Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I AM a natural redhead......seriously, I AM.

I get asked fairly often what color is my hair "really". I find this kind of a funny question to ask. No one ever thinks twice about asking a bottle blonde if her hair is "natural" or even a perfectly lowlighted caramel brunette if hers is from a bottle. And  yet, I encounter conversations like this rather often:

A: So what color is your hair REALLY?
Me: I'm a redhead.
Me: Yeah, I'm a redhead.
A: You dye your hair though.
Me: Yeah, I like it a darker red.
A: So you aren't a natural redhead then.
Me: Yeah, I was born with red hair.
A: Then why do you dye it?

UGH! So if an ashy blonde (often called "dirty blonde") lightens her hair to get that "perfect blonde" then she is still considered a "Natural Blonde" because blonde is what grows out of her head, she simply enhances her natural color but a copper top redhead who darkens her shade to a rich auburn isn't a natural redhead because the color you SEE isn't what grows out of her head?!? If a deep chocolate brunette adds golden caramel highlights to her hair then she is simply enhancing her natural brunette and her hair is still considered "natural"....but a strawberry blonde/ginger blonde who lowlights her hair with a medium auburn is told her hair isn't natural. It is a never ending cycle. Just because I choose to color my hair a different shade of red, doesn't mean  I'm not a natural redhead...I just choose a different shade of red!

The truth is, I've been coloring my hair for 20 years. I've been every shade of red under the sun in that 20 years. I've only passed by my natural ginger hue maybe 3 times in all of that and each time I decide that "it isn't me" and that I don't look good with my natural color. I've tried to figure out why  I feel that way. I was teased for my hair color as a kid, not as badly as some people have endured but the teasing was still there. I wanted darker hair....I felt that the brassy copper penny color it grew out of my head was simply not pretty, and made my face look like a tomato. It bleached in the sun and got blonde highlights. If I spent enough time in the sun, I went platinum blonde. I hated it. Blonde is not a good color for me.

I'm fortunate to have a husband who loves me no matter what. He doesn't seem to have a preference on my hair color and he has seen me go through an impossible to count number of shades in the 10 years we have been together. I'm sure though that the cost of upkeep and my constantly changing moods about my hair starts to get a bit annoying. He's a good sport about it though.

After dying my hair (at home) for the millionth time just a couple days ago, I got a darker shade than I wanted.....again. It isn't that it is a bad color, or that it looks unnatural. (I've had some badly unnatural looking shades over the years.) It just isn't what I was hoping for in this case. So I got to thinking and asked myself a question I don't often approach:

"Why am I never happy with the way I look?  Why do I dislike my hair so much that I'm always seeking to reinvent myself?"

The answer is a bit complicated...but the short answer is that the only time I have ever felt good about myself has been when my hair was darker than my natural color.

I've been through a lot in my life, like most people. I have always hidden the hurt rather well, and chose to put on the smile and just keep trucking on in life, but I've always struggled with self-esteem. It isn't that I feel unworthy of happiness....I'm happy with the person I am on the inside. I could list a dozen things I like or feel are valuable about myself that have nothing to do with my exterior self. But I would be lying if I said that has always been the case for me. Any time that I have had my hair close to my natural shade I have ended up in situations and relationships where I am made to feel homely, plain, disposable, unworthy and unwanted. This has been the case since I was quite young, it started with friendships and bled over into my first marriage. Now I know that my HAIR had nothing to do with the way that I was treated by people...not on that deeper level. My hair color was not the reason why my "best friend" told me that I wasn't her best friend anymore. My hair color was not the reason why the girls in my class at church and school purposely excluded me from things, made fun of me and gave me dirty looks.  I tried to be friendly, I tried to be part of things, but I was shunned, laughed at, and outright left out. I was singled out, blamed for things I didn't do, made an example of (even if all I had done was tell someone to stop doing something they weren't supposed to do). I was told I was not pretty, I was called fat (I wasn't fat then...I was athletic), the boys I would have a crush on would always like someone else (one was one of the only friends I had at the time and the other was someone who hung out with all the girls who were mean to me, even though she never was personally mean to me) so I started to compare myself to them.

