stripe

Oh yeah. THAT stripe.

It’s kinda hard to miss, and getting a fair number of puzzled looks. Apparently other folk, venturing into rainbow hair color, start small. They polychrome a tiny curl at the nape of the neck, or tuck a pastel lock back behind the ear.

Me? Naaah. If I’m gonna dye my hair the color of a thousand year-old egg yolk mouldering in a graveyard, I’m gonna put it right up top, where everyone can see it.

I am a recreational hair dyer; I’ve been doing it so long now I’m not even sure what my actual hair color might be (I think it’s a mousy blonde).

Every six weeks or so I stop in at Markie-the-hairdresser’s, she pulls out the hairswatch card and we get down to the business of selecting my hair colors. Plural.

I ponder the tiny curls glued to their cardboard cells, and point. “A little of that copper, and..maybe..some of the pale blonde, that one, right there. And how about some of this brown…?”

Usually, Markie restricts me to realistic hair dyes. If I stray into more colorful swatches, she gives me The Look. “Cynthia…” she sighs, patiently taking back the neon yellows and metallic silvers, “…let’s stay in grownup land today, OK?”

She did that last Saturday, too, but I just wasn’t in the mood. I snatched the book back, defiantly seized a curl. “Blue,” I said stubbornly, “THIS blue.”

The day before had been hard. After years of “helping” a close friend, galloping to the rescue whenever her addiction led her into trouble, I’d faced her down and said no. Destroyed her safety net–me–and walked away.

What they don’t tell you about this Tough Love stuff is that it hurts like hell, that your friend won’t exactly thank you for it, and that it keeps you up nights.

So maybe a blue-black stripe in my hair was symbolic. Maybe I needed to be as marked outside as I felt on the inside. Or maybe I just needed a change.

Markie looked at me. “OK,” she said, quietly, “Think about where you want it, and I’ll be back.”

She mixed up the color, we settled on where, and I got my blue. I was a bit surprised when it turned out dark teal instead of the purply complement I’d envisioned, but at least it’ll never get lost.

Oddly enough, I kinda like it. If nothing else, it gives me something UX professionals rarely have, a built-in test sample. What other information architect has a cross-cultural visual perceptive response trigger on her very own head?*

Besides, here’s the thing about my hair: It’s thin. It’s fine. It’s stick-straight. And it’s bulletproof.

No matter what you do to my hair, it will return to its original form.

Applied color fades. Perms go straight. As part of the new blue stripe treatment, Markie switched the way I part my hair, from the left side to the right. She glued it down with all sorts of goos to make sure it’d stay.

Thirty minutes later, my hair had wrenched itself free and rearranged itself with the part on the left, as usual.

In a few days, these new coppery shades will fade to mousy gold-brown. The blondes will turn mousy gold-brown. And that mouldery teal will become…what?

This oughta be interesting.

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*By way of explanation: Best way to study how users respond to unexpected stimuli in a work environment is to, well, put an unexpected stimulus in your work environment and then watch what happens.

So far the reactions to my new cross-cultural visual perceptive response trigger (AKA “The Stripe”) have ranged from (raised eyebrows) “I really LOVE your, uhm, (gulp) hair!” to dribbling Sprite all over a perfectly good keyboard, to “Hey, Cynthia, I think you must have rubbed up against a whiteboard or something; you’ve got a streak of magic marker on your head. Want some Windex?”