I was feeling rather low last winter.
I was stuck at home applying to all sorts of staff writing positions. I'd left behind a rather demoralizing job writing content for a software developer for the uncertainty of freelance work.
I was a walking contradiction: outwardly confident but screaming internally.
I would go for runs to clear my head only to go home and shovel artificial crap into my face. I was tired, felt a little beaten and I was cold all the time. (I'm a born and raised New Yorker who will never grow accustomed to New York winters, not ever.) I knew I needed a change.
Slowly but surely, things started falling into place. Within a month, I found myself a full-time job working as an editor for two publications. (I was -- and still am -- over the moon.)
I told myself I would start saving money. (I did.) I told myself I would get the hell out of New York the moment I was able. (I booked a trip to Vermont toward the end of April.)
Still, something was missing. My job was fantastic. My savings account (silently) thanked me. But my life needed flavor: I was no longer struggling, so what was stopping me from being a bit more spontaneous?
And that's how it happened. Two days before I boarded an Amtrak train to New England's Upper Valley, I found myself in the beauty and cosmetics aisle of my local CVS, where I purchased a box of royal purple hair dye.
I walked up to the cashier, handed him $8.74 ("That's not for you, is it?" he asked. "Yeah, yeah, it is," I said cockily. "I'm going to look really hot.") and went home, where I stripped, hopped in the shower, washed my hair and proceeded to follow the instructions on the box.
Of course, I burned a section of my scalp in the process of dyeing my hair, but it was nothing a little Veronica Lake peek-a-boo hair couldn't fix. (At the prospect of looking "really hot," I coil back into a weed like a novice.)
So I went up to Vermont. Within seconds of presenting my ticket to a member of the train's crew, I received a compliment on my hair. It felt nice. I felt like a new man. Yes, I told myself, this is what I needed.
The trip went spectacularly. I drank too much. I ate too much. I hung out with friends I hadn't seen in a couple years. I divorced myself from my responsibilities.
Everyone had something to say about my hair. Had I changed? Was I different somehow? It was a small change; that's what I told anyone who asked. Once my normal ash brown hair threatened to usurp my purple majesty, I assured them, I'd shear my hair off and continue as normal.
But I didn't tell anyone if I seemed different, it was because I felt different. Dyeing my hair was a fun decision, but it meant more to me than I would openly admit.
I was a bullied child growing up. I'd internalized vicious feelings of self-loathing as a result. I also second-guessed any potential decision that would bring me unwanted attention or undue stress. I lived as if under the watch of prying, accusatory eyes.
Walking into CVS that day and walking out, hair dye in hand, was a big deal for me. I blossomed. I felt whimsical, confident and sexy -- all the things that eluded me even with my colorful dating and relationship history.
When my ex-boyfriend told me I was beautiful, I would thank him, but I would never believe him. When I'd find myself in bed with someone who whispered the sweet nothings of the moment into my willing ears, I'd coast on an ecstatic wave until the subway ride home left me alone with my thoughts.
But most importantly, I realized I had dyed my hair for me and me alone. I didn't need to do it. I had wanted it, wanted it more than anything at that moment.
The day I came back from Vermont, I landed a date with a guy from Virginia who said he loved my purple hair. We spent Memorial Day weekend drinking too much and kissing hungrily. We walked the streets of Manhattan without a care in the world.
The next morning, when I realized I'd lost my wallet, I went to the police station to file a report and chatted with officers who said my hair made me look "so fun and friendly." When I walked down the street, others would stop to comment on my hair.
Men smiled. Women expressed their envy. Children daydreamed of defying their parents. ("It doesn't have to be defiance," I told a teenage girl. "Do it for you, not to spite someone else.") When I met a little girl who said she loved my "violet hair" because her name was Violet, I beamed.
Last month, my once royal purple hair now dimmed to the color of a decadent plum wine, I boarded the A train at Penn Station and locked eyes with a handsome man. He smiled at me, and I smiled back. He had lovely eyes.
I asked him for his number. He grinned. He gave it to me, but we didn't part ways. Instead, we got off the train and spent the evening chatting and laughing in downtown Brooklyn. I would not have done that a year ago, let alone six months ago. But I had done it, and that trust has made all the difference.
I also got my ears pierced and stretched. But that, as they say, is another story.