I’ve been dying my hair on and off since I was fourteen. The first time it was for a part in a show—I was a Cuban dancer in Guys and Dolls and back then my hair was still fairly blonde. But really, they would have let me not dye it. I just kinda wanted to see what I looked like with black hair.
I liked the way it looked, so it was black on and off through high school. Then it was various shades of black and red on and off in college. Then senior year I found my first gray hair. Though Cammy assured me that I should see it as a battle scar, a way of saying, “I survived William & Mary, but look what it did to me!” I felt like it made me look old, and even though after four years of running on about four hours sleep per night and realizing exactly how stupid I really am I felt old, I didn’t want to show that to the world.
I tried for a while to ignore the gray. Two years later I made an ill-fated attempt to cover it with highlights. Around the time I started grad school I decided I was going to have to commit to full time dying. Initially I went with a really pretty, totally fake looking deep plum, but they stopped making the color (actually, two years later I found the color at a drug store in South Carolina, so they may have simply stopped selling it in my market). Then it was various shades of cherry cola red.
At some point, one of my students who was a beautician convinced me that if I wasn’t going to pay to have a professional color my hair, I should at least buy professional grade stuff at Sally’s rather than the drug store brands. So I did. And my color got a bit more natural looking… until I was getting ready to start my PhD. Because it was the first time in many, many years I had several months in which didn’t have to look historical, I told my hair dresser (yes, I had splurged) she could go crazy. So she gave me a few pops of purple. That I loved.
Since then the color pops have been an on and off thing. I’ve had purple and blue (which was supposed to be purple, but came out blue) and red and more purple. It’s taken a while to get the process down (this is perhaps the subject of a future blog), but the long and the short of it is that I spent 5-6 hours a couple weeks ago coloring my hair and giving myself back spasms in the process. Why would I do such a silly thing when my time is at a premium and I’m not a huge fan of back spasms?
Ironically, the best explanation I ever heard was in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Luwaxana Troi takes off her redonkulously crazy wig to reveal her brown hair underneath. Odo informs her that it looks fine and she responds, “It looks ordinary. I’ve never cared to be ordinary.” It’s a horrifying moment when you realize you have something so deep in common with Luwaxana Troi, but that’s what I experience every time I watch that episode.
I have brown hair. Once in college I tried to say it was reddish brown/auburn and a classmate informed me bluntly, “It’s brown. Don’t try to make it sound interesting.” Harsh, but true. I also have brown eyes. I’m average height, average width (above average weight, but that’s another blog entry too). Until recently I wore the most common bra size in the country. I have a name that was one of the ten or twenty most common in the year I was born. I’m smart, but not astoundingly so. I’m not particularly pretty, but I’m not a dog. I’m very average. And I’d rather not be.
I’m never going to be tall thin and beautiful like my sister. I’m never going to have piercing green eyes or blue eyes that change with the weather and my outfit. I did suddenly acquire boobs, but they aren’t all that impressive. These things I have no control over. But I can make my hair not look average. I can make it look like nobody else’s. So this is why I spend more time than I ought to on the project and put myself through lots of abuse. Because I’m a bit like Luwaxana Troi. Yikes!