Emily Howlett: Having green hair, and being asked about it

Posted on May 3, 2015

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Imagine, if you will, that you woke up one morning and your hair was green. Not revoltingly fluorescent green, just a dark greenish glow. You might be slightly concerned; why has your hair decided overnight that instead of a nice, safe colour such as blonde or brown it would like, from now on, to be green.

You’d be slightly concerned, but you’d get over it pretty quickly because there’s not a lot you can do about it right now, and you’re late for work anyway.

Work? Yes. You have taken a Christmas job in a clothes shop. Why not?

So, you rock up to work and start the Very Important Job of putting all the shoes on the shop floor in size order. Then you fold a few cashmere jumpers, get screamed at for folding cashmere, spend about three hours unfolding because being screamed at is bad for your nerves and makes you unaccountably slow, then use some wrapping paper to play hopscotch with a passing child.

It sounds wonderfully easy and nice and other such benign words that mean you’re not exactly imploding with excitement, but the days will pass harmlessly enough, and there’ll be some money in the bank at the weekend.

Except… The hair thing.

It’s not even that noticeable. It’s not as if every single person who walks past suddenly drops their shopping and their jaw on the floor, horrified by the freakish sight before them.

In fact, nobody’s done that all day, except that poor woman who paid full price for some oddly creased cashmere.

So, the customers aren’t noticing your hair. If they are they really don’t care. Unfortunately, the people you work with…. They’ve noticed. And they are Intrigued.

So, you walk around the shop floor, doing what you are supposed to do (mostly), and you quickly realise that every five minutes a different member of staff will scamper up and Engage You In Conversation.

Which is a bit weird, but not that annoying, until you realise that you are having the exact same conversation with them all. The theme remains constant; your hair.

What’s wrong with it?

How long has it been like that?

How on earth did that happen?

Can’t anyone do anything about it?

Do you want someone to do something about it?

You don’t like it though, do you?

Does it stop you doing things?

It’s not nice, is it?

Are your family/partner/children/dogs/paperboys the same?

Can you still read/write/put your pants on by yourself?

And it’s really all just harmless. Nobody is saying you should be shot; they are just being curious, and maybe want to understand better. So, you smile and reply and smile a bit more, because you want them to be as positive as you are about green hair (it was hard at times, but you’ve come to accept it, even embrace and enjoy it), and you smile, and you encourage them to broaden their mind, so they can better understand the next green-haired person they meet, and you smile some more…

And so it goes. Every day. The days turn into weeks, and you never go more than half an hour without the attentions of a curious scamperer. Often, it’s a previous one coming back for more.

And that’s fine, because you have lots of smiles and you don’t mind helping, so you smile and talk and smile and nod and smile and then your teeth start to ache and you think…  Actually, I’m bored of this.

You want them to understand. You want them to broaden their minds. You just wish, a little bit, that there were some other green-haired people here so you didn’t have to do it all by yourself, every time… Repeat, rephrase, repeat…. Smile…

Ultimately, you feel a bit guilty. On the one hand you are asking them to accept green hair, but on the other you don’t want to be constantly hounded, questioned, probed and held up as the Guru of All Things Green.

And, actually, it’d be quite nice to have a conversation about something else. Because even though you now embrace your green hair, and you can see the positives in being different, sometimes it’d be nice to forget the difference for a while and just be you. Not the green hair with you behind it, just you.

And that’s your story.

Mine? Oh, mine’s nothing like that. I’ve never had green hair in my life.

I am Deaf, though.

Emily Howlett is a Contributing Editor to this site. She is a profoundly Deaf actress, writer and teacher. Emily is co-director of PAD Productions and makes an awful lot of tea. And mess. She now has not one, but four grey eyebrow hairs. C’est la vie. She tweets as @ehowlett

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