Don’t Change!

I noticed a few gray’s coming in the other day. This was a strange phenomena since I dye my hair regularly, and haven’t actually seen my natural color in more than 20 years. So, a few grays, as well as some odd-colored roots were the trigger to getting out the spare bottle of hair dye and making some updates. My hair has always born the brunt of my boredom—if I need a change, I go a deeper shade of brown, or possibly strawberry-blond. I’ve had almost every hair color created, excluding maybe platinum blond or jet black.

Depending on when someone met me, or at what point in my life we knew one another, they might think that I am a natural redhead, or others might think that my daughter gets her dark brown hair from me—neither of these assumptions would be true. In fact, I have been dying my hair so long that no one, including my own mother, is certain of my natural hair color. This has actually been a running joke in my family since I was in my teens, and it has never really caused me any concern—until now.

Every time my daughter sees me counting the minutes until I can rinse out the foul-smelling dye from my hair, I think to myself that she will more than likely do this to herself some day. And this makes me very sad. Like most moms, we think our children are perfect the way they are—they way we made them—nothing out of a bottle could ever be an improvement. Of course, this is an unrealistic expectation since this isn’t how they will see it once they are older, and it isn’t how most of us see ourselves—especially living in a society that focuses so much on “self-improvement.” What I do know is that I am modeling a behavior that will have more of an influence on her than whatever I might say otherwise.

I started dying my hair when I was twelve years old, an age when I felt “plain” and insecure about myself. My two best friends were both blond, and they seemed confident, so I thought that by being blond it would somehow change me, make me “better.” At first, maybe I did feel different—I certainly looked different—but in the end I was still me, and like most teenagers, I couldn’t see all of the unique and wonderful things about myself. From that point forward, I tried on all different hair colors, styles, and cuts—from long dark curly hair to short cherry red spiky hair to a strawberry-blond bob—I tried it all.

As I entered my twenties, I had finally found the confidence I lacked in my teens—not based on my appearance but from how I saw myself on the inside. From then on, dying my hair was just an aspect of who I was—it did not define me. When I became a mother, and subsequently began my career, I started to tone down the color and styles—and in fact, now I have no time to actually get my hair cut, so it is long out of neglect, not style. Then, when my daughter was first entering kindergarten, I decided to change the color to match my daughter’s—a rich dark brown. I think there may have even been a time when she thought it was my natural color, and for a moment I wanted to keep the truth from her, but in the end I accepted that she needed to know me for who I am now, as well as who I was when I was young.

My advice to my daughter is to know that her hair will never define her, it will not be the thing to make her feel good about herself, it will not make people like her, and changing it will never give her the confidence that loving herself will give. I wish she could learn from the twelve year-old me so that she won’t try to change herself on the outside in order to fix a problem on the inside. I will never be a hypocrite—changing your hair can be fun, and maybe necessary when grays start sprouting—it’s just best when it is done for the right reasons.

Published by Erin Rehill

A few years ago, my then eight-year-old daughter told me that she wished I could write down all the things I told her so that she wouldn’t forget them when she got older. In that moment, my daughter gave me such a sense of validation, something I hadn’t really experienced in that way. As parents, we don’t often receive confirmation from our children that we are doing a good job, or that we even know what we are talking about. Since that time, I’ve started to pay more attention to the things I tell her, often thinking to myself “Will she remember this when she is older?” So, this is for her, my words of advice to be read, thought about, laughed at, and maybe even used, when she is older.

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