Thursday, June 24, 2010

Henna, Paprika, and Hair: An Aside

This is not particularly relevant to food, but it concerns the color of my hair, which used to be the direct inspiration for the title of this blog. I'm sorry to go on a long ramble about a topic as trivial as my hair. Skip it unless you're genuinely curious about the vanities of a paprikahead.

For many years, I kept my hair a crimson color with the aid of henna (and paprika, for fun). Henna, it seemed, was made for my hair -- it turned my light brown locks a shimmery, glossy scarlet. Almost the color of blood, as you can see by direct comparison in this photo. Pure fun.

But then I grew uneasy at the thought that I was daily deceiving the world into thinking me a redhead. And I grew uneasy with the fiery brilliance, which was too bold for either my pale eyebrows or my usual mood. I also wanted to regrow my hair the way it used to be, having gotten tired of trying to be hip, ironic, coy, or anything other than the sober Pre-Raphaelite I am.

Ah, the way things used to be. I never seriously cut my hair before I was nineteen, when it flounced about my hips in fluffy waves of almost-brown. College, however, was not good for my hair. I blame the cafeteria diet and a double major in mathematics and English for the way my hair thinned after my freshman year.

One day I put it in a ponytail, braided the ponytail, and chopped it off. (I kept the braid in a drawer until some perfect purpose occurred to me, like making creepy braided jewelry of my own hair. But the house caught on fire before I ever did something with it). I felt a little dizzy at first, without my hair. But it made a nice bouncy bob, and a few months later I started coloring it red. Its length varied a little, according to my moods and boyfriends, but it never went much past shoulder-length.

Then, the December before last, I grew really impatient with my roots. The half-red thing was lame, but I didn't want to just chop off my hair. So, for the first (and, I expect, last) time in my life, I set foot in a hairdresser's shop. He was hesitant to mess with henna, which can interact with salon chemicals in funny ways. But, bless his heart, he was willing to try, and so he bleached out the red part and put in some brownish color more like my own.

It was some relief for a while, but after six months or so, the brownish dye faded, revealing the persistent orange-red of bleached henna underneath. In addition to failing to remove the henna, the bleach had destroyed my hair, leaving the ends a brittle, tangled mess. Grrr. If I had more patience and less pride, my hair would be healthier and longer right now, and I'd have kept my salon virginity.

These days, I occasionally put golden-brown henna in the ends of my hair to mitigate their bleach-orange color. But mostly, I just wait. Soon there will be no traces of my paprika color anymore, and I will have to content myself with being only a figurative paprikahead.

That's fine, because at twenty-five, my hair is now just a few vertebrae shy of my waist, and as thick as it was at sixteen. The thickness I blame on a real food diet that includes two pastured eggs for breakfast, cod liver oil, and at least a pint of raw milk every day. Or maybe it's just because I sleep at night instead of doing problem sets and editing the lit mag? Whatever it is, I'll keep doing it, Hair, if you promise to hurry up and grow. I have to catch up with Laura Ingalls and the Pre-Raphaelite contingent!


Jennifer Jo said...

I LOVE this post! The pictures, poses, etc. All TOTALLY entertaining.

And I had NO idea that's why this blog is called Paprikahead. I just figured you really liked paprika or something.

Ken Albala said...

I can definitely see you as a Burne-Jones. HOw did I not notice that before?

Long hair defintely becomes you. Would you believe my hair was about this length once? Only 7 ot 8 years ago. And a friend did just as you did. Pony tail cut off (and donated) and left me with a cute bob. Somedays I miss it. Not today. (100 dwgrees here!)

Asa said...

That was a great read :]

tumblehawk said...

Learning the origin story behind Paprikahead has absolutely made my day.