When I was younger, I really wanted to be one Miss Anne Shirley of Green Gables. She was all the things that my tiny self admired - she daydreamed and span wonderful stories; she had loyal friends and got herself into all kinds of scrapes; she was bright and brilliant and loved by the people around her, even when she herself felt like the outsider. I loved Anne so much that I even persuaded a teacher that my name in her register was wrong and I was Anne (with an E) not boring old Anna. I desperately wanted red hair - it was like I saw my dark brown plaits holding me down somehow.
When I was a teenager, I wanted bright hair - bleach it and dye it something wild. I was aiming for fun and rebellious, with just the right combination of joyful creativity and "stick it to the man". But... my school didn't allow dyed hair in "unnatural" colours and I wanted to get good grades. I stayed there through the sixth form and then went straight onto a university course that also insisted on plain hair. My first NHS job never strictly put down a rule, but I had the sense that blue hair would not go down well. I stayed brown.
"Gentlemen prefer blondes... but marry brunettes"
Brunette Anna was a woman with a plan. Get married (young), get promoted (young), get promoted again (naturally, while still young), get a master's (you get the picture), a better job, a better house, a newer car, another achievement... She was committed to the path that she saw bringing success, money, love, approval, satisfaction - the things we're taught to value.
My hair became my way of showing the world my commitment to the plan. I cut it short because someone said I looked too young to be taken seriously as a Speech Therapist. I grew it long because someone else said that I used to look prettier with long hair. I toyed with red for a hot minute but someone missed the dark. I wore it up to be more business-chic. I wore it down to be more feminine. I was like some weird kind of approval-chameleon, just hairier.
I had been low-key sick for years, but the more I pushed through the worse I felt. I was in pain, exhausted, unable to keep weight on and to add insult to all of that, my hair was falling out. Turns out, one of the symptoms of lupus is hair loss! I went from long sleek hair to shorter kind of shaggy hair, to chin-length hair, all the way down to an extreme pixie cut. Cutting my hair off gave me a sense of control in a body that was wildly out of control. I got a lot of negative feedback about it, but I no longer had the energy to care. I was done, and so were the days of straighteners and John Frieda frizz-ease.
I remember reading a story about Britney Spears somewhere around the shortest pixie cut. When she shaved her head in 2007, it was generally seen as a sign of a girl gone wild. Another out of control woman doing something reckless and ruining her image. I'm pretty sure I made some bitchy remarks myself at the time. But here's Britney's version of why she did it: "I just don't want anybody, anybody touching my head. I don't want anyone touching my hair. I'm sick of people touching my hair." For Britney, her hair had become another way her management controlled her image and kept her in line. She reached her limit and she chose out. I remember thinking "me too, girl". Time to be reckless and destroy that image. Time for some truth.
"If she changed her hair colour after the break-up, you're never getting back together"
I'm sure I'm not the only one who wanted a drastic haircut after a bad breakup? Leaving my marriage was the hardest thing I've ever done, and I'd gone a little rebellious with the hair. I had an undercut (making me feel like a badass) and my hair was a little longer. I was healing in lots of different ways. I'd had therapy. I'd been to women's aid meetings. I was getting coaching. I was learning that after you leave a relationship counted in many years, it's not about going back to who you were before the relationship. It was about working out who you were becoming.
So there I was, about to go on a weekend retreat to open myself up fully for love. I was ready for commitment... I was ready to choose to spend the rest of my life trying to love myself. That weekend, I pronounced myself the "Queen of Self Love" and after reading all this you won't be surprised to hear I chose to express that commitment with hair dye. I stood in the "big Boots" in my city, trying to pick between colours like "purple punk", "turquoise temptation", "denim steel" and "raspberry rebel".
I went with the rebel and dyed my hair pink, then promptly freaked out and ran down the road to my friend's house to go "what have I done, OMG help" at her until she calmed me down. She assured me that the world wouldn't end because I had pink hair, and if people saw me differently then they're really not my people. They don't see ME, they just tell themselves stories about me in their heads and act from that pre-judgement. Often, this feels like an attempt to make me back into someone smaller, quieter, more conventional and a lot less queer. It's their stuff, not mine.
Because here's an incomplete list of all the things I've done while rocking the pink:
got through my divorce with relative grace
trained as a coach and learned a brand new skillset (or five)
set up two businesses and kept them both afloat through a global pandemic
met the love of my life and created a home full of joy
made incredible new friends, and set firm boundaries with people who needed it
stood up in court multiple times to advocate for my clients (and won every time)
lived my life as an openly queer and disabled women
campaigned for change at a national level
held the space a group of 350 badass women as they create their new futures too
been told by more girls than I can count that they'd like to look like me when they're big
I used to think pink was a girly colour. That aisles full of pink toys oppressed our little girls and should be obliterated completely. That liking pink meant I was choosing to be less, or dainty, or small. Not to be rude, but I'm calling bullshit on that.
The Victorians saw pink as a masculine colour meaning stamina and power. Pink is the colour of protest movements, from pink triangles to pussy hats. Elle Woods kicks Harvard ass in flawless pink. Nymphadora Tonks fights Voldemort with magic skills, pink hair and grungy boots. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lobbies for action against climate change in hot pink power suits. Nicki Minaj, Drew Barrymore, Kate Moss, Halsey, Gwen Stefani, Helen Mirren, Taraji P Henson, Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Selma Hayek, Cyndi Lauper, Rhianna... all these badass people have had pink hair and phenomenal success.
So yeah. I've got pink hair and I really don't care what you think of me.