taking the words of Jesus seriously

A couple weeks ago, I had about a foot of hair cut off my head. When you’re the busy mother of four, and have the sort of Hermione-meets-Rapunzel hair that you can almost watch grow, it’s easier to just twist the whole mass up on your head, secure it with industrial-strength hair accessories, and forget about it until it starts giving you headaches.

When the headaches got annoying and my hair clips started breaking, I finally went in for my annual-ish visit with a hairdresser. Fed up with my hair, and sick of having to pull it back to avoid looking like Cousin It, I asked for a shoulder-skimming layered cut with–gasp–bangs! I loved the way it turned out, but when I got home, I began to wonder whether I should color my hair.

Now, here’s the thing. Contrary to this post’s title, I have no problem with women, Christian or otherwise, coloring their hair. I’ve bleached, dyed, highlighted, low-lighted, Sun-In-ed, chamomile rinsed, doused with lemon juice, and done any manner of weird things to my hair. If you look at one of the pictures in my header, you’ll see the reddish results of a temporary dye that I tried a couple years ago. But as I examined my new hairstyle in the bathroom mirror, I wound up examining my head and my heart as well.

Why is it that every time I get a new haircut, I think about coloring my hair?

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Here’s what my mental narrative looked like:

Barbie Jenny: “Wow, I love the new cut, but my my hair looks so dark.”

Real Jenny: “So?”

Barbie Jenny: “My hair is that mousy shade of dark blonde that barely looks blonde, but lacks that nice chestnut color brunettes have.”

Real Jenny: “Actually, I think it’s a very pretty color.”

Barbie Jenny: “It’s almost as dark as my brother’s hair!”

Real Jenny: “Huh? What does that have to do with anything? Besides, Drew has great hair.”

Barbie Jenny: “But he’s a BOY.”

Real Jenny: “…”

Real Jenny: “Remember that time you almost puked all over the cash register, because you felt so guilty spending $130 on a cut and color? I thought you decided that wasn’t the best use of your God-given resources.”

Barbie Jenny: “Yes! But I’m not talking about anything like that. Just a box or two of coloring, or a few subtle foils to brighten things up a little around my face.”

Real Jenny: “You hate coloring your hair, and besides, what part of ‘your hair looks pretty’ did you not understand? It really, really does.”

Barbie Jenny: *chewing on lower lip* “Really?”

Real Jenny: “Yes, really.”

Real Jenny won out. For now.

I’m not sharing this just so you can laugh at my neuroses (though you can, if you want). I’m sharing it because after I duked it out with my inner Barbie, I noticed something.

A huge percentage of the women around me have colored their hair.

In fact, I would venture a guess that MOST of the women around me have colored their hair.

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And not just the sort of hair coloring that covers a few grays, or is even particularly flattering (I mean really–that red didn’t do anything for me). Often it’s people like me, who seem dissatisfied with their young, healthy, vibrant, natural hair, and douse it with chemicals not because it makes them look better, but because it makes them feel better.

Which seems kind of sad, and very wrong.

Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with coloring your hair. It can be fun. But the fact that so many women choose to makes me suspicious that I’m not the only woman who has an insidious, fluff-headed Barbie living in her brain, who rears her platinum-blonde head every now and then to remind them in sweet, insipid, girl-to-girl tones that they’d be so much better, so much prettier, so much more acceptable, if they’d just be a little less like–themselves.

What do you think? Why do so many women nowadays color their hair? Is it a good thing, a bad thing, or completely neutral? Do you have a Barbie living in your brain? How do you think it got there?

(Oh, and if you liked this post, you should totally check out my friend Margot Starbuck’s book Unsqueezed: Springing Free From Skinny Jeans, Nose Jobs, Highlights and Stilettos.)


Jenny Rae Armstrong is an award-winning freelance journalist who blogs about faith, social justice, and women’s issues at http://www.jennyraearmstrong.com/. She is passionate about building up the body of Christ by building up women, in her rural community and around the world. She loves making new friends, so drop by her blog and say hi, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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