I recently did, what some Tik Tok users might consider, a bad thing. I dyed my entire head bright blue.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret it. I’d been meaning to dye all of my hair for a while, and I always knew it was something I’d do eventually, it was just a matter of when. I had bleached highlights before, but this more dramatic change greatly affected my relationship with my hair. I always assumed I’d be the type of person who could dye my hair all sorts of colors, but this adventure proved me wrong.
You see, I’ve never really given my hair much thought. In fact, for most of my life, it was really quite a bother. I’ve always preferred short hair, but coming from a Latino family, the length of my hair was pretty loosely policed up until my quinceañera. Meaning that, even though I prefer pixie cuts and cute bobs, the last time I was allowed to cut my hair before my quinceañera was in seventh grade, to ensure that my hair would be super long for the celebration photos.
So came the day of my quinceañera. I went to Cuba, got the pictures taken, and spent my birthday in and out of elaborate dresses accompanied by suffocating corsets and the unbearable Caribbean humidity.
(Please let it be known that I hate this image).
The day after the party, I sat on a neighbor’s porch as the town barber cut ten inches off my hair and proceeded to give me an undercut. My aunt literally cried, my mother stayed home and I was overjoyed to see the hair come off my head.
I rocked a shoulder-length bob for a few months and rather than let the undercut grow out, I decided the shave half my head instead and pursue a much shorter take on the classic pixie cut. I kept my hair shaved in that style for about six months, though three months in, I went ahead and bleached red highlights into what little hair I had left.
The growing out process was a genuine catastrophe; my hair, which up until that point had always been notoriously straight, began to curl. The baby hairs that grew back post-shave were wavy, and the side of my head resembled the weird, powdery wigs every Founding Father wore. (For my sake and of the effort I’ve put into hiding this tragic stage of my life, photos will not be included.)
I eventually grew my hair out back to its current shoulder-length, though I underwent a short stint with bangs that ended pretty much as soon as I got to Northwestern and lost access to my free hairstylist (aka my mom).
In mid-November, I decided it was time to dye my full head of hair as it was something I’d always wanted to do but my parents never let me. Due to some time complications (love the quarter system), I didn’t actually get around to dyeing my hair until two weeks ago. I traveled nearly two hours south to my friend’s aunt’s salon, where my friend dyed her hair hot pink and I went with a pastel blue. The blue ended up being far too pastel for my liking, so I re-dyed my hair in the Communications Residential College (CRC) 3rd-floor bathroom that same night.
Since then, I’ve definitely noticed a few things. While I like the blue, I miss my old hair. It was less of a chore to care for, and because of the bleach, my waves are now slightly damaged, meaning that even though my hair wasn’t that curly to begin with, it’s even less curly now. The change in texture is definitely jarring, and I’ve resorted to tying my hair up like Sam from Danny Phantom. Also, nearly all of my towels now have blue stains, which I’m not thrilled about.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that, not surprisingly, few people on campus have a whole head of blue hair. This is a little disorienting for me, mostly because I feel like my hair color is now tied to my identity. It’s hard to explain, but prior to dyeing my hair, it never felt like having brown hair was important to who I am. Now that I look like blue fun dip, though, that seems significant to how people perceive me. First impressions have always been really important to me and going into this process, I wasn’t necessarily ready for how it would change other people’s perception of me. Some people now have never seen me with my regular hair. To them, I only exist in this current, smurf-like state. That seems meaningful. Up until now, I’ve lived my entire life with brown hair. Of varying lengths, yes, but always brown. My blue hair, though, is very publicly wrapped up in how people recognize me. It seems inextricably linked to the way I exist in others’ minds. Whereas I feel like someone used to remember me as Melissa, wears a lot of funky hats or has nice eyeliner, now it just feels like Melissa, blue hair.
Then again, to quote my good friend, Zach Bright, “no one really cares about you and that’s amazing.” My hair is just in a temporary state, as we all are. And there’s no doubt in my mind that when the blue fades out and the bleach is gone I’ll end up doing something else to my head; that’s just how I operate.
What this experience has really taught me is that I’m not a hair dye kind of gal, but then again, I don’t regret going blue. It was a fun, 8-hour salon experience and now I am one of many people to have permanently stained the CRC third-floor restroom with hair dye, which is a more common occurrence than you’d think.