Wednesday, December 11, 2013

164. Teenager Hair

This is the photo story of my hair, and how the Appalachian Trail got me to revert back to being a teenager. Brilliant ideas, when they strike teenagers, are often not quite as brilliant as the teenager would chose to believe. Or to be honest, any age at all, ever.  

With that being said, I do not regret the hell that I wrought upon my own head throughout my adolescent years (and, again over the past year). I had a lot of other things to deal with. I had terribly crooked teeth, eyebrows as thick as a grizzly bear on testosterone, and a mouth that just wouldn't stop talking about dragons when people had clearly moved on to talk about cooler things. Like wrestling or the Spice Girls. After several years of geek endurance in middle school and as a supremely dorky freshman, I decided that something had to change. Specifically, I had turned 14, I was going to get braces, and I needed a new 'do to go with my rubber-band-metal-face. 

Up until that point in my life, I had been unconsciously practicing to be a thru-hiker by only showering once a week and wearing the exact same clothing every day. My long, scraggly hair was actually a nice light brown color, but was rendered a deep chocolate hue over days of grease buildup and unconscious self-neglect. I was too busy drawing dragons all over my math homework and trying to teach myself sign language from a giant textbook I had found in the library. Sometimes I spent hours staring with all my will-power at a white wall in order to convince myself that I was moving the paint molecules around at the atomic level. The only reason there was no visual evidence was because it was all white. I WAS TOO BUSY FOR HYGIENE.

But once I was accepted into the Maine School of Science and Mathematics (read: NERD SCHOOL) starting my sophomore year of high school, I knew that I was ready to finally learn how to turn on a shower and how to own more than 2 shirts worn on heavy rotation. My mom took me to a hair dresser, I got my hair trimmed, and my mom even let me get a couple of super cool blonde highlights in the front so I could pretend that I was Rogue from X-Men. If you'll direct your attention to the below, you will be granted a special audience with me as a 14-year-old.

As high school progressed, I began drifting farther and farther away from the nice, tasteful little blonde highlights at the front of my hair. This was mostly because instead of going back to a hair dresser, I went to a pharmacy and got a box of bleach which I then dumped all over the front of my head in my dorm room at school. At that point, things started to get weird. I had grown attached to a certain cartoon character who had a A-Line short haircut in the back, and then long blonde bangs in the front. Like a reverse mullet. This was enormously appealing to me. 

So I sat in the hallway of my high school dorm with a ninja turtles sheet draped over the front of me, while a 16 year-old in gym shorts and sparkling platform heels cut off most of my hair. I was delighted with the results:

Sometimes you like to think that you're the pinnacle of modern cool. But you're not, not until you have a haircut that matches your inner awesomeness. Then, and only then, can you pair your corduroys with a fairy shirt and TOTALLY PULL IT OFF.

At some point, I got fed up with trying to manage all of the coolness involved with dying my hair all sorts of crazy colors. It was a fried mess. I had enough. 

That is me with my friend Melissa, and I think I was actually going in for a jump-hug. But I appreciate that it looks like aggravated assault.

I didn't want to wait for my hair to grow out! What's a girl to do?! 

I did what any reasonable, well-adjusted and intelligent young woman would do, and made an impulse decision to completely shave my head. Don't believe me?


If you're wondering why I have my hand on top of my head, it wasn't to strike some sort of edgy model pose. It was because I had a stripe of brown straight across of the top of my scalp that I was attempting to hide. It's the tan line from the part in my hair. If you look closely, in spite of my 17-year-old self's best efforts, you can see a tiny bit of it. My friend called this my "POWER STRIP" and posited that perhaps this was the place from which all of my superpowers were generated.

I decided to let it grow out, and spent a few winter months looking like a pink hedgehog.

Me and my friend Josh. We're wearing dresses because we're classy.
I started college with a shaggy mop of hair, about ear-length. After 2 months in college, I attempted to give myself a haircut and failed miserably. In order to cover up the evidence, I shaved my head again. For the rest of college I allowed my hair to vary in length, but continued to dye it different colors because I was a teenager and the only job I had involved getting paid under the table to serve baked potatoes to drunk undergrads at 2am. That was a legitimate job. The place was called Hot Potato, and it was revered, hallowed ground for Ohio Wesleyan students. At least the drunk ones, who I got to interact with on a nightly basis while I was painfully, painfully sober and delivering baked potatoes on my bike all over campus. 

Then, friends. I had to grow up. I spent several years living in New York City, first as a graduate student and then as a legitimate professional. I never spent money on haircuts, but I allowed talented friends of mine to trim my hair when it seemed appropriate. I had grown up. My days of having ridiculous cartoon hair were finally over, because no one wants a marriage and family therapist who looks like they just escaped from ComiCon. 

I dealt with my feelings as maturely as I was able.

Keepin' it together: Clever Girl style.

Is this how the regular people do it?

But then the day came that Dumptruck and I decided we were going to quit our jobs and live in the woods. I realized that I was going to be able to spend almost an entire year not having to be professional. I still had 3 months left of work, but I went out, bough hair dye, and turned myself into a cartoon character again. Luckily, my job already liked me well enough to put up with this. Also, I work with children, and my hair dye led to an 8-year-old boy saying "Your hair makes it look like you're made out of rainbows."

My friend Dmitry and I. He has a good thru-hiker beard.
Throughout my time on the trail, I let my hair grow out crazily and only re-dyed it every month or so, so it was generally a faded bubble-gum pink color. Whistle put a hair-wrap in my hair, just like when I was a kid at summer camp. But we were hiking the Appalachian Trail. SO IT DIDN'T MATTER.

I got to be a teenager again, at least in regard to my hair.

As of last week, my hair is back to being a brown/auburn color. I finally dyed the pink out. But I know that teenager hair is under there, just waiting until the next time that I get to be ridiculous again.

On the train ride down to Georgia
At the hospital with Hotdog
The hair-wrap
Dumptruck and his swanky wife somewhere in New England.
Clever Girl


  1. I enjoy comparing my 14 year old self to your 14 year old self (looking nearly identical) and thinking about how that's how we looked when we met but we probably pictured each other way different! haha

    1. I pictured that you were SO COOL that I couldn't even fathom it.

  2. hey nice post mehn. I love your style of blogging here. The way you writes reminds me of an equally interesting post that I read some time ago on Daniel Uyi's blog titled How To Respond To A Girl’s Behaviors When You’re Attracted To Her .
    keep up the good work.