So there’s this thing that happens to me quite regularly, usually at least once a week, sometimes more often. I’ll be out running errands or at a party or my kids’ school and I’ll run into people I’ve met before who don’t recognize me so I have to reintroduce myself. They’re always embarrassed and I always reassure them that it happens often and I’m used to it.
For example, a few months ago I went on a day-long field trip with the fifth grade and spent a lot of time working with one of my other sons’ former teachers. We chatted about what my son is up to now that he’s in junior high. Then we probably spent 30 minutes together as we walked back to the school at the end of the day. Later that night at the school carnival I was standing in the popcorn line in front of her and I said, “So did you get sunburned today too?” She said, “Yeah, the 5th grade went on a field trip and we spent a lot of time in the sun.” Then I reminded her that I also went on that field trip. Just five hours later and she didn’t recognize me.
My son was in a community play a few years ago and I came to his rehearsals regularly, sitting right near the front. I was there every night. One evening after three months of almost daily rehearsals, four different members of the cast at different times said to me, “And who are you?”
Last week I was at a piano teaching conference and ran into an old friend from college. She said, “I recognized you even without looking at your name tag!” I told her that was the nicest compliment she could have given me.
I used to think it was kind of cool that no one recognized me. I could get away with anything because I’m just like Clark Kent-Superman.
But lately I’ve realized it’s more likely that no one remembers me because I’m just not memorable. I am a real-life Ann Veal.
My mom, on the other hand, is recognized wherever she goes, even by people she hasn’t seen for forty years. I think it’s because she has red hair. I was born with bright red hair which faded to strawberry by the time I was in preschool. Every summer my hair would bleach out and every winter it would go back to red. Eventually I got tired of the change and just started coloring it so it was always on the lighter side of strawberry.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I decided to stop coloring my hair. For eight years after that I struggled because I never felt like myself when I looked in the mirror. The natural color I had wasn’t really red anymore but wasn’t blonde either. It was just a generic drab color. I tried many different horrible haircuts trying to feel better about how I looked, but nothing worked. Finally I decided to just go back to being blonde. After a few months of not so great attempts, I was able to find a color that reminded me of my former self: Feria no. 93 – Candle Glow. I have stuck with this same color for nine years, never daring to stray for fear of mirror shock. I have to travel to the next town over to get my color because stores in my town don’t carry it. I’ve even considered stockpiling extras just in case the company ever decides to discontinue Candle Glow.
But then during a casual conversation with some friends a few weeks ago, it dawned on me that it wouldn’t be earth shattering to try a different color for a few months. Other people do it all the time. And for the first time ever, I began to think it would be nice to go back to my roots. Since I already experience the stereotypical ginger side effects: pale skin that sunburns easily and turns bright pink when I cry or exercise, greater sensitivity to cold, increased resistance to anesthesia, and slower clotting blood (lucky me!), I thought I might as well try looking the part. Maybe I was swayed by all the fall leaves or maybe I was curious to see if having red hair would result in me being recognizable for a change. I was sure my husband would try to talk me out of it, but he thought it was a great idea and of course my mom also encouraged me to take the leap.
I didn’t want to go crazy with the red, especially because it’s a tricky color to get right, so I chose a nice deep strawberry. See how different it looks from my everyday color? I wasn’t sure I was ready for such a big change (in fact, I was kind of freaking out a little bit) but I decided to just go for it.
When I finished coloring my hair, it didn’t seem very red. It was a slight shade darker, but nothing close to the color on the box. I even checked with my husband and my friend and they couldn’t see much of a difference either. It’s been a week and a half since I colored it and no one seems to have noticed any change. After a few days of mirror meh, I finally realized what my hair reminded me of. After all that worry and build up for me to take the leap and try a wild new color, I wound up with the exact shade my hair had been for those eight years of blah. I can’t believe I paid a whopping $10 just so I could stick with being Bland, I mean Ann.