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On the second to last day of 2012 I tried something new. I dyed my hair using henna, an all natural process. I felt like Encino Man in the shower New Year’s Eve morning as it took forever to wash the muddy mess out after having slept with it in my hair, a trash bag and an old towel wrapped on my head all night. Leaving the henna in longer had promised more vibrant color though, and I was like “hey, go big or go home, right?

Apparently henna is a great conditioner and does not destroy your hair like chemical processes (it left mine feeling soooo soft!), but there is also no going back with henna. It’ll last four to six weeks, your hairdresser won’t be able to get it out if you decide you hate it, and red hair is not for everyone. Mine looked super orange the first day and I was both intrigued and a little shocked, but expected the color to deepen with oxidation, since I’d researched the process first. Ultimately, I was quite happy with the result, although I did a touch-up around my hairline the next day.

This is the first time I’ve ever dyed my hair, unless you count temporary magenta streaks back in college. In fact, I am now the first in my immediate family, even with all of my sisters, to ever straight up color my hair, although a couple of them now get highlights. Growing up, hair dye was seen as being in the same category as makeup, nail polish, and high heels – very worldly, somehow either trashy, too sexy, or at least not in line with God’s plain and decidedly un-sultry plans for your body. I even got yelled at once as a girl when my natural summer sun highlights looked bright enough that I was suspected of having secretly used a bit of peroxide.

Today my sisters and I all love nail polish, classy makeup, and us all wearing the same size shoes means they try to beg, borrow, or steal whatever pair of heels I bring around them (the orange suede ones I wore with a blue dress at Christmas were tried on and paraded around in by at least four of them), and I’ll sometimes wear theirs too. My Mom even owns a pair of low heels now, although she is pretty “unadorned” and doesn’t use makeup or wear jewelry besides one ring and a watch. Still, none of us had ever passed the hair dye barrier of worldliness. I decided it was time. It is 2013 after all.

My hair naturally has some hints of strawberry, it was copper-colored when I was a baby, and so I knew orangey-red wouldn’t be too drastic. Besides, I’ve always loved smoldering, almost carroty tresses. Maybe it all began due to my childhood obsession with Anne of Green Gables. Anyway, I’d been thinking about coloring my hair this color for about a year and so I just went ahead and did it.

Dying it felt rebellious, scary, fun, and the henna smelled exotic, like eucalyptus or something. The next day I told my 13 year old sister about it first, over the phone. “What?!,” she said. “You didn’t! What’s next? Are you gonna start using drugs?” I laughed, but that was the general response I expected from my family. So when I went to visit for New Years Day dinner (a time when us southerners traditionally get together with our families to eat black eyed peas and cabbage), I was preparing myself for an onslaught of judgmental comments. I actually didn’t get any though. My sisters liked it, my brothers didn’t notice until it was pointed out to them, and my Mom simply said she liked my natural color better, then admitted she was curious about what exactly henna is, since it is “all natural” after all.

So I am happy with my ginger hair and appreciate the fact that it matches well with my orange heels (which I did not give to my 19 year old sister despite her repeated requests), and was well complimented by family and friends (in fact, over 60 people on Facebook liked a picture of my hair, while only one commented on the thought-provoking article I posted on lead poisoning and crime rates). I expect it will be a nice bright contrast to the gray and snowy New England winter days ahead, and imagine I may have just started the new year off right.

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