“So, your hair’s pink now,” she says.
“Yup,” I reply happily.
“But before that, it was blonde for a little while,” she says, frowning.
“Uh-huh. I bleached it so the pink would be brighter,” I explain.
“Right. But before that, you just had pink streaks,” she says, growing uncertain.
“Yup,” I confirm.
“And before *that*, it was sort of red,” she says, her voice becoming more faint with each color on the list.
“Yup. I like red too.”
“But your real color is sort of brown.”
“Yeah, but it hasn’t been that in the longest time,” I say, smiling and wrinkling my nose.
“But…” she trails off into silence for a moment, before resuming, “… *why*?”
“Honey, my hair exists to amuse me. So it all goes horribly wrong. So what? It grows. I’ll get over it.”
To this, she can say nothing at all.
I’ve been doing strange things to my appearance since I was in high school. By my sophomore year, I’d been neatly enfolded into the clique known as The Squids, so called for the ever-so-’80s practice of shaving off all but a small, tangly, black-dyed mop a la The Cure/Siouxie and the Banshees. The apocryphal story goes that someone said it looked like dead squids on their heads. In the way of all good insults, we eventually reclaimed it as our own moniker, so The Squids we were.
The Squids were the punks, the skaters, the music geeks, the drama club, the yearbook kids, and the weirdos. We were also the intelligentsia. When the school administration threatened some of the guys with suspension if they didn’t take off the cannibalized t-shirt sleeves they wore as headbands, we responded by threatening to sue them under Title IX for gender discrimination, since girls were free to wear the very same headbands with no restrictions. We may have been weirdos, but we were smart weirdos not to be messed with.
Over the years, my hair’s been almost every color in the Crayola box. Ironically, the only color I’ve never dyed it is black, the color of choice for teenage rebels and college hipsters everywhere. It always seemed too (get this) extreme. A nice grass green suited me quite nicely, but bright magenta pink seems to be my true element. A friend who helped me attain that hue when my hair was down to my waist several years back once said, “I’d have never believed it if someone had told me, but you actually make me think pink is your natural hair color.”
And it makes me happy, which is the whole point. That’s not easy to accomplish, appearance-wise, these days. The most common comment by adults is, “You’re so brave! I could never do something so drastic!” But when chronic pain keeps me from transforming my body with exercise, and the medications that keep that pain from being even worse keep the very limited diet I stick to from making any difference either, you take your drastic effects where you can find them.
I spend so many minutes of each day cursing almost every quadrant of my body for non-cooperation. It really adds up. The 20 minutes in the morning it takes for the pain meds to kick in so I can start moving; the 20 it takes to find clothes that fit and don’t make me feel like a cow; the 15-minute bargains I make and renew again and again to stretch the time between breaks and naps and more pain meds; the 20- and 30-minute pieces I’m having to scare up for walks and meditation as part of the pain management curriculum I’m in. And then there are the unscheduled, unmeasured moments of despair, when the folds and bulges and sags and curves, and the energy and range of motion and lift capacity and standing strength, don’t match the person you remember being, and you get sucked down until all you can do is sit on the side of your bed, in your bra and panties, and be tired and worry and cry.
So if dyeing my hair pink, or whatever color strikes my fancy, every few months costs $20 and 2 hours, and confuses my kids’ school principal and the girl in my building, but lifts my heart when I pull it back in a rushed ponytail in the morning? It’s just paid for itself.
And every kid who calls down from the top of the monkey bars as I walk across the playground, “Mrs. Banks! Cool hairdo!”?
That’s pure profit.