Over the weekend, I finally did something I had been contemplating for years. I used a permanent dye on my hair to make it purple. I had used a temporary dye over the summer a few years ago, and liked the way it looked, but didn’t go for permanent because I was about to start a teaching career. Schools tend to frown on teachers with hair colors that do not usually naturally occur in the human population.
However, since becoming disabled, I had started thinking more and more about going back to purple. At first, I resisted because I was job hunting after having to leave my teaching career due to my disability. Feeling as though I was maneuvered out of teaching after my diagnosis, I have been very up front on those “optional” EEOC disclosure statements letting potential employers know I have a disability. As more and more of the 150+ job applications I have sent out have been either ignored or rejected – despite my Master’s Degree, tons of experience in a variety of fields – having an “interview ready” appearance became less and less important.
More and more, I started noticing the way people stared at me when I was in public. For one thing, more often than not, I have a pronounced limp due to the damage that Psoriatic Arthritis has wrought to my spine and hips. PsA has also caused other damage that affects my ability to walk without pain (plantar fasciitis), my ability to grasp things without dropping them, often in public (carpal tunnel, peripheral neuropathy, tennis elbow, trigger finger), and has caused me to be extremely fatigued almost all the time. So, when the pain is too great, I have to use one of the motorized carts at the store. Because I am also plus-sized, that gets the most stares. I even hear muttered comments about “fat, lazy people,” which grow even louder when I also use my SNAP card to buy groceries for me and my son at said store.
Friday, after receiving a huge batch of emails stating I “wasn’t right for the position” and having encountered ableism and disdain at the workforce solutions office, I had had enough. I called my stylist and friend and told her I was done. I was ready to go purple. See, people have been staring at me for all the wrong reasons. Because of how I walk, because of how I dress (comfort is key due to constant pain), because of my size, because I keep my hair super short due to migraines (which is culturally not as accepted where I live), for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with who I am, and all about other peoples’ judgment. I had had enough. I decided I wanted to take control. By golly, if people were going to stare at me, I was going to give them a REAL REASON to stare, one that I control and has everything to do with how I see myself, and not what judgments and bias they have ascribed to me. I wanted people to stare at me because I look fine as f*ck with purple hair, not because they pitied me or had scorn for me.
Through something as simple as hair dye, I have wrested control of how I am seen in the world from others and placed it squarely back where it belongs – in my own control.
I had to boost the color detection in the photo to show how purple my hair is. I will take photos in better light once I am allowed to wash it again. LOL. One good thing about having lots of gray hair, my hair is multiple shades and brightnesses of purple, making it look almost like purple fire on top of my head. Yes, please stare. I know it’s all about the hair!