Like most people, I have always had an issue with being stared at by a crowd. Which is why when I did a drama degree I opted out of the acting modules as soon as I could. But as any contemporary theatergoer will tell you, the audience are no longer secure in their seats. Actors just love to break down the barrier of the fourth wall and invite the complacent spectator to join the party. It’s a way of taking the theatre experience to the next level and making you feel truly a part of the world they’re creating. They call it immersion and, if you’re anything like me, they may as well be immersing you in a bucket full of ice water. I didn’t go there to perform and I can live without the scrutiny of others.
So it was with some apprehension that earlier this year I dyed my hair purple. This, it seems, is not the way to get people to stop looking at you. And as anyone who has ever had a non-natural hair colour will tell you: people talk to you more too; colleagues, customers, bartenders, shop assistants, strangers on the street.
When I first went blonde I got more attention too, but that only made me self-conscious whereas the purple acts almost as a shield. No one should ever make you feel uncomfortable about how you look and confidence is the key to shaking off other people’s stupid opinions.
For me, the lilac is so fake it takes on a personality of it’s own – it isn’t who I am, it’s the image I’m projecting. It’s akin to pop stars having onstage personas. Some people have clothes or their sense of humour or lipstick or cool hats or their own brilliant intellectualism. Beyonce has Sasha Fierce and I have purple hair.
Where I most notice the difference is at work. The majority of the patrons are on the sunset side of fifty and yet the compliments are constant. I can’t work a shift without someone telling me they like it, and more often than not asking where I get it done, what products I use for maintenance, what my natural hair colour is and on and on.
On one occasion I got into such a long conversation with two silver-haired ladies that by the end they’d decided they were both going to try a purple rinse themselves and dutifully noted down the brand names I recommended.
But why does it make a difference? A barman once told me he liked having a moustache because people always commented on it and so it became a really easy way to build a rapport.
Someone who ordinarily would just take what you’re selling them without a second glance, actually looks at you. They don’t even need to make a comment on your hair, there’s just a subconscious assumption that you are an outgoing, vivacious person so that’s how they treat you and that’s who you become. Ultimately, the interaction makes them happier, which makes you happier, which means you’re nicer to the next person. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of positive reinforcement that spreads out like a ripple from the shining beacon of your mauve mop.
At the risk of sounding like one of those affirmation wall calendars that the worst people in the office have, but when others are nice to you, it builds your confidence. So that even when people aren’t nice (which is inevitable in customer service and life as a whole) you’re much harder to knock.
I’m not saying that everyone should go bleach their hair into oblivion and then get crazy with the toner (I could rant forever about how maintaining purple hair is actually a lesser-known punishment from Greek mythology). But, if you’ve ever thought about it, do it. It’s like dunking your whole head in rose tinted glasses. Or purple, or blue, or green, or…
Image credit: Velocity Acrid Vein