I was checking in for an appointment yesterday, and the receptionist commented on my hair. Yes, it’s still Irish setter red, and it’s long now–much longer than in my photo. (But I’m thinner in that photo, so it stays.)
Then she said something that stopped me dead in my tracks.
“I would never have the courage to do that,” she said.
Now I’ve done some things that took some deep breaths and the proverbial leap off the edge in my life. Although I wouldn’t call myself a huge risk-taker, I’ve put myself out there from time to time.
But come on….dyeing my hair?!
It’s true I had some kind of “integrity” thing going with my hair for many years. I never colored it or frosted it or did anything outre’ with it.
Then one day just before a show I thought, “It’s just hair.” I went to the drugstore, looked at all the shades of vivid red, and picked one that I thought would go well with my booth. (Garnier #660 Intense Auburn, just fyi.)
It’s darker than my natural shade used to be. I was a sort of strawberry blonde like Donna in “That 70’s Show. (Truth in advertising: I am not saying I look like Laura Prepon, I’m saying my hair used to look like hers.) This shade is darker and deeper. But people comment on how good it looks and say it suits me. So I stay with it.
So why do I keep dyeing my hair?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not to “look young”. I don’t really think raging red hair really negates all the other signs I carry that scream “55!!”
Part of it is the stage of life I’m in. A desire not to go “gently into that goodnight.” I asked my daughter and a friend of hers if I should let my hair go back to roan/grey. Both of them said, “No!” When I asked why not, they both said, “It’s not time.” (I’m not actually sure what they meant by that, but it sounded good.)
Part of it is, I still have amazingly thick, healthy hair. I realize there will not be many years left to simply have outrageous hair. (At some point I’ll be lucky if I have hair.) So why not enjoy this last long fling of hair?
And part of it was realizing I was making a big thing about having natural hair color, when there was so much fun with hair to be had.
But it wasn’t an act of courage. I figured if it went awry, I could always dye it back or get it cut. It is, after all, just hair.
To me, many other things are truly courageous. It takes courage to make your own artwork and get it out into the world. It takes courage to make a marriage work–or to leave a bad one. It takes courage to be a parent, or to parent a kid that’s not even yours. It takes courage to stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves. It takes courage to hear those awful words,”You have cancer” and try to figure out what your life will be like for the next six months.
As I thought about the receptionist’s words, I realize it’s all relative.
Some of us are brave about some things, and not about others. I climbed a wall that was 40 feet tall, my heart pounding and afraid to look down. On the other hand, I freak out about something as simple as walking into that new NIA class, afraid I will look different or dance weird. I spent thousands of dollars, packed my booth and shipped it across the country to do a wholesale show. Yet I can’t bring myself to pick up the phone, call a gallery owner and ask it they’d be interested in carrying my work.
After all, courage isn’t always about personality, or a one-time choice. Courage is about taking all those little steps that get you to the person you want to be. It is something we have to choose, over and over again, in big ways and little ways, every single day.
So maybe that receptionist was right after all.
Maybe it is just hair. Maybe it’s not courage.
But as I look in the mirror this morning, I see what she meant.
Maybe it’s just my little, visible, personal reminder to try again, every day. to be brave.