Ever since I worked in a charity and a pretty girl with a dark brown bob and a magenta streak in her hair came to work with us for a day I have wanted to have hair like hers. But I have fretted.
I told someone at the time that I wanted to do it and received a grimace and a derisive ‘why?‘ So I pocketed that idea for later. That was about 17 years ago.
These things stay with you.
I told someone a few months ago that I wanted to do it. She’s a bit of an alternative person, so I thought I’d get approval. She looked at me like I had gone mad, but didn’t say anything. I frowned, confused.
I wasn’t going to tell anyone I decided, I would just get it done then come home and surprise everyone. Like getting a kitten–everyone will love it once it’s a fait accompli, right? But I let slip to yet another friend. She is a similarly middle class, nearing middle aged, middle of the road, Middle Earth (we’re both short) person. She looked at me as if I made a joke, saw that I hadn’t, grimaced (the faces people pull when you bring this subject up) and said ‘Oh‘. The distaste on her face gave me a little frisson of daring, a thrill of rebellion. I know, believe me I know how low on the scale of rebellion this is. All things are relative: I am is the girl who got detention once in high school, and that was for writing on her locker. Wild days.
Then I went to the Netmums blog conference and loved Caitlin Moran’s talk and loved the white streak in her hair and her daring to wear denim shorts, tights and DMs long past the appropriate age for Such Things. I pondered whether or not I would get away with it, bemoaned the day I gave away my DMs because I thought I would never wear them again, and finally decided I couldn’t dress like Caitlin Moran for a variety of reasons (including that I didn’t actually want to, I just wanted the attitude that would allow me to), but I still liked her hair.
I was alone in the lifts at the end of that day and I turned and looked at myself in the mirror surface of the back wall. That morning I had thought I would look like a writer (a cliche writer, but never mind) if I wore my black turtleneck. Truth is, I desperately needed to boost my wardrobe and the only thing I had that was edgy enough for London was the black turtleneck. But my reflection that evening told a different story: Not edgy at all. I had only managed to look like Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give with Jack Nicolson (‘What’s with the turtlenecks?‘).
I almost fell over in shock and despair. I went home feeling annoyed. While I love Diane Keaton, I wasn’t ready to look like the character she portrayed in that movie: sans edgy in every way.
Finally I thought: What’s the big deal anyway?!
And so. At 43 I did it. In December I had Corvette Red (a sort of raspberry red) put in. My hair stylist, Allison, was immensely cool about it. I sat in the chair and she sat next to me, flounced my hair a bit and said ‘so what are we having today?‘ I said ‘the usual‘ like I always say.
‘Tidy the layers, longish fringe (that’s ‘bangs’ to you Americans)…oh and can we talk about colour?’
‘Sure,’ she said and went into a very educational lecture about highlights and something that isn’t highlights but works the same and how it’s better at my age because I don’t have many grey hairs (hardly any, I might add…) and will grow with me or whatever and I listened politely.
‘What about COLOUR though? Like…(I admit it, I hesitated a moment) blue or pink or… do you do that?’
Without missing a beat Allison said yes, and left to get the colours they had in stock and we then talked about kelly greens and bright pinks and deep purples and she managed to have the whole conversation without grimacing once. Very professional. Actually, I love Allison and I wouldn’t have anyone else cut my hair because I trust her to just understand me, so I secretly knew she wouldn’t grimace.
And there it began.
I wonder how many middle aged crises Allison has seen come through her salon.
So what looks did I get when I got home? My daughter was the most thrilled. For real. And she’s at the easily embarrassed age. She hates it if I sing in public. I don’t have an amazing voice so of course I don’t sing in public unless it’s to embarrass her. Anyway, my hair doesn’t embarrass her.
Husband…well. I didn’t tell him. We went on a date that night and sitting opposite me he was mid convo and suddenly stopped: ‘YOU’VE DYED YOUR HAIR!’ He said it in the same tone and voice he might have said ‘YOU HAVE A GREMLIN SITTING ON YOUR SHOULDER!’ Sort of a half warning (watch out!) and total surprise that gremlins actually exist.
He loves me though and allowed the colour to grow on him.
He knew I was going to get more colour this time but he still managed to look surprised again when he walked through the door the other evening to see the blue streak.
‘Your style is normally so classic; why do you want to do this?’ He was genuinely curious. I thought about it. He’s right, my style is classic when I make effort (e.g. for him or when meeting up with friends), but when no one’s looking it’s a bit more prunge, as I said to Jody Brettkelly on one of her posts recently–preppy/grunge (stained boyfriend jeans with twinset, when I’m at home writing–and if it’s cold, I throw on my husband’s flannel shirt from Minnesota. Yep, classic in a parallel universe, perhaps).
I’ve realised that the reason I like the panel of colour in my hair is that I want to show people that yes, you can have a classic style (more or less) and still have a strip of bright in your hair. Anyway, it’s not that radical, it’s just like an accessory. Some women wear big earrings or statement necklaces, I like the bright hair. Classic with a twist.
I suppose that’s the same idea Church’s shoes had when they added green to their classic ankle boots. Church’s is a very traditional British shoe brand (ok, so I think Prada own it now, which may explain the thinking-outside-the-box, but anyway). I love Church’s shoes and in fact bought these ankle boots last year–partly sold on the vaguely subversive nature of the bright green on an otherwise traditional classic.
Helen Mirren recognised the power of subtle hair colour as an accessory when she briefly went pink (after I went Corvette Red in December, I might add).
The other reason? It’s fun. Life is much more enjoyable when you find ways to just have fun.
This week when it was time to get my hair done again I was kind of thinking blue, but then thought it would be fun to ask social media what colour they suggested. Most people said blue as well. And blue it is!
What do you think I should get next time?
And what have you longed to do but haven’t yet dared?
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