Tag Archives: grief

punk self.

I recolored the streak of bright cherry red in my hair a couple of days ago. Sometimes when I do that, I remember the first time I put crazy color in my hair. 

My friend Kathy died in October of 2008. My friend Kathy committed suicide in October of 2008. (No matter how many times I say that, it never gets any easier.) Grief manifests in unexpected ways, and one of mine was an overwhelming urge for blue hair. I went to my usual salon and got my hair cut and told Sam that I wanted random chunks of blue. She wrinkled her nose and said, “Really? That doesn’t seem like you. And it’s so bad for your hair.” It didn’t seem like me, but that was the point. I didn’t want to feel like me. Still, I let her talk me out of it, and she did blonde under highlights instead. They were very pretty, and they made me sad. And then over the next few days, they made me angrier and angrier. I let someone else – someone of no personal importance to me, even – tell me who I was and define how I felt about the way I look. My feelings about the way I look are something I struggle with anyway, and having those feelings tied up with my anger and grief was overwhelming. So I bought bleach and blue dye and rubber gloves and the little spatula thingy and Shana, who loves me, spent three hours deciding where to put the blue and then bleaching and coloring my hair for me. I wore my blue hair like a badge of courage and was surprised to find that I’d never felt more like myself, in a really good way.

I never went back to Sam. She gave great haircuts, but bad advice. I switched to Shana’s salon, where everyone has brightly colored hair and lots of tattoos and a dirty mouth and utter acceptance for whatever anyone wants, whether it’s punk or conservative. I’m comfortable there. It’s been almost four years, and since then (except for a period of about six months last year) I’ve had either streaks or all-over color. The blue carried me through my grief, a year of all-over pinky purple gave me confidence (and a lot of entertaining interactions with small kids), and my streak of fierce red is the closest thing to soulmate hair that I’ve had yet. It’s taken me a long time to like how I look. There’s a lot more to that complicated issue than hair, but for me that first choice for defiance – the choice to be obvious, to be actually unavoidably visible – was really important. These days, I’m beginning to feel beautiful, and I love that.