This Is Me: Dirty Dishwater

I had an elementary school teacher who would line us up for lunch each day in a different order. Sometimes we had to organize ourselves shortest to tallest, or by birthdays on the calendar year.

One particular day she gave us our orders, "Line up by hair color - lightest to darkest," she said.

A toe-head blonde knowingly marched to the front of the line. Another classmate with jet black hair made his way to the back. The rest of us were to assemble between the two. I wasn't blonde and I certainly didn't have dark hair, so I struggled a bit to find my place in line.

"Carrie," the teacher called me out. "Find your spot, please."

I was starting to get stressed. I went toward the blondes and was told my hair was too dark to stand there. I started toward the middle and the brown-heads knew to shrug me off as I didn't belong there either.

I was standing awkwardly by myself while the rest of my classmates were assembled and waiting on me before we could head to lunch.

I went to the teacher to ask her where I should stand. She looked down at me, looked at the rest of her students obediently in line, grabbed a handful of my hair and said, "Well, your haircolor isn't blonde or brown. It looks like dirty dishwater."

The class laughed at my plight. I didn't seem to belong. I got shoved between two students who made it obvious they didn't want me near them. The one in front of me had light brown hair with sun-kissed highlights. The boy behind me didn't seem to care that his brown hair was messy and unkempt. He still made fun of my "dirty dishwater" hair.

I look forward to my hair appointments with great anticipation. I plan my outfit, my makeup, and usually I have absolutely nowhere to go but home to a 4 year old afterwards, but I walk out of the salon feeling like a million bucks. That elementary experience may be why I now have an obsession with getting my hair "did." My stylist is the only person who knows the real color of my hair - and she's sworn to secrecy! I have fun with highlighting and lowlighting depending on the changing seasons, but mostly because I am attempting. My hair color no longer looks like dirty dishwater but rather boasts sometimes trendy and other times "natural" colors that would NEVER reveal the true hue of my strands. (I tell my stylist all the time if I'd had her assistance years ago, middle school could have been a much better experience for me!)

The dirty dishwater experience shaped me. And here I am today complete with balayage highlights, lowlights, break-the-base, foils and all. My hair doesn't define me. It's not my identity. Although it has been a point of insecurity.

There are many more of these stories, a young girl trying to find where she belongs. Stayed tuned for more episodes of "This is Me."


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