This post is, for a change, not about Living Travelly. It’s about hair.

I consider myself pretty open to new things, and I admire people who show daring beyond what I am comfortable with. So why is it that going to the hair salon is such a source of existential dread for me?

My hair style hasn’t changed much since high school, except for the thick Sixties bangs I had then, or one foray into a perm when I was swimming before work and had no time to dry my hair. Not my best look, I must reveal—fortunately, I think all photographic evidence has been destroyed.

I don’t want anything even slightly different, just straight chin length blunt cut, thank you very much. I worry inordinately that it will be cut too short ( meaning maybe an inch more than I wanted). That was all I had to worry about before I started to cover the gray, and I got into the world of hair coloring.

In the last year or so, my body chemistry has changed in some way that affects my hair’s ability to take color.  The first time this happened, my hair turned orange. The second time, it looked great when I left the salon but had turned a  deep olive brown by evening.  Finally, i got a formula that worked, and I was good until about six months ago when a stylist on the ship decided that surely I must want a lemon meringue pie on my head. Seriously! I told her I was not leaving the salon until I didn’t look like Carol Channing.

All of these mishaps are pretty drastic, and it’s easy to see why I wasn’t willing to just go with the flow. But yesterday’s trip to the stylist was different. Yesterday made me dig a little  deeper.

By the time my hair has been out in the sun for a few months it is an almost white blonde I think is unflattering. I suggested to my stylist that maybe we go a little darker to cut down the natural bleaching process.  She overdid it a bit with the lowlights and I came home with hair that is more of a reddish brown.

My first reaction was to go back and have her fix it.  My second reaction was, well, you wanted darker blonde, and you were wondering  a while back what you would look like with a hint of red from those Scottish genes, so voila. My third reaction was once again,  geez,  go back and fix it! My fourth reaction was, this doesn’t look bad at all, just different.  So that’s where I am, and the hair is staying.

Actually , I am getting kind of pleased with it.  It’s interesting and different, two things I love, and I am getting in lock step behind it.  Maybe it’s the start of something….

But it got me thinking about why I care so much about an inch of hair, or a shade different than I wanted. Really, how shallow is that?  I have friends with involuntary boldness because of cancer or alopecia, for heaven’s sake. I consider myself strong, confident and well self-actualized, but I guess I should reconsider whether that is as true as I want it to be.

I suspect we all have an internalized view of our physical appearance we carry around with us. I am rarely taken by surprise when I see my reflection in a store window, because I look pretty much the way I thought I did.  Now I look in the bathroom mirror and see something I wasn’t expecting, and that makes me uneasy about myself in the world.  There is some truth in the idea that we dress for other people and maybe I care more about what others think of my physical appearance than I wish to admit.

At any rate, I am not happy with myself for reacting as I did.  I see young people with colored stripes in their hair and think , “if I were young I would do that!”  I think it’s true, but then again, if I haven’t changed my hair much since I was a teenager, maybe I wouldn’t.  Why is it that someone who thrives on change can be so weird in this one area? Why is it that I am so cautious about something so minor, when I will step on a plane and go halfway around the world alone?  I don’t get it. Do you?