January 4th, 2013…
Ok, scarlet may be a slight misnomer if we are going to be chromatically accurate. In fact, as I sit here dripping colour onto the dog towel draped around my shoulders, I could as easily end up vermillion or ginger. Not that it matters. As long as it is vivid.
Oddly enough, given my age, I’m not covering grey hair. I have a few, of course, but would wear them, like the laughter lines, as a badge of honour… sort of a campaign medal for living. But great granny’s genes run strong and her hair stayed dark into her tenth decade. No. Red hair is a statement of intent.
It started a couple of years ago when my 52nd birthday came and went much the same way as all the others for the past couple of decades. Pretty much unremarked. I sort of thought, bugger it and decided to change the mousey brown to something a little more noticeable. I never fancied peroxide blonde… I recall my mother’s highlights that started with the grey hairs in her forties and gradually spread to incongruous yellow by her seventies. Pink was never my style, the family vetoed the bright purple I fancied… probably with good reason… so I went red. And justified it in verse. After all, there are few decent rhymes for ‘purple’…
I dyed my hair scarlet on Tuesday,
I admit that it doesn’t look great…
But a glance in the mirror convinced me
That a girl really should celebrate!
No letters save bills on the doorstep,
No candlelit dinner awaited,
(And even a day or two later,
No envelopes postmarked ‘belated’..)
There were flowers and chocs from the children,
And a couple of much wanted tomes,
A romantic card from the hubby
Who went out and left me at home.
He did say I could buy an outfit,
But as I have exquisite taste
The things that came close to my budget
Did not come so close to my waist!
A friend called to sing Happy Birthday!
(With words written ‘specially for me!)
Then the phone went suspiciously silent
So I made chocolate gateau for tea.
I’d thought of Great Granny that morning,
How she’d say as I braided her hair,
“I take twenty seven pills daily!’
Realising I’m half the way there!
I could dress in velvets and corsets,
Becoming an elderly Goth,
Or be a recycled teenager
In chintz with a vague hint of moth….
So, I dyed my hair scarlet on Tuesday,
It just seemed the right thing to do,
As an aberrant act of rebellion
At having to be Fifty Two!
I cut it too. Short. By the simple expedient of grabbing great chunks and closing my eyes while the scissors created minimalistic havoc of my accustomed curls.
What the verses do not tell is that I was very down at the time. Things were a bit of a nightmare. My son had been discharged from hospital the previous Christmas and as he needed space in his then severely disabled state, my partner and I had been sleeping on the living room floor ever since and our relationship died. Finances were even tighter than usual, I’d been fighting the system on my son’s behalf, working with him to beat his injuries, balancing the needs of the rest of the family like a stack of jugglers plates and, just to round things off, dealing with health issues of my own.
It was time to do something or go under.
I recalled that once upon a time, to assert a change of outlook when I moved to Paris, I had bought a bright red outfit, top to toe. And loved it. So dyeing the hair was, perhaps, a more economical throwback to that.
I remember very well how visible I felt the next day under the stark lighting of the supermarket. I had never dyed my hair before. And it was exceedingly red. Part of me wanted to curl back up into anonymity, but somewhere inside I thought ‘stuff it’, straightened my back, held up my head and walked down the centre of the aisles. I felt like ‘me’ again.
Though the length and colour of my hair are now subject to change without notice, though my circumstances have altered completely, though there have been as many ups and downs as a roller-coaster, I haven’t really looked back since.
And sometimes, that’s all it takes. One small decision, one tiny, seemingly unimportant change, and everything shifts. Not only does it alter our perspective, but reality itself is inevitably changed and the repercussions can spread like a spot of ink in blotting paper.
Meantime, it said only 25 minutes on the bottle. Oops….!