I grew up seeing my mother as the most beautiful woman I knew, her hair was curly, her hair was long, her hair was red. I wanted the red, I dreamed of the red, I yearned to live into the red.

A yearning overtakes me; it draws me relentlessly; it cannot let me go. I want to dye my hair red, to brighten it all. I want to display my hair with a new vivacity. I want to be more like my momma, to display what I know is hidden underneath the shades of brown.

In college I tried to use a box of color, failed to find a box that worked, it flattened my color and stole its life. Flat, limp, damaged. No life, no hope, no red.

That summer I Kool-Aided my beautiful shoulder length hair; disguised myself as Ariel; lamented as the color washed out with the rain.

Undeterred, I tried again with a two-week box—I layered the chemicals, washed with a garden hose, surprised my friends, grew it out before it faded.

After that experience, I decided that I wouldn’t trust chemicals anymore, don’t want that on my skin, don’t want that near my brain, don’t want to damage my beautiful tresses anymore. I experimented occasionally with lemon and sun, found the natural way to enhance highlights, watched grey creep into the mix.

Ten years has gone by since that series of experiments—wiser now, practiced now, older now, I can do more now. I summoned the courage to try something new, something exotic, a deeper healing with the benefit of color.

Henna and I have a complicated history—the year I left for college I painted myself into a corner, I discovered that henna stains irrevocably, I created bright orange pigment on my toenails. Henna intrigues me, henna stains me, henna changes me, henna scares me.

I decided to dye my hair red, to cease this brunette, to find a natural solution. To my chagrin and to my delight henna was the answer, henna is the natural color, henna was the historic dye, henna is the exotic joy.

Henna is the pigment of passion, the opulence of the Orient, the mystique of the Middle East.

I was enticed by the story, seduced by the allure, hooked on the history. 

There is a woman who earned a Doctorate on the use and history of Henna. I studied her how-to, learned all there was to using the simple and elegant leaves and scent. 

I hennaed my hair: piling green goop, frosting thick mud, squelching and squishing deep muck.

Thick, fragrant paste seeped deep to my scalp; brilliant, vibrant color shone in the sunlight; exciting, bright red captured every facet of my natural hair.Image

My hair is red again, it is soft now, I adore the color, I share the story.

I celebrate the natural and earthy experience of dyeing my hair, I share the joy and excitement of discovering my color, I proclaim the healthy and vibrant treatment of my new lifestyle addition.

(I’m looking forward to visiting with my mother so we can compare.)


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