“It’s like that time when men usually buy fast cars — a midlife crisis!”
That’s how Mama recently described my decision to dye my hair blue. Not all of it. Just the ends. And from blue, my hair went to a sort of mermaid aqua after I tried to strip the blue out to go back to pink.
Pink is where it all started.
Sometime back late last fall, I went to a See Jane Write meet-up. As many of you know, SJW is my writing group. It’s a great bunch of talented women that run the gamut from writerpreneurs to poets to bloggers to folks who think they might want to write, but just can’t quite get pen to paper.
Anyway, one of my fellow Janes showed up, and her hair was this beautiful shade of rose gold. Not quite pink and not quite blond, it was the color your hair might be if the setting sun’s warmest red glinted off your golden locks as if to reaffirm the goddess glow you always knew you possessed.
“Who in the world did your hair?” I asked my friend.
“Oh, it’s just shampoo,” she said. “I can’t dye my hair because of my job, so I just wash it in and wash it out.”
Shampoo? Colored shampoo! It dawned on me, that I, a reasonably professional woman, could color my hair too and not worry about the ramifications. Not worry about whether or not it was the responsible thing to do. Not worry about what people thought. Wash it in. Wash it out.
Well, you know the very next thing I did was drive to the beauty supply store to find this magical soap. And I did — Keracolor Clenditioner* in Rose Gold. I went right home and washed it in and got me some goddess glow.
Well, it didn’t take me too long to make the leap from the oh so subtle Rose Gold to Hot Pink. And from there it was a natural progression from Hot Pink to Purple. Well, Purple is smack upside Blue on the color wheel. I mean, what’s a girl to do with all these pretty shampoo colors just waiting to be rinsed in?
And people liked my hair. The compliments kept coming. The bolder I got with my hair color, the more people noticed. And the more they liked it. And the more I liked it. And the more I thought, Why didn’t I color my hair sooner?
Here’s the thing of it though. While Rose Gold and Hot Pink may wash away, Blue has a tee-ninecy bit (read “a whole helluva lot”) more staying power. You see, my natural hair color is what most folks call dishwater blonde — the color the water becomes somewhere after you wash the crystal but before you scrub the skillets. It’s sort of a dull shade. If I still lived on the Gulf Coast and spent a lot of time in the sun, I’m sure my hair would have that golden hue it had back when I was young, but I don’t. That’s why Chase, my beloved friend and hair guru, gives me that flaxen look at the salon. And it is those golden highlights that the pinks and purples and blues cling to for their very little colorful lives.
And that’s why it was to Chase I turned when I got tired of the blue not washing out. I figured he could just work some Chase magic and make it all blonde again. Well, the blue finally faded somewhat after a great deal of bleaching and stripping but a serious shade of seafoam remained. Chase and I got to the point where we really had no choice but to halt the chemical assault on my head or cut the color out. What the hell, I thought, it’s not so bad. I’ll trade my goddess glow for some mermaid glow.
That’s when Mama came for a visit and saw my seafoam hair. And that’s when she attributed my foray into the world of colored shampoos to a midlife crisis. It does seem like a reasonable assumption on her part. After all, I’m fixing to be 50.
And I’ve never done anything too out of the ordinary. Not really. I mean, in college I did get one ear pierced twice. And I’m a little mouthy and have a tendency to cut up, joke around, and cuss, but that’s really about it for this wild child.
I’ve always been “responsible.” While my college friends were seeking fame and fortune in New York, I stayed home and worked. (They don’t have benefits, Daddy would remind me. You have benefits.) I not only stayed in the country, unlike my brother, I stayed in the state, unlike my friends. I did leave my home county.
I did everything you’re “supposed to do.” I got married and produced the heir to the throne. I kept a nice house and shed the baby weight. I belonged to the Y. I played Spades. I made soaps and my own wrapping paper. I worked at several jobs and kept those benefits. I have a Roth IRA for Pete’s sake. I don’t even know who Roth is.
Then I went through an extremely traumatic divorce and was a single, working mother. I soldiered on and kept my benefits. I hugged necks and brought casseroles. Threw showers and teas. Volunteered and mentored. Served chili cheese dogs at the concession stand for the band. Handled my own business and family business. I’ve strapped myself into a pair of Spanx, sprayed my hair into a blonde helmet, and plastered a smile on my face when all I really wanted to do was get a bottle of gin, put on my muumuu, and curl up in a ball in a cool, dark room.
I’ve paid my dues.
I’ve done my time.
I’ve thought a lot about my friend’s words — how she couldn’t dye her hair because of her job. And I realized that how good you do a job doesn’t have a damn thing to do with what color your hair is. Not one little thing. And I thought about all the things I haven’t done because of my job. Or because it wouldn’t look right or seem right or be right. Because I worried what other people might think or say.
So I dyed my hair.
But I’m not having a midlife crisis. You see, I don’t feel like I’m in a crisis. I’ve been in a crisis. A crisis is when you can’t breathe and your face is numb and your ears are buzzing and you look at your reflection in the mirror and a stranger looks back. A crisis is when you can’t hold food down and your hair is falling out. A crisis is when you feel like you’re sitting on top of the refrigerator looking down at yourself crying at the kitchen table. I know what a blamed crisis feels like. This is not that.
I think I’m having a midlife awareness.
A midlife awareness is when it dawns on you that more than half your life has already gone. Gone. Kaput. Sayonara. You become aware of all the things you haven’t done and the places you haven’t been. You think about your misplaced priorities and see what your real priorities should have been. Sure you had benefits. Sure you shimmied into the Leggs pantyhose and wore your shoulder pads and pearls and pumps. You toed the line. You did all the “right” things in all the “right” ways. You worked your very ass off at that job for years and years and years.
Even though your heart wasn’t really in it.
But what for? Sure you had the benefits, but you missed all those school lunches and programs. Sure you worked extra hours for less pay, but you still got passed over for the promotions. Sure you handled everything for everybody, but you missed the adventures and the travel. Sure you were responsible, but you missed the freedom and the goddamned reckless abandon you were supposed to have known. The person you were meant to be — that carefree, creative, intrepid young girl — never got to show her pretty face surrounded by a halo of rose gold locks because she was trapped in a 9-5 … with benefits.
But while more than half my life may be behind me, I’m fully aware that there’s a big chunk of it still ahead of me, Lord willing. And I’m fixing to get my priorities right. And I’m fixing to let go of my Virgo need to be “responsible.” And I’m fixing to carpe the hell out of every diem.
And if dying my hair blue is the “worst” thing I get into, we should all count our lucky stars.