Hair apparent

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but what about hair by any other color? A tribute to my pink mop and a shout out to those who march to the beat of a different style drummer.

“Oh, no! But your hair is your superpower!”

“You know what else is my superpower? Being able to pay my rent.”

My year of living in pink is over.

For reasons I won’t go into here, I have to change my hair from its current fuchsia color to something “natural.”

At first, I fussed because whether it’s my body, my clothing, my art, or my point of view, I hate being told that anything about me is not acceptable. There are people who can hear that sort of thing and not take it to heart, but that’s not me. In fact, when it comes to any kind of criticism, I open the doors to my heart, stand outside like some sort of heart butler, bend at the waist while motioning in with one arm, and sing “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast. Sometimes, it’s a terrible way to live.

Also, I’m rebellious. If you tell me the sky is blue, I’ll find no less than four pieces of evidence to the contrary. If you ask me to then look it up on Wikipedia, I’ll read you the entry, aloud, omitting the words that prove your point and emphasizing the words that corroborate mine. Does that make me tiresome? Yes. Does that make me tedious? Yes. Does that make me…wait, where was I going with this? I can’t remember because now I’m a little bit sad.

Oh, yes. Because my hair has been no less than 50 different colors in my life, I thought I wouldn’t care so deeply about the transition to number 51. It turns out, however, that I do.

Technically, hair is just one of the things that identifies us as mammals: providing warmth, protection, and heightening our sense of touch. But hair is more than “a filamentous biomaterial, that grows from follicles found in the dermis,” it’s a form of self-expression. And my pink hair has become important to me.

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I struggle with prosopagnosia, or face blindness, which means I am unable to identify people based on their facial features. Having pink hair has always enabled others to quickly identify and seek me out, instead. When arranging meetings, whether for business or pleasure, I’ll let the other party know that I likely won’t recognize them and they should go ahead and find me. “Just look for the girl with pink hair,” I’d say, which wouldn’t have gotten you very far in my hometown of San Diego but is more than enough in Richmond.

Being so easily identifiable is also fun. From time to time, I’ll go for a long run and come home to three or four tweets or Facebook status updates declaring that I had been spotted in some part of town, weaving through traffic or passing by someone’s office window. In fact, I was all the way in Virginia Beach, warming up for the half marathon, when a fellow runner approached me saying she knew I had to be me, because who else would I be with that hair. Even when I’m just out and about, I’ll periodically be approached by someone saying “Are you The Checkout Girl? I recognized you by your hair!” It’s like Where’s Waldo: The Pink Hair Edition, which, if it actually existed in book form would be for newborn babies or people over 100 years old–because I stick out like a sore thumb.

But the thing I like best about my hair is that it makes me approachable. If you’ve never met me in real life, my admission that I’m actually very introverted will probably make you cock your head like a puppy who has just heard the rustle of the food bag in the next room. However, if you’ve met me, you probably smelled the stench of “I just want to be home watching cartoons with my kids and my cat” on me from a mile away. While I’m gregarious, it’s a cover for someone who is, in reality, shy and socially awkward. In fact, I frequently go overboard in the other direction, thinking I’m fooling everyone like someone who has had too much to drink and is driving overcautiously. I also have a mouth that turns down naturally, which gives me a sullen look all the time. “Why are you mad?” you’ll ask me many, many times in the beginning of our relationship before you figure out that I’m not mad, that’s just how my face looks.

So, all of this means that I’m unlikely to approach strangers, ever. But, man, do they feel comfortable approaching me to talk about my hair–men and women alike. I can’t tell you how many nice people I’ve met and had wonderful, non-hair-related conversations that I’d never have experienced without them opening with “Cool hair.”

And a lot of people have that one thing. A friend of mine has quirky eyeglasses and whenever we go out people comment on them, starting some great conversations. Another person I know has a large pin in the shape of her first initial and wears it everywhere; it’s always fun to be with her as people try to guess her name. Another friend has some badass tattoos that just beg for questions and admiration from even the most conservative of strangers.

I’ve always admired those who march to the beat of their own idiosyncratic drummer, caring little about what’s on trend or in style. You know, the ones you would never see in print magazines, which are so twenty years ago, but who are all over the internet, making different look good. Shopping at Macy’s? Maybe, if Macy was your grandmother but she died and we are going through her closet. I love those people.

Now, as I transition to something more natural and, likely, will be convincing the powers that be that some people are actually born with red hair, I’m going to have to adjust. Unless I want to retreat completely into my shell and be lost forever to cats and cartoons, I’ll need to learn new ways to relate to people and to express myself. It won’t be easy, what, with this frowny face of mine, but that’s personal growth. All that’s left is to find my new steez. Is twenty pounds of loose skin a thing, because I could totally make that work.


Photo by: brandongreer

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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