Color Me Thankful

On this November day, when many of my Facebook friends are recounting their blessings each day, I feel compelled to join in this parade of thankfulness. I am, to my core, deeply thankful and grateful. Sometimes I write about really important, life-changing moments of gratitude here on my blog. I am sure that I will be doing that again some time soon. But today, I am thankful for hair color. Seriously, I am. Today, my devotion to hair color is providing me with an hour of self-care in which to sip some tea, eat a biscotti, and chat with my stylist while my roots are drinking in revitalized color and my shade of choice is re-emerging. And believe me when I say, I was in desperate need of this hour away from the stresses of work and life. Some people consider hair color to be somehow anti-feminist, a cover up of the natural. That may be perfectly fine for them. As for me, I reject that notion. I also don’t pretend I even know what my natural hair shade is anymore (other than the reality that more white appears each day). To me, my hair color is like the frosting on the cake that is me…sometimes subtle, sometimes bold, and always the finishing touch.

Today’s hair color, and the time it takes to apply and set, is also providing me with the first uninterrupted hour I have had to blog since my plane touched down last week. I am grateful for that, too.

Hair color has been a part of my life since my senior year of high school. I was not raised wearing make-up or using any sort of product on my hair other than what could be inexpensively purchased at the store. It’s not that it was banned…it just wasn’t thought of as necessary. Like many luxuries, it was one of those vain things we could live without. So, I was being stealthy…and frugal…one Saturday by following a recipe I found in a magazine for a parsley tea bath that would bring out the “natural red” in my hair. With adolescent enthusiasm, I brewed a hyper-strong tea of fresh and dried herbs and poured it into a tub which I immersed my hair in one section at a time until I was sure it had permeated all my curls. Then, I sat in the sun until it baked in. I didn’t wash it until morning. I have a picture of me with this home-grown, flaming carrot-orange pile of curls, and remember emphatically explaining to my parents “It’s just parsley!” So, my first attempt wasn’t my best. But, I was hooked. After that, the parade of colors began to emerge.

Copper-red was my undergraduate color of choice. I would buy a highlight kit and spend time with my room-mate frosting little strands at a time because I liked the striped effect it provided. This was my signature style, and each strand seemed like a little extension of my true self emerging, bit by bit. Several years later, as I was finishing college and graduate school, working at minimum wage to pay rent and car and tuition, my standards dropped significantly. I purchased whatever brand and color I could find at the discount stores in my neighborhood, changing the color to suit my moods. I would brighten up my hair when things were going well, and then darken it with shades I bought during my dark and angsty moods. Over the years, I went through some gothic moments where dark hair with scarlet undertones told the world to keep a few steps back. Then, my world-view would brighten and I would go with a brighter tone or even…but only once…strawberry blonde. I pretty much have sported two hair lengths: the shorter is an anchor woman style , shoulder length bob which I would straighten with a round brush but curl to frame my face. My preferred is longer, with plentiful curls. At some points “long” has been middle of my back, or beyond. Right now, forty-something is simply longish and a two-shade blend of chestnut and brown. But, it’s my style and I like it.

One of the few things that changed for me when I became a bona fide grown-up academic is that I committed myself to a hair stylist who would help me take care of my hair. So, I am thankful today for Autumn who is all that, and more. In her stylist chair we discuss politics and life and loss and feminism. We have not one but two mutual friends in common, which we have learned through our dialogue. Peroxide bottles of cheap dye during my younger years did take their toll, so now I indulge in organic and botanical products and I consider her my guru in this regard. So, it isn’t just color and cut. It is an indulgance in conversation, an hour long break from work, and a “third place” of being known and taken care of every six weeks. This one indulgent thing that I do regularly for myself conveys a message to my core self: it is ok to care for yourself. It is more than ok, actually. It is essential.

So, whether or not you are blonde, brunette, red, or candy-striped…and even if you want to be all natural, all the time…take in this small point of light in the simple thanks for the indulgence of hair color. This point of light has a message: Take care of yourself. Be the color you want to be in the world. The time you spend in self-care will allow you to take care of others, and to become the change you want to see in the world.

Care of the soul comes in many colors and many ways. Color me thankful today.

About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
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