When I was a kid, I used to be really excited to “grow up”. I had a lot of friends who were older than me, some by a few years, some by a few decades. Being a theatre person will do that to you, I suppose– I have a habit of averaging out my friends’ ages, so being genuine friends with people old enough to be my parents isn’t weird because in my mind, they’re 24.
I remember being an awkward, awkward teenager and telling one of my older friends how much it sucks being a teenager, and she told me “Just wait until your mid-twenties, you will really start to figure out who you are. You’ll get better at it as you get older, but that’s when it starts”.
I used to wonder how I would know when I was grown up, how I would know who I am or what I stand for, because that seemed so exciting– a moment in which you get to choose between right and wrong, between making the “grown up” choice or not, and that would be the moment when you knew you were the person you would be. Or something like that.
This weekend, two of my really good friends got married. I haven’t known either of them for very long, but the gal is one of those people that I immediately found myself drawn to and have since become really close with. She’s smart, funny, incredibly talented, hilarious and an amazing friend. Her new husband is brilliant, and is one of those guys who can be really quiet, and then from nowhere, say something so hilarious the room has to stop and think about it before we all explode into laughter. I love this couple. Together, they are a dynamic duo of hilarity and awesome, and I feel incredibly blessed to have them in my life.
They know me well, and for their wedding, they asked me to write something. I was honored. Not only did I get to use my MAD WRITING SKILLZ to bless their marriage, I got to perform with three of my closest friends. It was— well, it really did mean the world to me.
(Don’t worry, this is going somewhere).
This weekend, I found myself thinking a lot about who I am. It wasn’t exactly an existential crisis, but I was presented with a situation that I was not anticipating– one of the, shall we say, “financial backers” of the wedding was less than thrilled with my hair.
I won’t get into the sordid details, but let’s just say that from the beginning, it was made very apparent by this person that I was not welcome.
Now, before you read this and think “well, you’re the idiot who showed up at a wedding with blue hair, what the hell did you expect?”, let me say this:
I know that blue hair is my choice, and that sometimes the repercussions of this choice will be negative. However, I’m not used to dealing with this because my friends– the people who I was there to support and celebrate with– had absolutely no issue with it. They know me, they know who I am and what I stand for and that just like some of our friends have brown hair or blonde hair or red hair, I’m the friend with blue hair.
I have been extraordinarily lucky in my life. I’ve been able to perform my poetry for important government leaders, for ambassadors from foreign nations, for royalty, for sometimes actual cash money and spoken to thousands of students across the county, on national and international stages– and not a single one of them ever found an issue with my hair. In fact, most of them complimented me on it.
But here, at a celebration for two amazing friends, surrounded by three other amazing friends– suddenly, I was a terrible person for being none other than myself.
I honestly didn’t know what to do. I went home, and I cried. I cried for hours because I felt like a terrible person. I felt like I’d missed the memo, that I should have known going in, that I should have been smart enough to think ahead– but I think it speaks more highly of my friends and of my happiness that I never assumed anyone would take issue, because, across the board, I am unconditionally loved and accepted by the people around me– hell, even Jake’s parents never blinked twice when I met them for the first time with bright blue hair. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never been in a situation where my hair has been a Situation. But this weekend, it was.
The bride contacted me, apologizing with nearly every other word, explaining that the “financial backer” was upset about my hair. I told her, without a single moment’s hesitation, that I would gladly dye my hair if it would solve the problem. The bride protested, but I could tell that offering to cover up the blue was the best way to diffuse the already tense situation, so I insisted that it was fine and I was happy to do it. In the end, I decided not to dye it, as I had JUST re-dyed it blue (ironically enough, for the wedding) the day before, so I went out to my local weave store and bought me a weave. I love the weave store.
But the more I sat on it, and the more I thought about it, the more angry I got– not at the bride, not at the groom, but at the third party who thought it was their right to decide how I would look at this wedding.
And you know what? It fucking hurt.
For my entire life, I have struggled to find who I am. I have worked– hard– to become the person I am today. Not incredibly successful, not incredibly rich, but I am happy. I am loved, I am talented and I am confident in the person I am– and it astounds me that something so insignificant, something so trivial would become an issue that resulted in a bride crying at 1AM the morning before her wedding and asking me to change it.
I felt terrible for the bride, who was put in an incredibly awkward position– ask your friend to change or risk the fury of the opinionated “financial backer”….what do you do?
To my friend’s credit, she was a beautiful example of grace and gratitude under pressure. She was kind, compassionate and apologetic, and has stood up for me in every way, and I really do feel like our friendship has grown from this experience– I know that she accepts me unconditionally and that she will always have my back, and knowing that I have friends like her makes me feel so very, very lucky. All of my friends thought it was ridiculous, and they stood next to me and giggled and joked and made me feel loved, accepted and confident in the fact that while there may always be people who give me a second glance and a quick judgement, there are far, far more people in my life who will always be there to support me.
The person who insisted on my wearing what I shall call my “disguise” does not know me, and it became incredibly apparent that they had no intention of attempting to, either. I showed up and, based on nothing but a stupid hair color, it was decided that I was not worthy of celebrating as I was, but instead, I had to hide my hair and my personality so as to…what? Not upset the relatives? Not ruin the photos?
What’s funny is that at the reception, when I took off my wig, I got more compliments on my hair than I did on the writing I did for the ceremony– and we got a LOT of those. I was incredibly proud that my writing had been successful– that my friend were happy with what I had created and that the people at the ceremony were impressed and touched as well– and I was able to participate in their marriage– but there is always going to be a part of me that looks at those pictures and thinks “why did this person think I wasn’t good enough to stand up as myself and represent who I am?”
My hair literally says who I am. My synesthesia is something I kind of keep in my back pocket, because it’s mostly just a stupid party trick and conversation filler, but my name is the color of my hair and the color of my hair is my name. I’m happier and more confident with blue hair because after 6 years, it’s become a part of me. It’s become a fun, distinguishing characteristic and a way for me to own my quirky-ness and my sense of fun…but this weekend, I was asked to choose between hiding who I am or potentially causing a lot of trouble.
Four years ago, two years ago, maybe even a year ago, I would have stomped my feet and made a fuss and been an asshole and insisted on showing up with bright green hair and a clown costume, just to make a point. But this weekend, I thought about it, I thought about what mattered and what was important, and what mattered to me the most wasnt’ shocking the party who made the decree in the first place or teaching them a lesson by showing up naked or something— what mattered to me was being able to be there for my friends and making their lives as easy as possible, and that meant swallowing my pride and wearing a wig.
I am not a martyr, nor am I a saint. I bitched. I moaned. I complained. I cried. But in the end, I think I made the right choice, because in the immortal words of Kyle Broflovski, I learned something that day.
What I learned about myself is that I can make the “grown up” choice. No, I was not happy– I was hot, the wig itched, I felt ugly and it made my face look fat, but I wore it with pride as a badge of honor–I know who I am a little more now, and while I might not always make the best choices or make the right decision, I did in this case, and I am proud of that.
When I look back on this ridiculous situation and laugh, I will laugh because I shared a beautiful weekend with some of my dearest friends– women who I want to stand up with me when I get married, women who I want to represent the love I have for my life and my friends and my community, and women who I will insist come as they are, be it green, pink, purple or brown– because, well, they’ve done the same for me, and I love them for it.