Growing up my friends loved to express how cute I would look with short hair, and how unfair it was that I was not allowed to cut my hair. Granted, they were not wrong, it was vexing to not have authority over my own locks, but after a time I had gotten used to it and the length was part of my visual signature, I was ‘The Girl With The Hair’.
When I reached adulthood, and thus was allowed to cut my hair, I didn’t. It was me, by that point, and I had embraced that. But I did start dying it red, an act that I believe my dad was rather irked over. It’s funny, because part of the inspiration for that was the fact that I was supposed to be born a redhead if I were to be named ‘Colleen’, and thus I always felt I was missing out on that aspect of myself until I discovered the dye bottle. I believe his exact words when he saw it were “What did you do?” Heh, oops.
When I went truly copper-red, generally I got compliments. Many people believed it was or was only a slightly enhanced variant of my natural color, with no idea I was blonde. I still had some people weigh in about the length, positive and negative, without being asked, but the color was usually praised – with one exception where a man tried to explain that when a woman dyed her hair red it was because she was preparing to leave her significant other and assumed I must be on the prowl for a new partner. Some people refuse to believe my hair is for me.
The red lasted a long time, but eventually it was time for a change, and a cut finally! But even before I made the change, I found my hair was apparently not my own. Even my boss kept trying to talk me out of cutting it, assuring me I would regret doing so as his wife did. Once the red was gone, many would wax nostalgic about it and ask when I was going back. “Are you going to grow it out again?” was another common refrain. There were, of course, compliments, but there was also so much critique that I had not expected.
Even to this day one of my braiders at Faire lamented the loss of the red recently. On an elevator trip upstairs a coworker (who never knew me with the red) couldn’t decide if the all-black I’m sporting for Faire or the oil slick was her preferred hair color on me. She meant it as a compliment, that I looked good with either, but it came out strange that I should be worried which she prefers?
On the other hand, the fact that my spouse lamented the loss of the blue made me feel great, and continued to make me anxious for the day I can bring it back after Faire. Also an unsolicited opinion, but one that strangely mattered. It seems no matter what I do to my hair, MY hair, everyone from my closest to random strangers will weigh in!