“See Kimberly, those kids want attention. ”
My grandmother gestured toward a group of high-school kids lurking near Hot Topic, on the lower-level of Woodbridge Center Mall. (For those unaquatinted with the ’90s, Hot Topic was once an overpriced “goth” store—think Macy’s but for outcasts—and not a shitty whatever-the-fuck it is now, and malls were places people shopped before Amazon.) From their size I assumed they were 17 or 18. Each had a mohawk or half-shaven hairdo, tattered jeans, and camouflage vests covered in semi-ironic patches—since I am sure they covered no holes. They wore black Doc Marten’s and their hair colors ranged from deep red and neon green to traffic cone orange and reflective tape yellow.
I’ll never forget those colors, those bright and beautiful colors.
I started “playing” with color when I was 15—temporary of course, my mother wouldn’t dare let me dye it. I placed little streaks of lilac or bold blue throughout my blonde hair with a small, mascara-like wand. I carried a tube of it, no larger than lipstick, everywhere.
When I turned 18 I went color crazy. It started subtly. First I toyed with semi-natural shades of red, from strawberry to cherry Coke, but before long my choices were bolder: I went with fire engine, indigo, cotton candy, “Purple Desire,” “Lusty Lavender,” some shitty shade of emerald-green and, eventually, black. And, once there, I always had the same goal: get back to blonde. I have cycled through these shades, and a few others, many times over the last 12 years. (In fact, I don’t think my hair has been the same color for more than four or five months.)
To color and what shade to color; that is always the question. But everyone else asks a different question: “why.” (Some even go so far as to say “oh, but you were so pretty!”)
I don’t know why my hair color effects anyone else, but apparently it is a topic of conversation. I always feel like responding with the same question “well, why do you color yours?” C’mon. I know your hair is gray even if you try to pass it off as bleach blonde or chocolate-brown. But I never do. Poor taste.
After my daughter was born my default answer to “why” became “I’m teaching my daughter her colors with my hair.” But here’s the truth: Sometimes my hair is the only “color” I see in the course of a day. Depression is black and white. Sometimes shades of gray slip in, but on a tough day, depression is colorless. My life is colorless. But my hair, be it purple, red, green, or even pink—with faded white patches—is full of color. It is bright and beautiful. It is unique, and it is mine.
Today I still get crap and questions, questions and crap. But my color makes me happy. My color reminds me I am alive, even when I don’t feel that way. It may seem strange or insignificant but sometimes it is the little things that keep us going, that keep us smiling.
Now please excuse me while I go dye my hair…again. (It’s currently some boring shade of brown and I can’t stand it!)