Purple is my favorite color. It has been as long as I can remember, and by now it is part of my identity. Everybody who knows me at all knows this. It’s not just an “Oh, I kind of like purple” kind of thing. If something can be purple, I want to make it so. I buy purple clothes, purses, jewelry. I have purple shoes and purple cowboy boots. As a teenager, I painted my bedroom dark (very dark) purple. My first brand-new car was a purple Saturn, and when I get my current car paid off, I want to get it custom-painted a glossy royal purple. Most of the yarn I buy is some shade of purple because that’s what calls my name.
A few years ago, I started thinking, “Why not purple hair?”
I never did much with my hair when I was young. It was long and blond, my mother liked it that way, so aside from one disappointing perm when I was 14, I left it alone for a long time. When I went away to college, I felt free enough to experiment a couple of times with box dye, but I was the only one who could tell a difference. I was never bold enough to do something drastic…until I cut it all off.
I got a chin-length bob my senior year in college, and loved it. Nope, my mom didn’t love it, and maybe I would have liked her to pretend, but it didn’t change how I felt about it. And I knew it didn’t change how she felt about me. After that, I experimented with my hair quite often. Since then I’ve been through so many different hairstyles, I can’t count. I did super short, a la Halle Berry. (Sadly, I did not look as good as Halle Berry.) I had an oddly feathered ‘do that was reminiscent of Princess Diana.
With all the different cuts, though, I never dared to mess with the color. As I got older, my hair darkened to an ash blond, so I’ve gotten highlights many times to maintain the illusion of being blond. Shortly after I hit 30, I felt bold enough to go dark, to a brownish auburn. It was a lovely color but when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see me, and I soon went back to the blond.
A few years ago, I started getting the itch to color my hair purple. When I first mentioned it, my best friend (also my boss) laughed and said that was a crazy idea. My son said the same thing (and I knew my mom would too). I believed them and settled for a bright streak, first pink, then purple. I loved that little bit of color in my hair, and made sure to style it so the color was noticeable. That didn’t quell the urge, though; I wanted more.
I’m a pretty conservative person, and I’ve always been concerned about what people think of me, so most of me couldn’t imagine going for a shade that would turn people’s heads. I was the good daughter, the smart girl, the one who fulfilled expectations and didn’t rock the boat.
The last few years have changed me: I’ve dealt with several deaths in the family, I quit my job to stay at home with my kids, I cut ties with that best friend. Now, I’m tired of being that person. I’m tired of making decisions based on what other people think. When I first floated the idea of dying my hair purple on Facebook, the response was resoundingly positive. Sure, some of the people were probably encouraging me so they could laugh if it looked ridiculous, but I think most of them saw it as I do: a fun expression of creativity and personality.
But what surprised me the most was how many people said they wished they were brave enough to do it. They’d thought of red or pink or blue, but just couldn’t do it. Coloring my hair, brave? I hadn’t thought of it like that. Silly, maybe. Unnecessary, sure. But when I did think about it, I realized they were right. Purple hair gets you noticed. People look and stare and talk. Was I confident enough to be able to pull it off? It’s a big commitment too–I wouldn’t be able to change it easily if I didn’t like it.
I was eager, but scared too. Ultimately I decided that I could choose to be brave. I wanted to be brave enough to do something that scared me. I wanted to do something that might encourage someone else to break free of expectations and do something bold. My life is my own, and I’m learning that I’d much rather try things, even if I fail, than regret not doing them.
Why purple hair? Well, why not? I love purple, why not have a part of me be purple? After all, this is just hair. It can be cut off, it can grow out, it can be re-colored, it can be covered up with a hat. This isn’t brave like soldier-brave or firefighter-brave or policeman-brave. This is just Be Yourself Brave. This is just Try Something for the Fun of It Brave.
So now I have purple hair. It’s darker than I expected, and it’s taking a bit of adjustment. But I love the colors I see in the mirror, even if I’m still learning to see them around my face. I love seeing people’s reactions. Sometimes their mouth drops open and they just stare. Sometimes their face lights up and they say, “I love your hair!” Sure, I get the puzzled looks and the “Wow. You…dyed your hair…purple.” But I also love that none of it really matters to me. Okay, that’s not quite true: it does still matter, a little. I guess what I love is that I’m *trying* to let it not matter. I’m the same person now as I was a week ago, and if someone can’t see past the purple to see that, well, that’s their loss.