I began coloring my hair when I was 14. The house we lived in had belonged to my grandparents and my grandmother left a bottle of her “Fanci-full” temporary hair color under the sink. My pre-teen hair color stared me in the face every morning before school. My grandmother called it “dishwater blonde” and that term came first to mind as I stared into the mirror to begin another day in middle school. It came to mind as I brushed and curled my hair and as I dreaded another day of teasing from classmates because I was the quiet, weird kid, because I was too often caught day dreaming, because I was an easy target with dishwater blonde hair.
So I took the bottle of hair rinse and tried to weave Bashful Blonde into that dishwater and perhaps it did nothing for the color but it felt like a step into hope for me. I went to school the next day with some kind of added confidence even if the temporary rinse offered up nothing to bolster it. When that bottle ran out I bought another one. When I was older I moved from temporary hair rinses to semi permanent colors. When I was a full on teenager I branched into odd colors- blue, purple, bright blonde streaks in the dishwater sea.
For the last several years I noticed the small silver hairs poking through at the scalp when my now permanent hair color is waning and mostly I’ll pluck it out but sometimes I leave it there and I think hard about the time I’ll finally let it show through. Each time I turn away from the mirror, the words dishwater blonde echoing in my ears as I make my way to the pharmacy or beauty supply store or the hair salon to remedy what has always felt like some kind of deficiency in me.
I never considered that coloring my hair was about vanity but about fear and sadness, grief at feeling “not enough” or maybe the root of vanity is just that, not feeling as though we are valued, we are loved, we are accepted. Perhaps when I make the shift, finally, to trusting that I am beautiful in the eyes of the one who made me, that I am beloved of God, perhaps I’ll finally let the strands of silver come through the dishwater blonde and embrace that beloved one at last.