Sunday, February 23, 2014


My adventures as a redhead, no matter what hue, illustrate the personas I tried as I grew into womanhood. The color, the length, and the style reflected my mood, my outlook, my perception of my place in the world.

I became a redhead the summer between junior high and high school, thanks to Miss Clairol. Born Irish-American I had the peaches and cream complexion of a redhead, even had a splatter of freckles scattered across my nose, but my mother's genes from her luscious dark brunette hair mixed with those Irish genes of my dad's and the combination resulted in a mousy bland brown on my head.

That all changed in 1960. In less than an hour I became a reddish blonde.

I stayed that way for the summer, but I quickly selected more exotics reds as I moved through high school and college: Coppertone, Sparkling Sherry, Red Ginger. Oh, how I loved those rich, vibrant colors. If I were meeting  you for the first time, I didn't have to describe what I'd be wearing. Instead I'd say, "I'm a redhead." And sure enough, you could pick me from the crowd. Being a redhead was bold.

When I graduated from college and started working as a journalist, I changed from Clairol to L'Oreal. It cost about a dime more, but as the commercial said, I was worth it. It was the sixties and I was feeling the feminist stirrings of self worth. Of course, in Texas, that meant Big Hair--and the attitude to go with it. Bold became bodacious.

The length and style changed over the years as well. I wore it shoulder length. I wore it in a French twist. I wore it in a ponytail. I cut it short and spiked it with hair product. I grew it into a classic bob. I adorned my hair with turquoise burettes, silver clips, velvet headbands, fresh flowers, and braided leather. My hair was silky and thick, with a natural curl that I hated in my teens and twenties but embraced from my thirties and beyond.

For fifty years, until my hair turned so gray that the auburn dye faded too quickly, I lived life as a dramatic redhead.

Truth is, I felt unsure and insecure at many stages in my life, always thinking I needed five points added to my IQ and ten pounds deducted from my weight. So I hid behind fiery bravado. In essence, color from a bottle transformed me from blah brown to radiant red; it was an affordable and immediate transformation. I might be quaking inside but my exterior shouted brassy and sassy. It was the narrative I was writing for myself and eventually I became the character of my own invention. With each new chapter in my life, when it came time to reinvent myself, the color red was always a part of the ritual.

What is the story of your hair? How has your crowning glory changed through the years?