I was too young to realize that unique is just another word for special. I also didn’t realize that red hair doesn’t last forever and fades as you get older. It would take growing up and going off to college in Boston (where there was no sunshine to lighten my locks) for my hair to become more brown than red.
The fire disappeared. And I was surprised to realize how much I missed it.
My red tresses were not only tied to how I felt about my own identity, they were a big part of my identity (my mom was so upset over my suddenly darker mane that she actually thought I’d dyed it brown). I eventually started getting professional highlights to help put back some of that red I’d once wished away.
After losing most of my red hue, I finally saw my hair color for what it was — rare and special in its own right.
Read More: The Best Red for Your Skintone
Of course I’ll occasionally toy with the idea of trying on another color for size only to find myself surprised by just how protective my family, friends and even my colorist are of my crimson locks. I once asked my long-time colorist, Carrie McCard at Rita Hazan Salon, to dye my hair a pretty chestnut brown. She refused. “You’ll look like everyone else!” As a teenager, I would have welcomed those words, but as an adult, I realized in doing so I’d lose my most unique feature — something I now embrace wholeheartedly.
My husband was born with auburn hair, though, like me, his red hair turned brown years ago, and now his red flecks only make an appearance when he grows a beard. Now I’m pregnant with twin girls, which means there’s a good chance they’ll inherit our distinct shade. If they’re lucky enough to be born red, I’ll know exactly how to help them love and accept every fiery strand on their precious, beautiful heads.