Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hair as Art

When I was fourteen I asked my mum what she would think if I coloured my hair blue.

"Do I have to pay for it?" she asked.

"No," I told her.

"Then knock yourself out."

I don't think she expected I'd become quite so committed to colourful hair, keeping it blue nearly solidly for the next four years. I mixed it up occasionally by shaving my head entirely but as soon as it was long enough again I'd have it bleached and put the colour back in.

When I was eighteen I mixed it up by doing my hair rainbow for Pride celebrations. This soon became an annual style - applied just in time for my birthday on the 1st of May and up kept until mid-July, at which point the incredible maintenance of keeping six colours in my hair would be just way too much.

The rainbow! 
Generally the blue was my 'natural' colour from the unnatural selection, but I saw my hair as yet another material to use when expressing myself creatively. It's been hot pink, green for Christmas, black for Hallowe'en, and red just to use up some excess dye.

One of the last combos I did was blue with a pink strip down one side of my faux hawk, the hairstyle I've sported almost exclusively since 2003. I called this 'My Little Pony' hair and it was this colour I had in my hair last when I began growing out the roots in preparation for moving to London.

Gotta get it nearly white
before putting dye in. 
I've never had a challenge getting a job with my hair coloured. I can guarantee it was not my natural dark brown when I applied for any of the jobs I've had since graduation, but something told me it would be a good idea to have natural hair for my job search in London. I knew it was going to be challenge enough getting work given none of my experience was in the UK and all my references were a seven hour time difference away.

Just before my move I had my hair cut so all the colour was gone. I was also the proud owner of a rat tail, which my best friend snipped off much to the relief of pretty much everyone who knew me.

Within two months I was working at Pancreatic Cancer UK, where I would remain for the next two and a half years. A few weeks into working there I ran the idea of colouring my hair by the CEO and was told she wasn't comfortable with it. I felt a bit odd without colourful hair but I respected her request and carried on.

Four years later and I have a job where there is no concern about the colour of my hair - or clothes or anything else for that matter. Having felt that not colouring my hair hadn't been my choice, I decided to give it a go over the holidays, reviving the My Little Pony look.

Ran out of gloves…
couldn't be bothered to go buy new ones.
I was so excited to have my bright hair back! To play with the canvas on my head and experiment once again! Until it was done…

As I towelled my head dry after washing the dye out with ice cold water and conditioner, I remembered just how much work it is to upkeep the colour.

I miss my brown hair. I miss washing my head with hot water every day. And I no longer identify with brightly coloured hair - as much fun as it is.

It's interesting to look back and see how I've changed and grown. There was a time when, if asked to list what made me me, I would have indisputably included blue or rainbow hair.

What I find most refreshing about this discovery is how comfortable I am with letting go of something I'd always felt defined me. I think it was Leonard Cohen who said, "The less there is of me, the happier I am."

There's something very rewarding about not holding on so tightly to how I think I should or shouldn't be or something I feel defines who I am.

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