I had just finished freshman year of college. After considering dyeing my hair for a few months, I became resolved. But I knew that I had to wait until my final projects were complete. No need to piss off any directors who didn’t see my red hair fitting into their ‘vision’ for a play.
I knew that I would receive more than a few questioning looks about changing my hair color. Hairdressers had told me multiple times that women changed their hair color to my natural chocolate brown. There was no reason to mess with nature. I found this strange coming from women who helped other women mess with the natural order of things for a living. I had let their advice sink in, in the past. But this time, I had made up my mind. It was time for a change.
After 19 years of being a brunette, I would go red. It was the biggest change I had ever made. Bigger than new bangs; bigger than chopping my long, curly hair into a chin length bob. I heard a line from Little Women pass through my mind: “Jo! Your one beauty!” Words that had been shrieked by Amy March after Jo came home with her long hair chopped into a severe bob. Words that I imagined would pass through my family’s minds when they saw me for the first time in 4 months at the airport in two days.
My family had never judged me based on my looks, but it was universally undisputed that my hair was a treasure to be protected and maintained. Never to be changed. Never to be cut. Never ever to be dyed. I had broken this rule before my senior year of high school when I chopped it off. There was a look of deep sadness on my father’s face after I told him I was getting a bob. As if there had been a death in the family.
The dyeing process took hours. Paint the hair. Let set. Rinse. Repeat. I enjoyed listening to my stylist chat with the woman working next to her in rapid fire Spanish. I dutifully read my magazine pretending not to understand their conversation regarding their weekend plans and annoying husbands.
As my stylist put the final touches on my hair cut, I realized that none of my New York friends would recognize me. I would be a new person. Leaving the salon, I hadn’t expected the surge of confidence I felt. It was almost as if I was playing a new character. There was no longer the pressure to play the Sarah that everyone had known freshman year. I could be whoever I wanted. I loved it.
The next morning, I flinched when I looked in the mirror. I hadn’t expected to see a red head looking back at me. I knew my family would be shocked. My hair had never been such a blatant declaration before. Through the phone calls, I diligently kept my mouth shut. I was practically bursting out of my skin as my flight landed at the airport the next day. I walked out of the gate and spotted my family. They didn’t spot me. They were still looking for a brunette when I walked up to them and said, “Hi!”
They looked at me, confused by this stranger speaking to them. Then they shrieked. My sister started squealing, my mom lit up, my dad’s jaw dropped, speechless. Dad had no words for 2 minutes. And then he just said, “Wow. That’s different.” I simply beamed.