Hair, Today

I became a brunette last week. It was not an effortless change, not a spur-of-the-moment decision as many of my ill-timed beauty experiments have been. This was not Sun-In, or perms. It was calculated, a mass text to my girlfriends, asking for explicit instructions on my next hair adventure.

Go dark, roared the crowd, and so this morning, I awoke, and shuffled to the bathroom, where I saw a brunette – where I saw Meatloaf in the mirror.

Over the years, I have logged many miles in the salon chair, have colored my ends folded over kitchen sinks, have touched up my roots huddled in college dorm showers. I have had pixies and bobs, long hair tangling in waves down my back. I have done it all, a rich autohairography of triumphs and failures.

And I don’t know, it just never fail to surprise me, this little hair journey. I have girlfriends who are fiercely protective of their hair, who are nothing short of intimate with their hairdresser, who have memorized their custom hair color shade – level 7, heavy on the ash please – having recited it verbatim since they began learning the periodic table of elements. They do not veer, they cannot be swayed. Same cut, same color, forever and ever, Amen.

I have never been a forever and ever, Amen kind of person, and for a long time, I wanted to be. There is comfort in the unchanging, in the level 7, heavy on the ash, or the signature lipstick, signature scent, signature signature.

It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just hair, but it also kind of means everything, doesn’t it?

We scrawl it in the margins of high school yearbooks – Never change, love ya like a sister! – and we preach it to our children – Remember your roots! – and we read it between the lines of the newspaper headlines – History always repeats itself.

There is comfort in the unchanging.

But there is freedom in the shift.

I have a girlfriend who is on the fast track to becoming a marketing exec. She’s positioned to be partner of a firm, winning clients over with her quick wit and bright eyes. But her eyes are dimming, because what she truly wants – what she truly dreams of – is to become a fitness instructor.

Her level 7, heavy on the ash, please, is marketing. It’s her signature, her go-to move, her bag of tricks. She’s successful, and likes it enough, but it no longer feels true in her soul.

A few weeks ago, over coffee, I shared with my friend something I once read, something that was written by Cheryl Strayed, something that says this:

Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.”

And today, I hear happiness: my girlfriend is going brunette. She’ll be teaching her first fitness class soon, embarking on a year-long intensive program to learn the ropes, to brighten her eyes. It’s a new color for her, a shade that might jar her, a hue that might cause grief in the morning when she shuffles to the bathroom and sees a a brunette – when she sees a Meatloaf in the mirror.

It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just hair, but it also kind of means everything, doesn’t it?

  • Beautifully articulated! (And your hair looks beautiful too.)

    I just quoted Cheryl Strayed on my own blog — I adore her writing!

  • My natural color is blonde (light blonde) for about 20 years i’ve colored it – first dark red (fun!), then dark brown ( I wanted to look like Nigella ;). I thought the light color made me look old in photos.
    Over the course of the last year I’ve been going back to my original color. (I take care of my own coloring at home) Funnily my hair under all the dye has been turning bright WHITE. Ha!
    It’s a whole new me! I’m just as excited with my “real” color as when I went “Jessica Rabbit”.
    Would you agree that a woman’s hair (style, color, cut) tends to influence her identity and self confidence?

    • I love this, Kathleen! White! :) So so lovely! And yes, I’d say it certainly does influence quite a few things about a woman. ;)

  • Mine’s long and dark and naturally curly and I love it, and it never changes. Lately though I’ve been thinking I need a little change, maybe some layers, a little length off, some streaks of color…but we’ll see. I don’t see Meatloaf in your dark hair, not at all. I still see Tinkerbell. = )

  • I want to change up my hair too. It’s nothing but it signifies to the outward world that change is happening.

  • How wonderful that your friend is taking a step towards something she has been dreaming of, Erin – such courage, when one is in a comfortable position, to teeter off and out of that seat, onto a path on which one has to push oneself forward, towards those new, unknown pastures. Much love and luck to her.

    And, I agree – I always said hair is hair, and that I’ll chnage it as and when I please, and how I please, because…it’s hair, right? It can be changed again. But then, I went brunette (poorly, using my own two, inadequate-to-colour hands) and hated what I saw. I didn’t know who I was any more. I shrank. So, I went to a salon and they coloured it back to blonde (badly…twice. But that’s a whole other story) and I felt like me again. So, change I will make – happily. But, only as a blonde ;)

    • Ha – I have before had a VERY very bad dye job – a series of them, actually – so I completely hear you! I will never try home brunette again, among other experiments. It was a disaster, absolutely. ;)

  • I change my hair color/style and my job at least every year…I’m terrified of staying the same person all the time. Life too short!! I love the brunette on you! Although, every time I go dark..I’m over it after about two months lol. But, I have been blonde for over a year now and I’m itching about it..

  • It is a lovely shade on you! And yes, it is just hair. Decisions and change are scary but I’m a firm believer that stepping out of your comfort zone is the only way to make good changes happen. Major kudos to your friend! It takes a strong gut to make such a career change and I wish more women trusted themselves enough to do it too.

    • Ah, thank you Erin! And yes, I love my friend’s story! You can just tell she’s bubbling over with excitement. :)

  • I thought I had gotten to the place where my identity was in who I am, but nine months ago I had brain surgery to remove a tumor, and all my hair was cut off. I am physically healing, but the emotional healing I have gone through having no hair has been quite a journey. I have often told myself, “It’s just hair”, but when I look in the mirror, it has meant everything. My self-confidence has plummeted. Hopefully, by the end of this journey, I will have gained more than a full head of hair….renewed confidence in the woman I really am.

    • Oh Deborah, I’m so glad to hear you have recovered from your surgery – physically, at least – and you know, I thought of brave women like you as I wrote this. I will not pretend that hair isn’t inexplicably braided into our self worth and self confidence, for reasons unknown to me, but there they are and there they stay. I remember when my aunt went through chemo, and she felt so guilty that her hair loss was the biggest grief for her. But it was, and I get it. Your hair is part of you, like a limb, a pulse, and those, I’m imagining are hard things to part from.

      I love that you are seeking renewed confidence, and I hope that you’re tender with yourself along the way. And I am so, so thrilled to hear you are gaining strength from the surgery. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Deborah, and may God continue to heal you on your path to confidence and grace. :)

  • looks adorbs as always. I remember way back when you decided to cut your hair short and how cute that was. Enjoy it!

    • Thanks, Diane! I still miss that pixie sometimes, but this is a pretty easy cut, too!!! :)

  • I just love everything you write. EVERYTHING! I so love that you quoted Cheryl Strayed here, too. I absolutely adore her and your writing styles feel similar to me. I hope you write a book one day, so I can devour it the way I do your blog posts! :)

    • Ohhh you’re so kind, Melyssa. :) And I LOVE Cheryl Strayed! I do, I do, I do.

      Also, a book is in the works, I think. ;)

  • Thank you very much for this post. As this friend of yours, my eyes don’t shine anymore. I have also decided to change, but with joy and expectation, there is also a lot of fear… and your post and the quote have helped me today to feel myself more confident with my decision. Thank you.

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