Hair, Everywhere

Hair is such an oddly complex thing, mentally speaking. It’s one of the first things people see when they look at us, and an integral part of our personal identity. Many of us hang on to a certain style or color for years just because we can’t see ourselves any other way, and others of us cycle through hairstyles and cuts like seasonal decor.

Our hair often defines us, either by style or cut or color, and while we’re all told not to judge other’s appearances, for some reason, we generally do just that, at least at first. I’m betting that actual first impressions are often made subconsciously, before we even realize what we’re doing, which is probably an instinctual/survival thing.

I was thinking about this and how it relates to my writing (or should), and I’m annoyed and kind of embarrassed to say that…I really don’t know, because this is the first time I’ve given any thought to it. And that’s really not a good answer, because given how important hair is to real people, I think it should have at least a similar amount of importance to my characters and decisions they make. It certainly will going forward, for sure.

I’ve been growing my own hair out for about eight and a half months now, and it’s gone from a short pixie cut to just barely shoulder length at the back (the sides and top layers are still pretty short). It’s a process that has included a lot of ups and downs, both physically and mentally, but the experience isn’t so different from when I first cut it off. I still have days when I just want to chop it all back off, and days when I wish it were mid-back length, and days when I feel like it’s fine just the way it is (not often at the moment – it needs a tad bit more length to pull the flips into nice waves for that).

Eight months of hair growth, from a pixie cut. The three pics in front of my shower curtain are without styling, the fourth in front of my bookshelves is straightened and styled.

When I decided to grow my hair out, several people assumed I’d also be letting it go natural too (salt and pepper with a lot of pepper on the bottom is my “natural” color now). I wasn’t ready yet, so I said ’no’, and have spent a lot of time since trying to figure out how to successfully dye my roots, not just in the front, but also in the back so I can pull my hair up without white showing. Alas, I finally figured out that not only is it nearly impossible to color all my roots every time, but they grow out so quickly that I’d really have to touch them up weekly to avoid them showing at all against my dark brown/chestnut dye job. Also, my hair is thinner than it used to be in some spots, and while it doesn’t stand out so much against the white roots, it’s a rather stark contrast with my darker dye when my scalp peeks through.

Needless to say, there’s really only two good, easy-maintenance choices since I have so many more white roots than I had when I started dying my hair. One is to cut my hair off again, so that it’s easy enough to just dye the whole thing every three weeks, and since there’s only one real style to that, it doesn’t matter if the underside gets missed.

Or I can grow out the henna/indigo as I’m growing my hair longer, and let my natural color take over. That’s the choice that feels good to me right now, so that’s what I’m going with.

I wish I’d been ready to make that decision last year when I stopped getting my hair cut. I’d have pretty much grown out the dye by now, and the process would have been a lot easier. I was already dealing with flippy, annoying hair, so different colors would have just been one more thing.

But I wasn’t ready then, and this isn’t something you can really rush, so I’m starting the color grow-out process now. It could take as long as two years, or quite a bit less if I decide to chop my hair off as soon as the gray is long enough for a shaggy pixie. We’ll see how long I can stand that sharp demarcation line that will be evident on top of my head soon enough. I could just dye the top/most visible roots with a color conditioner too, and I might do that, depending. I just need to see what it looks like when a decent amount of the roots have grown out, and for that…well, it just takes time and patience.

I don’t regret dying my hair for the last…12(?) years or so. I think that and the short hair cut gave me a lot of confidence, and people definitely treated me differently than they had before (that was a lot of what gave me the confidence), which certainly worked to my favor, at least professionally. I think it was very attractive on me, and made me look a lot more outgoing and approachable than I actually am, which served me very well.

But, I feel like I’ve accomplished what I needed to with that look, and that maybe I can afford to be more authentic to my original sense of style and color now (more natural, low-maintenance). I like longer hair (I can always put long hair up, can’t take short hair down), and while the salt and pepper look will undoubtedly make me look older, I’ve looked younger than my age for my whole life, and it might be refreshing to have people not question my age or experience for a change.

It’s going to be another long wait as my roots grow out and look…well, not great while they do. But, a lot of women did the same thing when the salons closed last year, so I’m a year behind the trend is all (story of my life). I think it’ll be a change for the better, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the new ratio of white to brown to black will be when the dye is finally gone.

Updates here and there, as the grow-out progresses. Another adventure begins, and with it, a character or two in a story who has to deal with gray roots, demarcation lines and conflicting emotions about hair.


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