So for those of you who don't know, my hair is blue. Like, bright aqua, color-of-oceans-in-commercials-about-beaches blue. Actually, I dyed it purple about a month ago, and for some reason the red faded out and the blue stuck. So now it's aqua. But the point is, it's a color that is both unnatural and bright.
Sometimes I wish this weren't so. It would be really convenient if I could put it on and take it off like clothes. Because while blue hair is great for my everyday life, it's not super great for job interviews, or going to the midwest where you'll stick out like a bright blue thumb. Sometimes I'm like, "dang, maybe I shouldn't keep doing this because even though I want to and I think it's a fun way to express myself, sometimes it draws waaaaay more attention to myself than I want."
A couple months ago, I had almost decided to let my hair go back to its natural light brown. But then I had an encounter on the train. I was sitting on the green line, as I often do. I and my light-green hair were buried in a book and I was mostly trying to ignore everyone else's conversation, just like usual. And then this probably-mother-daughter pair noticed me. The probably-daughter looked to be about eight, starry-eyed, really excited about the world, all that jazz. And the kid goes, "That girl has blue hair! Hair can't do that!" She sounds really impressed, and sort of confused.
Now, I just sort of smile to myself. I've gotten really happy, bubbly responses to my hair color from a lot of kids, and it always brings me joy. This one three-year-old once told me he was really excited about the fairies that lived in my hair when it was light green, and a kid in my neighborhood told me with this great big smile on her face that she wanted hair the same color as mine, because it looked like a stop sign. (She was right.) So I'm always happy to provide some happiness in kids' lives. And I usually get pretty positive responses from other 20-something-year-olds. Especially other 20-something-year-old girls who also have colored hair. Good conversation piece.
So this kid on the green line says "Hair can't do that!" and sounds super impressed. And then her probably-mom says, in a fairly disapproving tone of voice, "That's right. Hair can't do that. It's not natural. She's probably one of those people."
And now I'm like, oh boy, here we go. I can read talk for "queer" just as well as the next person with functioning ears. And she's not wrong; even though I usually say "it's just hair, I think people read too much into it, I just wanted brightly colored hair so I did it," as an excuse when certain people ask why I dyed my hair, it is something of a signal. And like, of course not all (or even most) queer people have dyed hair, and not all (or even most) people with dyed hair are queer. But I think a higher percentage of queer people have dyed hair than of non-queer people in the communities I've lived in. And like it's certainly true in my case, and that's even a part of why I did it. I'm done hiding.
So! This random lady on the green line is going on about how my hair color is not natural and I'm probably one of those people.
And so I turn over to the kid, bright smile plastered on my face, and I say, "Yep! Hair doesn't grow that way by itself, so I dye it special to make it the color I want." Because damn it, as long as I'm going to be used as a moral lesson for this kid, I may as well teach her about self-expression and how it's usually a positive thing. And it seems to work, too, because she breaks out in the widest smile I've ever seen, tugs on her mom's jacket, and says, "Whoooaaaaa, that's so cool! When I turn eighteen I'm totally getting blue hair with my earrings!"
Then probably-mom (with her earrings, that I guess she doesn't want her probably-daughter to get until she turns 18) shuffles the kid away muttering something that I think was "not in my house," and I figure I've caused enough trouble so I go back to reading my book. They get off a few stops later, and the kid waves to me where her mom can't see. I give her a little parting smile and a wave.
And like, I don't have any way of knowing what their home life is like. But this kid was so smiley and happy about the possibility of bright hair colors that I really hope she's allowed to explore the options available to her as they grow up. And I'm not even really talking about hair color (which actually you probably shouldn't change until you're older because I think bleach is supposed to be even worse for kids' hair than it is for adults'), I'm just talking about like, expressing yourself through your appearance. And if doing that goes against norms, I want that to be okay too.
So yeah. Sometimes my hair is a huge pain, because like, how am I going to convince all these Serious Tech People that I have good ideas when they're so distracted by my hair? And how am I going to convince my extended family that We're Not So Different After All (or at least, I hope we can still talk to each other) when I've literally painted my hair in a way that sets myself apart from them? I don't even like calling attention to myself as I'm casually walking places, so why the hell did I decide to do something to make myself more noticeable?
But the reactions I get from kids are so lovely, and they give me a lot of hope. I feel like that encounter improved that kid's life. And also it's something I like about myself, and it doesn't hurt anyone (except maybe my hair follicles). And so that's why my hair is blue.