everything but the boots: vintage, the boots: Lucky
I haven't seen my natural hair color since I was in 6th grade. My family was the first on the block to have both internet access and satellite tv, and this influx of social accessibility formally introduced me to the primary constituents of the misanthropic slob era known as Generation X. I spent hours in elementary school sitting in front of screens, my face two inches away from the flickering lights. I watched MTV2 in its first incantation: an awkward excuse for a VJ standing in front of a stark white wall introducing music videos that nobody cared to see. They were mostly by his friends' bands: punk and ska and terrible grunge. I watched late night comedies about suburban rebellion. I used AOL Search to find photos of my favorite bands. I became fixated on the aesthetic of misunderstood teen angst, and oddly-dyed hair seemed to be at the root of it. You can hate me for that pun; I kind of hate myself for making it.
One day in the 6th grade, I saved my lunch money and rode my bike to the grocery store after school. I stood in the cosmetics aisle, laboring over the options: ten hair colors that my local Vons had decided were common enough to be desired by suburban housewives. There were no blues or greens or hot pinks of the Generation X teen rebellion. Instead, there were champagne blondes and chestnut browns and autumn reds. I scoured the shelf looking for the least common of these typical hair colors and settled on "Black Cherry".
I dyed my hair myself in the bathroom before my parents came home from work. Much to my delight, the tame dark red brown that was present on the box did not translate well over my dishwater blonde hair. Instead of a slight variation on a typical hue, my hair turned a dark purple-black. Streams of purple-black stained my face, coming down from my forehead as though it had been incised and I had bled robot oil from the wound. I put on a metal ball-chain necklace and locked myself in my room to brood and listen to Alice in Chains and play Super Nintendo. When my father came home from work, he gently opened my door. I stared up at him from an inflatable chair on the floor, pre-tween angst in a room with floral curtains and my name in puff-paint on the closet door. He was quiet for a moment before smiling. "I like your hair," he said. I broke character and smiled, too. "Wanna play Donkey Kong Country?" I asked. He sat down on the giant bean bag puff next to my inflatable chair and picked up the Player 2 controller. I put on my new Garbage CD. We were halfway through the album when my stepmother came in. She stared at my hair. Her eyebrows were angled, her bottom jaw jutted outwards, her arms crossed against her chest. "For god's sake, Madeline," she said. "You got hair dye all over the bathroom floor. Can you clean it up before dinner?"
Given my liberal upbringing, I managed to make it a quarter of a century and three times around the color wheel before anyone pointed out to me that there might be something peculiar about dying your hair weird colors. It wasn't until Brit and I went to the Long Beach Antique Fair last month that I was made aware that in certain parts of the country, erratic hair dying was not typical behavior. Not two seconds after entering, I heard someone say, "Hey, green hair!" I thought he was addressing me, calling me "green hair" in order to get my attention. After all, I do that sometimes to strangers when they drop something and scurry away. "Hey, blue shirt! You dropped your wallet/cell phone/sweater/small exotic tropical marsupial companion!" I turned around to look for the caller, expecting to find someone with an outstretched hand holding my iPhone. However, there was nothing. My eyes shifted left and right, canvassing the crowd, but alas, there was no benevolent stranger. I shrugged and turned around to catch up with Brit. I found her at a booth looking at tabletop trinkets. "Ooooh!" I said, picking up a set of tiny maracas. I shook them over the table, pinching their miniature handles between my thumb and index fingers. It sounded like they were filled with rice. As I looked at them, my focus shifted onto the woman sitting behind the booth, her face at level with the minuscule musical instruments. She looked at me with tight lips, her eyes wide. "Hi!" I greeted her enthusiastically. "Your hair is green," she replied. "Yes," I said slowly. "Yes, it is green." She must be entering early stages of dementia, I thought to myself. How very sad. I gave her a sympathetic smile and set the maracas down. Brit and I continued down the path, stopping at a booth of turquoise and coral jewelry run by two eccentric women in their 60s. They wore old hippie garb and piles of bracelets. I leaned over the jewelry cases, eagerly listing off everything I wanted to see. After naming two-thirds of the case, I looked up at them, a smile on my face, excited to try things on. However, my smile was not returned. Instead, the women stared at me with perplexed expressions. My mouth fell into a concerned frown, my eyes heavy with worry. "What's wrong?" I asked. "I'm sorry," one said, shaking her head as though coming out of a daze. "It's just that your hair is green." In that moment, I understood. "I'LL TAKE FOUR RINGS" I said slowly and loudly, holding four fingers up on my left hand. The antique market was surely a charity event for victims of dementia. What a noble endeavor.
It wasn't until a man in an American flag tee shirt and khaki shorts walked by me five minutes later and yelled, "Somethin' happened to your hair!" that I finally realized what was going on. "People are weird," I said to Brit. She nodded in agreement.