I was friends with the boys though. They let me hang out with them. They thought I was funny, and I liked sports. But I always heard them talking about the other girls. How this one or that one was so pretty. I saw how they noticed them...and didn't notice me. So I compared myself to them. I looked at the girls who all hung out together. They were all the same. Pretty and thin. None of them had red hair and freckles. They were tan with dark hair and always made up. Every guy friend I ever had preferred brunettes or blondes. No one ever noticed a pretty redhead. Adults liked my hair. Adults said I was cute or that my freckles were pretty....my peers made fun of it all. Or at least that is how I felt about it.

I'm sure it is simply a coincidence that I started being told I was pretty, wasn't shunned by the girls I wanted to be friends with etc after I started coloring my hair. Something so small as my hair color couldn't possibly change if I'm pretty, or if I'm worthy of friendship. But I can't help but feel like subconsciously I have started to associate my natural appearance with those feelings of rejection and bullying.

Over the years I have allowed my hair to go back to a more natural color...close to my  natural shade anyways. The first time I let it go close to natural my (now EX) husband was verbally abusive to me and ended up cheating on me. I went through a nasty divorce and coped by not looking or acting ANYTHING like that person who wasn't good enough. Any time I have allowed my hair to lighten closer to that natural copper I have found myself feeling those worthless feelings again. (Not directed at my wonderful husband, but it reminds me that the person who was abandoned exists still inside me. and I run from her.)

Friendships have been hard for me to maintain over the years. I honestly thought that once you became an adult you didn't have backstabbing, two-faced friends. I was wrong. So my coping mechanism is to change myself, reinvent and move on. In my adult life I have only found myself with true friends when I have felt worthy myself. And each time that has been with a darker shade of auburn as opposed to my natural copper blonde.

The truth is, that I have spent more of my life as an auburn haired woman than I have as a ginger girl. I have only felt pretty when I had darker auburn hair. As a ginger I  felt awkward, plain, shunned, bullied, and over all just saw myself as "less".  The color of my hair hasn't really changed. Inside I'm still a ginger girl....just trying to "fit in" and to be "accepted". I hide that girl as much as I can because I have never felt like she was enough, she was never good enough, talented enough, pretty enough or smart enough. She was "annoying" and a bother.

I see my natural shade on my son, on other women and it is beautiful. And I think, I wish it looked like that on me. My inner Ginger is hurt. My inner copper top hides away where no one can hurt her, where she can't be teased, or thrown away, left out and shunned.

I have started to realize, today actually....as I write this, that I try to fix the inside hurt, the wounds I bury from past friendships, from people I thought cared about me, from my ex-husband and even from people who NEVER took the time to even know me, by changing my outside. When I feel in any way like "less" I decide to reinvent myself, I redye my hair as a sort of therapy. It is the same as people who go shopping, by a new wardrobe, get their nails done and pamper themselves in many ways. I don't stuff my face to feel better, I color my hair. But I realize that I'm just hiding. I'm running. Trying to get as far away from "that girl" as possible.

So I'm contemplating a challenge for myself. To work on the inside, not the outside. Feeling good about your outward appearance is important.....yes. But what good is it to look good on the outside when you are unable to feel like it is good enough?!?

So I'm thinking about ditching the dye. Maybe after 22 years it is time to break up with that bottle. Maybe it is time that I stop having to answer that question "what color is your hair REALLY??" and then stop defending and explaining the truth to people. No blonde or brunette has to defend their "natrualness"....they don't get asked if their hair is "natural" or if they  color their hair....but redheads do. I get it, you don't understand why someone with naturally red hair would want to change it....even to a different shade of red. Maybe like me, they haven't had the best experiences and the one thing they can control to change the way that people treat them is their hair color.

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