Letting my freak flag fly

“I couldn’t pull it off.” 

It’s a phrase I hear often. I’m not sure if there’s a “and neither can you,” that passive aggressively gets muttered under their breath afterwards. But I’d like to think, perhaps naively, that there’s a part of them that’s a bit envious of the color explosion I call a hairdo. 

In “Life During Wartime,” David Byrne sings, “Changed my hairstyle so many times now, I don’t know what I look like.” This would be my yearbook quote if I were 17 again. But 17-year-old Mel wasn’t bold enough to try a cornflower blue dye job. Twice as old, and giving half as many fucks (maybe fewer), I haven’t sported a hair color that could pass as natural in years. 

Any why would I? Countless people color their hair a shade different than the one they were born with. Why limit oneself to varying shades of browns and blondes in an attempt to dupe society into believing that the carpet matches the drapes, when there are an estimated 10 million colors that the human eye can see? I’d much rather work my way through the spectrum. 

When I sit in that salon chair every few months, I never consider whether or not I can “pull it off.” No one on this earth has genetics that result in a brown>blue>green ombre, so no matter what, it’s going to look a bit…odd. I’ve learned that you just have to own it. 

Now, there’s a big difference between “I couldn’t pull it off” and “I don’t want to pull it off.”

My mother, who is naturally blessed with the shiniest, thickest, stick-straight black hair not seen since Cher in the 60’s, shakes her luxuriously-locked head at me. She thinks I’m killing my hair. “Hair is already dead, ma,” I respond. She has said I look like a clown. She has said I’m too old. She has said that she hates it. And I know that my dear, sweet, hyper-critical mother is not the only person with such opinions. 

But you know what? I don’t do it for them. I don’t do it for the guy at the coffee shop who thinks I look “cool.” Or for the people who stop me in the street to tell me they love it. Or for the lady at Panera who was giving me the side eye the entire time I was enjoying my everything bagel and chocolate chip Muffie last Saturday (yes, I saw you). 

I do it because when I look in the mirror and see those pink, or purple, or blue locks reflected back, I smile. And as a 34-year-old woman who, like most women, spent the majority of her life feeling utterly self-conscious about one thing or another, I’d say that’s a major win.