Here I am over the holidays a couple of weeks ago. I’m very overdue for a haircut/color. Fortunately, I’m in a good hair place right now. What does that mean? I have a haircut and color that I’m happy with and a stylist I feel good about to pull it off.
I don’t think I’ve seen my hair au naturel since my mother deemed me old enough to start hitting the hair salon in high school. Left to its own devices, my hair is brown, straight and fine. I want more “oomph”.
My sister is blonde and I used to want to be too. When I first starting coloring my hair in my teens, I got highlights that grew lighter and lighter until my hair as a whole was a sort of ash blonde.
Thick brown eyebrows with ashy blonde hair weren’t working for me. I couldn’t stand how big they were. So I started tweezing my eyebrows, thinner and thinner until they were two pencil thin lines above my eyes. I’d sit with my magnifying mirror yanking out every errant hair, lying in wait for hairs to sprout up where they didn’t belong. Eventually the hairs stopped growing back. Now thicker brows are more in and my brows are a bit scraggly. So I wind up using a bit of powder to bring back what I tweezed out of existence. Ugh.
I grew bored with blonde hair and threw myself into the red hair color spectrum. Everything from auburn to copper to chestnut, and all of sorts of variations on these shades. Other times I’d want to go more subtle, or close to my own color. Me, but better. Medium browns, reddish browns, golden browns. This often happened when I was broke and picking up a box from the drug store rather than going to the salon. Once I made a mistake putting box color over highlights and wound up with black hair. Very black. I tried to convince myself I looked Goth and edgy. I didn’t.
I’ve never been afraid to experiment. For me, it’s a type of self-expression. Other than the black hair, the results haven’t been too horrifying. Hair grows back. Though I’m traumatized to this day by the follicular damage inflicted upon me when I was in high school. Do Lemon Tree Hair Salons still exist? If so, AVOID THEM. AT ALL COSTS. Do perms (body waves) even exist anymore for that matter? I was in high school when I went to the Lemon Tree for my wavy bob haircut. Wavy, not curly, I instructed her, showing her pictures cut out from Seventeen and other teen mags. The hairdresser proceeded to fry the hell out of my hair, cutting off far more of the frazzled ends than I originally wanted in an attempt at damage control. Instead of a wavy bob, I looked like a French poodle with a mullet. The frizzy curls were so tight I could barely run my fingers through them. I cried all weekend at my part time job, and slunk around my high school hallways feeling like everyone was staring at me. It took the school year to grow out.
Self-expression can become damaging though if it’s done with a self-flagellating mindset. Depending on where my head is at, so many crazy thoughts have run through my decision-making process. Does shorter hair make me look fatter, even though my hair has more body? Do bangs better cover my big forehead, or together with my glasses, hide my face too much? Or maybe face-hiding is something I should be aspiring towards? At one point, I had beautiful long hair. But I was graduating law school, and was told I needed to cut it off to appear more mature and professional. I was so sad afterwards. I think back to how crazy it was to feel pressured like that. Like the length of my hair had anything to do with my ability to practice law. And if someone was that uptight, did I really want to work for him?
So I’ve been feeling good about my hair for a while. With a good cut and some blow-drying, I can give it a bit of body. Or not, depending on my time and level of motivation. I’ve found that I’m a bit lazier and prefer that extra bit of sleep to standing in front of a mirror with a hair dryer. My hair has actually gotten a bit more body which makes me happy. Aging? Better haircuts? I have no idea, maybe a combination.
About six months ago when I visited some family, a family member commented on my hair color. “I really don’t like your hair. It’s too red. The cut is good though.” Here’s how it looked then:
She’d made this comment a few months prior. I hadn’t replied, but had looked at my hair in the mirror for a good long time, second-guessing myself. Maybe my hair was just too much. Did I stick out? Look like a clown?
Screw that. I liked it. I stood strong. It felt good. So I didn’t appreciate the unsolicited critique at that later date. But maybe it was my own fault. I had asked her opinion a lot for years. Then again, many other times I hadn’t. This hadn’t stopped her from volunteering it. I wanted open, honest communication. But did that mean I had to take whatever criticism she had—asked for or not?
I bit my tongue that day. During a later conversation I admitted to her I’d been hurt. She insisted I asked her opinion. I knew I hadn’t asked, because I already knew her answer and didn’t want to hear it. Then, as if in defense of her opinion “[Another relative] doesn’t like it either.” Because since I was already hurt, I needed to know the anti-Cristina’s hair movement was widespread.
I told her how I felt, calmly and non-confrontationally. I pointed out gently sometimes we have different tastes. I told her we all were entitled to our opinions, but that I actually felt good about how I looked. If I wanted her advice, I’d ask.
I thought it was a closed issue. Meanwhile, the next time I visit for the holidays? She makes a point of telling me how much she likes my hair better now that its “lightened up” (aka, faded, growing out, roots). This is a sad attempt at compliment if I ever heard one.
It sucks, but realistically, I’m not going to change her. She’s family; she has a lot of good qualities and is someone I’m overall blessed to have in my life. But I’m dying my hair bright red again and she’ll just have to deal with it. Until I get bored and decide to try something new. Why not have fun mixing it up? It’s my hair to do what I want with. As long as I’m not criticizing myself along the way and keeping it in perspective. Because it’s just hair. It grows back. Unless it’s a permed mullet. Then you need to invest in some cute hats.