I always wanted great hair. In high school there was a whole subset of girls who had this thick, luscious hair. Every time they’d tilt their heads or turn around, it was in slow motion. Boys would stop whatever they were doing, drop their jaws, then drop their algebra book down in front of their jeans.
I was not one of this subset. Oh, how I longed to be.
I tried. I had a shag in fourth grade, the Dorothy Hamill wedge in 7th, a perm in 11th so that I could look just like Julie Christie in Heaven Can Wait. I spent entire summers marinating in Sun-In to lighten the mousey blondish brown my hair had become. I frosted it – remember that? – pulling strands through little holes in an attractive plastic cap. If there was a way to process my hair, I did it.
In my late 20s my hair began to turn gray – I was expecting it, DNA being what it is, but I wasn’t ready for it. I dyed my hair red, brown, almost black, blond, platinum blond, golden blond. Keeping up with it was messy and expensive. But it felt necessary.
Then one day, in my late thirties, I stopped. My mother, who had held onto her youth with various shades of red from Miss Clairol, had decided to stop dying her hair. What came in what pure white. It was beautiful. So naturally I was curious what my hair was up to under the layers of golden blond.
I decided to let it go, see what nature had in store for me. My hair was shoulder length. I could see the new color coming in at the roots if I pressed my hair down, separating my part. I did this periodically over the next two years and several haircuts until I realized what I was looking at was my hair, just the way it was supposed to be. Somehow I missed the whole growing out thing, the dye that was in my hair simply had nothing left to hang onto and so it all faded seamlessly.
The number one question new acquaintances sheepishly ask me? Is that your natural hair color? My own hairdresser told me to tell everyone she did it. It’s this great color of white that works well with my fair skin and blue eyes.
But it was more than a great color, an easy transition; it was a release.
I remember when I decided to stop painting my nails. It was equal parts laziness and wanting to be more natural. Not too long after that I let go of eye shadow, then came the hair, then I stopped wearing so much jewelry. I have been slowly stripping away adornment and camouflage over the past decade or so. I’ve come out. As myself. I feel clear and seen and understood.
I remember a friend in college who swore no one would ever see her without her make-up and hair done. NO ONE. And I just thought, “How exhausting.”
The realization that I could just be who I was came slowly and I’m still working on it. This challenge has shown me where I still have some work to do. And by work I mean letting go. There’s no need to add anything, I’ve been doing that my whole life. This is about revealing, allowing bits of light to break through. Taking it back to basics. We all start out pretty perfect, the rest is just window dressing.
“I used to have straw-colored hair. Horses loved it.” – Jarod Kintz