Bye bye, mom hair!
I've had a love/hate relationship with my hair since I was in kindergarten. My mother didn't have time in the mornings to brush out the tangles, so she kept my hair cropped short in a fashionable bob.
I didn't think much about it until the day my classmates compared my style to the little boy on the Dutch Boy paint can. Suddenly, I felt very self-conscious about the way I looked and hated being teased by my classmates.
Despite my protests, my mother kept my hair short for several more years until she felt I was capable of taking care of it myself. Once I was older and had the freedom to do whatever I wanted with my hair, I followed the current trends and wore the same styles as everyone else to be as fashionable as my friends.
Once I was married and had four young children, I didn't have time to fuss with blow dryers or curling irons, so my hair was cut short once again. I wore it in a boring, predictable style that screamed "Mom," but it served its purpose during the years I was busy shuttling my kids to baseball practice, choir, and gymnastics.
When my youngest daughter hit her teen years, she asked if she could dye her hair with some fun colors. I didn't have an issue with her decision. She was an artistic girl, and I understood the need to express herself by breaking out of the norm.
The results were stunning. She turned her long locks into a rainbow of pastel colors and added leopard print that I coveted.
I felt a sudden pang for my youth and envied the fact that I was too old to wear mine in a similar fashion without judgment from my middle-aged peers.
No one would question my daughter's unusual hair color because she was a teenager. But if I was ever-courageous enough to wear mine in rainbow colors, people would assume I was going through a midlife crisis.
I studied my shoulder-length, mediocre hair that was nothing more than a nuisance to me and wished that I had the guts to turn it up a notch like my daughter had. I kept it off my face with barrettes and used gallons of hairspray to keep the curls in place after spending hours with a curling iron.
My husband never had the opportunity to run his fingers through my hair because it was as hard as a helmet when I lacquered it with spray. A tornado could have blasted through my house and my hair would have stayed perfectly in place.
One day while I was in line at a department store, I noticed a woman in front of me with bright blonde hair that reached just below her shoulder blades. Underneath the blonde were strands of rich, cocoa-colored hair, and it was beautiful. When she turned around, I was startled to see that she was close to my own age.
My first impression wasn't of her as a woman in the midst of a midlife crisis or someone who was seeking attention; I thought of her as being courageous and creative with a dash of sassiness. She wasn't letting age dictate how she should look and she was able to pull off her two-toned locks with confidence.
I booked an appointment with my hairdresser and told her I needed to make some changes. A week later, I had platinum blonde hair with dark black strands underneath, and I was damn proud of it. I felt twenty years younger and sexier than I had in a long time.
I continued to color my hair in the two-toned shade for awhile until the black/white hair combo became popular, and women of all ages were wearing the same style. I yearned for something distinct, and found myself flipping through old photographs from my college days when I'd added a few streaks of bright red dye to my hair. It was during a brief time in my life when I felt rebellious and free, and I loved every minute of it.
And then it dawned in me: why couldn't I have all three colors — blonde, black and red? So what if people thought of me as The Mixed-Up Chameleon? I didn't give a damn. It was my hair, and I was coloring it for me, not for anyone else.
I walked out of the salon the next day with three-toned hair and I felt like a sexy badass. For the first time in years, I could look in the mirror and be thrilled with what I saw, and it was incredibly freeing!
Gone was the insecure little girl who was teased for having hair as short as the Dutch Boy. My new hair color represented everything I felt inside: a young-at-heart, fun-loving woman who wasn't afraid of taking chances and who refused to let society decide what was fashionable for a middle-aged female.
Dying my hair wasn't about recapturing my youth or trying to draw attention to myself. The bold colors added a certain mystique to my appearance and instilled a degree of self-confidence that I had been lacking for years.
My hair has grown out since then and is now touching the middle of my back. The red and black are gone, replaced by various degrees of purple beneath the platinum blonde.
Yesterday as I was walking through the grocery store parking lot to my car, a middle-aged woman called out, "I love your hair! I wish I could do that!" I smiled, knowing that all she needed was a little bit of encouragement and the confidence to transform her appearance.
When I got home from the store, I booked my next hair appointment and told my stylist to grab an extra bottle of bright fuchsia dye. I was ready to turn my life up a notch.