I remember the first time I saw a salon called “Curl Up and Dye” and thought it was the most clever thing in the world. I’ve since seen so many that I think there’s a salon convention where people get together and brainstorm ways to spin “dye” as a pun.
My hair is naturally a very dark brown and has been since I was born. I had reddish highlights put in it once when I was in college, but have never done any coloring otherwise. Today, my hair is streaked with a teal-ish green because I decided this week to hell with it, I’m going to do something outrageous. I set out to dye my hair blue. It did not turn blue. It went green.
Why does this matter, Reader? Because it’s just hair. It’s just dye, it’s just color, it’s just for a while, it’s just sections, it’s just, it’s just, it’s just…
I have been so freaked out about various parts of my life lately, and some of them rightly so because they have pretty long-lasting impact. But long-lasting is not forever because this is not forever. I will (hopefully) outlive my green hair, but I will not outlive my hair itself. I will not outlive the scissors that cut it or the bottles that held the dye for it. I will not outlive some of the people who will see it and have their own reactions to it, and that’s scary as hell and totally necessary for me to understand. I will outlive the fact that this did not turn out as I had planned, and it will be fine.
Does that make sense, Reader? I dyed my hair because I needed to remember that I don’t have all my shit together and that’s how it is. I dyed my hair because I wanted to know how it works because I am a curious creation of a curious Creator. I dyed my hair because I want to look in the mirror and say to myself that I am not this hair, or this face, or this body, although all of those are certainly part of the composition of me. George MacDonald said that “you are a soul; you have a body” and while I don’t want to encourage a dualistic view of the self I do think it matters to remind myself not to get too caught up in what this body is. I want to get caught up in what this body can be, in what this person can be, in the amazingly outrageous things that God can do with and through me if I decide that I’m not going to be paralyzed by fear that my hair might be green or my clothes wrong or my tattoos unfashionable. I dyed my hair because I want to stop trying to be beautiful on the outside.
It’s basically the worst thing in the world for someone to say that someone else is “beautiful on the inside” because it’s very nearly always hiding the statement “but plain and unremarkable on the outside.” We look at kind people in our image-driven society and somehow excuse them from cultural aesthetics, handing them a day pass from our noticing them because they’re beautiful on the inside. But their outsides are God’s, too—even though He’s the One Who talks about looking inside instead of outside—and I have met some strikingly beautiful kind people. Some of them were born that way, gifted with genetics that make them comely to my American sensibilities, but others are made beautiful because that level of awesome really does shine. Either way, however, it’s a matter of looking at them, actually looking at them and seeing the fingerprints of God all over them. I want to be like that, especially right now when we look at each other and see so much that is ugly and harsh, our rhetoric of every side spiky and serpentine as it slides off our lips and fingertips to pile on the floor at our feet. I want to stop saying to myself that perfectly teal hair will make me beautiful and then all of this other stuff will fall into line, because that’s not how it works. Sometimes your hair turns out green and then people compliment you a bunch because they actually are looking at you and you are beautiful in their eyes even though you think you failed.
And that works because the hair will grow back out, and I will have learned again and again and again that God can work with whatever you freely give, that He loves me even when teal doesn’t happen, that I am beautiful because She crafted me in love and knows what my soul looks like. I dyed my hair to shake up my perception of myself; I have instead been reminded to look outward at others and see that we have all gotten the dye wrong and yet we are beautiful creatures.
Not bad for a $12 box.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24, NIV)