“You have a new hair color every week— I can never recognize you!” was what one of the security guards told me when I was heading to the attendance office on my way to get one of my many tardies resolved (I wouldn’t consider myself a very punctual person, per se) and was sporting a new blue do.
Now, you may be wondering, “how many times has this girl dyed her hair, and what possessed her to try blue?” So, alas, I come with answers and a summary of my self-proclaimed coming-of-age teen story.
I was blonde for the first sixteen years of my life. My fairly toned shades mirrored my unsureness, naiveté and a natural conformity. Everyone wants to be blonde– or so it seems.
An impulsive decision made in seventh hour math my sophomore year. As my mind wrapped around quadratic formulas and algebraic expressions, I was determined to try something different, something bolder. And with this new look, I succeeded.
I needed a reprieve as my life fell into a mindless, soul-sucking cycle of homework, tests, work and a few mental breakdowns in-between. So, I chose pink dye. It was an adequate distraction for a while.
After the pink washed down the drain, I set my sights on a teal shade of blue. Seemingly temporary, this turned out to be permanent. I felt eyes on me as I walked the dim hallways. I was out of place. A piece of advice: always read the label. Twice. (But honestly, even once should’ve been enough– I, truly, just didn’t even check, so this one was kind of on me).
Only shades of red and orange would cancel the mockery of blue that laid atop my head. The color mixed with my cut got my look labeled “soccer mom”, which, after hearing multiple times a day, got old quickly. It was not the first time I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror and definitely not the first time I didn’t like who I was.
After months of awkward transitional hair, I painstakingly found my way back to my natural shade of blonde. This time it felt like a fresh start marked by determination and a newfound self-love.
To others, the constant changing of my hair color seemed a foolish action I attempted from time to time. To me, hair dye was a concrete action to define myself, something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. I didn’t see too many people walking down the hallway with bright blue hair; it felt unique. Grosse Pointe is often referred to as “The Bubble”, so the urge to be different became pressing as I decided that I wouldn’t be happy until I had finally popped it.
However, with each change in hair color, I strayed further away from my goal. I wasn’t wearing the hair dye; it was wearing me. Each color represented a different version of myself – a rainbow of Annes. My friends noticed, too. They mocked me, saying, “I miss black-haired Anne” or “pink-haired Anne was the best”. Though they were talking about my physical appearance, I knew my mentality morphed with each change too. Each hue allowed me to become a different person, yet none of them ever felt genuinely me.
Though dying my hair began as a way to set myself apart, it quickly had the opposite effect. I began to conform— falling into the stereotype associated with the color of my hair.
Eventually, this began to wear me down, and with each box of dye, I grew increasingly frustrated as my goal of defining myself seemed even more distant than before.
As time went on, I realized that what I was really looking for wasn’t a color-wheel definition of myself, but a better understanding of who I am, what I believe in and how I navigate my way through the world. I began to appreciate that I couldn’t define myself by the attributes associated with a color, and I didn’t need to buy new dye every week, but I could if I wanted to. Instead, it became an option to express myself, rather than a to-do I had to check off.
As I’m writing this, I have an order confirmation sitting in my Gmail inbox for an order I placed containing neon orange hair dye. Last month, I dyed my hair purple, and the months before that I had been constantly dying strands of my hair different colors, starting with neon green and ending with red. By experimenting with these different colors and styles I have realized that though I hated how I let the dye define me, I loved the way it allowed me to express myself. It wasn’t the dye that was the problem, it was what I was trying to say with it;because, perhaps, I wasn’t really trying to say anything at all, other than the fact that I am a girl who really loves to dye her hair.
I am the same girl as when I first dyed my hair black in my best friend’s bathroom to the day I sat in the salon chair for five hours dying my hair back to its original color. I am Anne, the girl who is passionate about journalism and politics, loves to be right, could listen to Taylor Swift on repeat until someone begs me to stop, has a (slightly concerning) fear of mayonnaise and, for the first time in 17 years, didn’t cry when getting a shot. And maybe, that girl doesn’t fall under a specific category; but at the end of the day, I’m just happy to be here (with who knows what colored hair).