I've been obsessed with fun hairstyles for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I scoured the Barbie aisle for hairstyle inspiration. I never managed to make my hair change color with ice like the mermaid Barbies, but I dreamt of mastering the green pigtails that my favorite Fairytopia mermaid wore. I spent hours playing with my hair. It was my way of changing my identity.
Then came the quarter(ish)-life plot twist: At age 19, I crashed my bubblegum pink Vespa and wound up with a permanently paralyzed left arm. At that point, my number of hairstyle options was immediately reduced. It took me ages to master an acceptable ponytail with one hand and I relied on friends if I ever wanted anything else. Back then, the hair issue was the frustration that most frequently drove me to madness. I needed to have realistic expectations about my desire for a different hairstyle every day. So I made a drastic change — to my hair, which led to a radical shift in thinking. I took the leap and dyed every last strand of dark brown hair on my head the color of bubblegum. Maybe it was my subconscious way of further facing the reality that the similarly colored scooter had brought upon me. Who knows. One thing I knew is that dyeing my hair pink was my way of standing up to myself, and taking a stance on what I could control. And that made me more okay with my disability, which I definitely can't control.
Although I did this in April, during quarantine, I insist that this was not a stay-at-home impulse decision. Mastering different hairstyles had made me feel special, And I wanted to find that again. I should say that I don't love the color pink, but, Like Audrey Hepburn (probably) once said, "I believe in pink." Turning my hair pink made me feel like it measured up to someone like Rapunzel, whose hair glows when she sings. She doesn't need a whole arsenal of hairstyles because her locks are unique enough as is. That's what I needed: hair that felt special enough, as is.
Quarantine was a great time to test out how long this elation would last because there is no one around to do my hair (except the dog, and he’s just not great at braiding). It's been nearly five months now, and I feel just as excited about my hair as I did when I first made the change. In turn, this eliminated the majority of the energy that I put into being angry about my inability to style my hair how I wanted. And now I feel significantly more at peace with my left arm being perpetually "Out of Order."
I used to elevate my hair with anything from my Quick Wrap machine to Dutch braids. However, I know that those things just aren't manageable for me now. Today, I'm finding that pink hair has turned things the other way around. My hair is now what elevates the narrower scope of styles that I can manage. In other words, even the messiest of ponytails that I can muster look magically novel to me today. Because it's pink! So as I sit here writing this in my "ultra-messy but still beautiful [to me] post-workout hair," I can't help but laugh at the irony. I used to play with my hair to change my "identity," and I've actually never felt more at home with my hair than I do now. No ice-cubes were used in the making of the pink hair, but I did achieve the color-change wonder that I'd always wanted. It took a significant accident, many failed hair attempts, much denial, some courage, and finally, a lot of bleach to find the hairstyle that feels most like me. Therefore I no longer care for a regular "new hair identity.” I’m satisfied with being myself. In turn, I credit the pink hair for drawing a [partial] truce between myself and my physical limitation.
Chloé is a Paralympic swimmer and freelance writer focusing on beauty, fashion, and pop culture. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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