It started as dark chestnut with auburn highlights, which is a fancy way of saying brown. I loved playing with My Little Pony when I was a child, and I think that’s where the obsession with purple hair started. One of the anthropomorphic horse dolls that was my favourite had pinkish purple hair interspersed with strands of glittering purple tinsel. In video games where you decide what your avatar looks like, if there was an option to choose purple hair, I took it.
I was always afraid of bleach. My older sister once tried to lighten her hair and it went that ghastly brassy orange. I thought bleach would make all my hair fall out, or be so damaged I’d have to shave it. I dyed my hair all the time with box dye, black or burgundy, thinking that was fine, but to go lighter so that I could put in vivid colour was never something I felt comfortable doing on my own, and I was too cheap to pay good money to a salon.
After University I became friends with a hairdresser. She said she could make my hair purple. I babysat her cats while she was on vacation, and in return I would achieve my life’s goal of hair the colour of grape Koolaid. The day I was going to make my dream come true, she called to say she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to reschedule. The first red flag. It was the only day that worked, so I came in anyway. She showed me some samples of what the colour would look like, they looked pretty good. She then said I didn’t need to lighten my hair beforehand. The second red flag. Looking back, I should have insisted she bleach it and colour it the colour I wanted, not the brownish plum that looked almost purple if the sun hit it in a certain way.
I found a new hairstylist. We are a better match, but I’m still too cheap to pay over $30 without wincing. I was at a point where I still didn’t believe it was possible that I could ever have purple hair. I joked about altering my DNA so it would just grow that way and never need a touch-up. She recommended a wig. I saved up some money so that I could afford the hair appointment, as well as colour-safe products and a straightening brush. It came to several hundred dollars but it was worth it.
She painted on the lightener, and in an hour my hair was a silvery white. It was already more beautiful than I’d ever seen my hair. I chose teal, blue, and purple and it came out brighter than all of the peacocks in the world at high noon. It was real, it was happening. Old men would stop on the street and stare at me, people would compliment how well it suited me, my students thought it was amazing. My mom worried the school would fire me for being unprofessional but it’s the twenty-first century and teachers no longer have to worry about the length of their skirts and their petticoats. The dress code says you can’t show your underwear, but doesn’t comment on hair colour. I would come home and look at my hair in the mirror, brush it, twirl it around, I just loved it.
It faded out to pastel colours of mint green, baby blue, and lavender. I found I loved the colours during the fading process as much as when it’s freshly coloured. I went back a few times before I realized I could use semi-permanent vivid colours at home with similar results. I’ve been using Ion from Sally Beauty, I’ve tried purple, hottie pink, sky blue, radiant orchid, and lavender. If I wait until my hair fades out I can reapply the colour at a fraction of the cost. The dark purple fades to a denim blue, and when I add pink it becomes the purple I was searching for all these years. As an artist, I like playing with the layers of colour. I am still hesitant to do any lightening at home, and now have to save up for a professional appointment to get my roots done.
When I see a woman with bright blue or faded out pink hair at the gas station or wherever, I feel like she is my soul sister. We are connected, the way people who ride motorcycles wave at other people riding motorcycles as they drive by. We have unicorn hair, mermaid hair, whatever you want to call it, My Little Pony hair. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to natural.