We Believe

Uh-oh. This was not turning out the way I wanted.

My hair had turned a most unnatural shade of red. Burgundy, really. I should not have bought this dye just because it was on sale. They had discontinued my favorite kind, called “Natural Essences” and I have been casting about for a replacement.

See that? NATURAL Essences. If I am going to fake color my hair I want it to be natural. This burgundy nonsense screamed to everyone who saw it that I was a fake.

I wanted to be fake, but not so that people could tell. I am not alone in this. There is a reason why even grocery stores carry hair dye. When I was younger, I could pick a color and try it on, because it was fun. Now, I can see bright flashes in my hair. The dreaded grays.

So I feel compelled to be diligent with my hair coloring. I want to be seen as young.

I want other people to see me and react to me as young and attractive. I want to look in the mirror and approve of myself and look forward to how people will see me.

This burgundy did not meet my approval. I had seen ladies with this shade, and it was acceptable. I could have gone to any job interview and been professional with my hair looking like that. But it clashed with my personal aesthetic. It looked weird on me.

I didn’t want something so different. I wanted subtle.

Shaking my head at my reflection, I knew I had to fix this. I didn’t want to be seen like this!

So what do I do? I immediately take a selfie and post it on the Internet. I needed the intimate commiseration of a few hundred of my closest friends. I’m not saying it is logical, but that’s what I did.

I’m not ashamed of my choice to color my hair. We have a social contract. We agree to believe that women really are what they present.

Hair dye has been around forever. Henna has been used for 6000 years at least. Red! Hair! It is rude to suggest that my red hair isn’t the way God made me. Of COURSE I’m a natural redhead.

But I am having trouble owning this burgundy. It clashes with my life. I don’t feel beautiful as I walk around. I had to do something to change this.

I was so mad at myself. I knew better. This is not what I wanted. I had to go find a fix.

I can imagine 6000 years ago, henna ladies had experienced the same problem. “Not THIS shade! What have I done?”

This is where the snake eats it’s own tail. I want to present a certain image. I want to be pleased with what I see in the mirror, and a big part of that is how I think others will be pleased with what they see.  What I think others will think.

Others agree to believe.  Only one or two percent of the world is redheads. It’s dramatic, to have bright red hair. So when ladies choose to henna their hair, they are taking on a rarity. I am one of a hundred! I have red hair! And society? We buy it. We accept it. We suspend our disbelief.

That’s why it’s been around so long. If we women make the effort, it is accepted. People grant the status, the favor of rarity. Even if we are sort of faking. Why not believe? What’s the harm?

So after I decided that my color was unacceptable to me, I took efforts to change it to good. It’s not like I wore a bag over my head. I did go out in public. I didn’t get criticism, people mostly didn’t talk about it.

Of course, there were comments on the internet-posted selfie. I asked for it. Some people were critical. Most were nice.

Even more were silent. I posted the progress, after I’d lotioned and potioned out the glaringness of the color and updated my friends on my journey. The usual suspects made comments.

I’d achieved hair parity by Sunday, and almost forgotten about it. Then a sort of debut of the hair happened at church. It turns out a lot of people were paying attention silently. “Your hair looks pretty!” they said.

Really? I didn’t think that many people were following my drama. It turned out more people cared than I realized.

Even more than I realized. These lovely friends made a point to tell me I was loved and accepted. Sometimes that is what “Your hair looks pretty!” really means.

I suspect they would have loved me and been sweet even if my hair had remained the burgundy color I hated.

Most people are really nice. Most people are willing to see our best selves if given half a chance.

Six thousand years of history tells us that society will buy it. You are one of a hundred, nay, one of a million.  At least today, because you made the effort and that counts for something.

Maybe it counts for everything.