad’s, and we weren’t even sure if that were true or not. But they trained me well, and I recited their answer (even if it wasn’t true…even mathematically, that would be going back three generations, not four). And for what it’s worth, I’m only a little bit Irish, and that’s on my mom’s side, where the hair supposedly does not come from.
So my dreams of not being a redhead weren’t unfounded. It got to be a lot of weird attention. Like any kid, I loved attention, but I was so bored with talking about my hair. Not only that, but I was constantly being told how “people pay money for that color” and “don’t you dare ever dye this,” that I would have given a vital organ just for the chance to change my hair color.
It sounds so dumb and vain; a real First World Problem: “Oh, poor Jessica and her gorgeous naturally red hair that people want for themselves. Boo hoo. It must be a real burden to be beautiful.” I never felt beautiful though, and always felt that my hair should have been on someone more worthy.
My dad has gotten visibly upset with me three times in my entire life, and two of those times were about my hair. (In 7th grade, I used Sun-In like my friends, and when I was in college, I “dyed” it just a shade darker than it already was.) Both times, he was pissed as hell. “You have such beautiful hair. Why the hell would you do that?!”
I’m a grown up now, and can do whatever I want with my hair. But I haven’t. I have wandered down the hair color aisle in jealous vain, wanting the opportunity to do what so many women do every day, “just for a change.” My own mother is a bottle blonde, having the same hair color since I was 3. Both my brother and I have been sent in to purchase said color in the past. But I could not buy any for myself.
My daughter has my hair, which is wonderful. I find she gets way fewer questions than I did, because her mom has red hair, and that answers most people’s questions before they can ask them. But because my daughter has red hair like me (and I mean exact, down to the natural golden highlights and burgundy lowlights…yes, again, boo-frickin-hoo, I know), I feel guilty in ever wanting to change it. But sometimes, I just need a change, you know?
As I wrote about last month, I have some health stuff going on right now. Things are accelerating fast, and are way beyond my control. There’s a geneticist this week, a surgery soon after, and a biopsy. After that is a recovery time, which will depend on the surgery, which depends on the result of the genetics test. That’s all step one. Step two is what happens if the results of the biopsy include the word “cancerous.” And if that is the case, my hair will no longer be my identifier.
Obviously, death is the worst-case scenario. But that’s true for anyone. It could be by cancer; it could be by a 747 landing in my bedroom. Death happens. I feel like I’m going to be fine, no matter if we stop after step one or step two. But like any red-blooded (-haired?) woman, I have to go down the rabbit hole of my own mortality and freak out a little.
Today, I had my friend Stephanie dye a section of my hair bright blue. She’s a hairdresser and owns her own shop, and she and I have been talking about this for awhile. This=dying my hair. What she wasn’t counting on was the color. It wasn’t highlights or lowlights I wanted; it was bright blue. The official color on the tube said “Aqua.”
So far, I think it’s the best $25 I’ve ever spent.
It’s such a little thing, but to me, it was something I was not going to miss out on. I wanted to dye my hair, for the 8 year-old girl with the red hair, permed like Little Orphan Annie, for the 13 year-old teenager who just wanted to fit in with her friends, for the 35 year-old I am today, who just wanted to do something fun.
And when I went down that rabbit hole of mortality, and (let’s face it) self-pity, something that stood out to me was not delaying fun things. Important and serious things are going to happen whether or not I do the fun stuff. So I might as well have blue hair on the operating table.