Sunday, February 10, 2008

Red Hair Day, or Having Age Both Ways

I dyed my hair this morning. It's red again. My hair is usually a deep brown, with increasing flecks of silver that look like tiny curlicues. I've been dying my hair on and off for years now, which is kind of funny, since when I was a teenager I was completely anti-cosmetics. Part of it was having to do with being a feminist in the seventies, when many of us showed our allegiance to the cause by acting like even lipgloss was the Tool of Satan. When I got older I started experimenting, because I was teaching high school and looked so young that on my first day I was ordered to get a hall pass from the office by a fellow teacher. By my thirties I would doll upon the weekends, and it was fun because it wasn't every day.

My mother dyes her hair red, also. Her natural hair color is lighter than mine- she claims it's mouse-brown. I have no idea what my mother's natural hair texture is like anymore. I can only imagine that it's slightly less woolly than my own. While I've seen my mother's scalp go ever so slightly natural, I've haven't seen her hair in full bloom since I was maybe 7, when she had a fashionable afro for a while. Ad even then, her hair was red.

When I started dying my hair, I did so by worshiping at the High Church of Manic Panic. I wanted a hair color not found in nature, except on flowers. I realized that I was simultaneously mocking and paying homage to my mother's Nice and Easy fetish. For me, hair color was about wanting to look unnatural in a totally different way. But I've never been obsessed, and as I actually like my normal hair I've often left the Manic Panic (or henna, or clairol, or whatever I was using at the moment) alone.

But every now and then the face that looks back at me seems tired and wants a change. Lipstick will cheer me up; I'm a creature of habit and buy similar shades every time. But coloring my hair makes me feel as bright as a new penny, and I treat color like wearing a hat- I'm not loyal to any particular shade of red.

Today's shade actually looks normal, maybe because today I want to cover the silver, which is beginning to annoy me. It's annoying my because I feel about 20 today, and my hair says maybe 30. My birth certificate says something else entirely, and if I weren't so vain I'd be happy to be mistaken for 30. However, I want to be a young flirty matron, not a grave one, so on went the hair color. When I teach I like to claim how elderly and cranky I am, and there are days when I actually feel that way- but I like being young, too. It's nice to have that choice, since so many women don't.

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