Back To My Roots

Kelly RheelFor as long as I can remember my hair has always been my most defining factor. Hair is awesome because, unlike losing weight or plastic surgery, you can alter it with such ease and it completely changes your whole aesthetic. Ever since I was thirteen and my mother finally allowed me to grace my darkening head with brassy, orange streaks of “blonde” via Sun-In, I have consistently colored, chopped, teased, sprayed, crimped or straightened my hair according to who I felt I was at that particular time in my life.

Kelly Rheel

One of the best things about being a teenager is how being cool comes so naturally. Everything in this photo, from the calculated sideways glance to the fake septum ring, is so effortless.

Until recently.

Some time ago, after years of heavy bleaching, my hairdresser Lucas picked up the end of one of my brittle, dry, broken, white, strings of hair like it was a pair of mysterious underwear he’d found between his couch cushions and uttered the most horrifying words anyone has said to me to date. “I think it’s time we considered going back to your natural color.” My natural color?! What the hell was that? I wasn’t sure, but it had to be awful. From what I had seen poking out under the blondes and pinks and reds over the years, what emerged from my scalp resembled the flat, dirty brown you see on subway rats. Worse than that, the thing that chilled me to my bone when even contemplating living a life without hair dye, was that I would look so…normal. This was simply not an option.

the rheel daze

The year I got this haircut was coincidentally the same year I invited my college roommate, who had a similar style, home for the holidays. In unrelated news, this was the same Christmas my family questioned whether or not I was a lesbian.

Without a virtual sunset playing out on my dome how was anyone going to know that I was a fun and interesting person worth talking to? Not to mention I was getting older. I was well into my thirties and feeling pretty insecure about where I was in my life. I was nowhere near as successful as I had planned to be, my friends were all getting engaged and doing big kid things and there I was, still single, partying, not having a 401K and looking like a poor girl’s Betsy Johnson. I hated the idea of having to conform, getting a “real” job, or acting like an adult. Having crazy hair was my way of protesting all that. Giving up my bleach was like having to part ways with the “me” I was so desperately hanging onto from my twenties. If I had to go back to my natural color I had to become a grown up and that was not happening!

Needless to say I fought Lucas tooth and nail. Maybe if we didn’t strip it so much? Perhaps we could start by just adding in some low lights! What if I went all black and kept some white strands?! Lucas wasn’t having it. Reluctantly I agreed to go au naturel.

It’s been over a year now and you know that expression “Blondes have more fun”?

It’s true.

the rheel daze

I don’t care what anybody says! I love this look! If it wasn’t for my hair threatening suicide, given I don’t stop blasting it with poisonous chemicals, I would look like this at my funeral.

Well, maybe not more fun, but in my experience they certainly do get hit on a lot more. It would make for a great ending to be able to say that I get just as much attention as I used to, only it’s betterbecause people respect me now! But that just isn’t the case.I don’t get nearly as much attention.

the rheel daze

Ta da! My natural hair color! It ain’t so bad. In fact, there’s Vanna’s husband saying “Ah Ma Gaad! Your new shit is tahtally ahhhhsaam!”

However, I do find that I don’t crave it as much. Whether or not this has to do with me changing my color or perhaps (and brace yourselves here) me maturing with age, I’m not sure, but it’s true none the less. In fact I wonder if one led to the other in some small way. Before I always had my hair to express myself with but now that I don’t, I’ve had to develop my personality a little more which has made me confident in a different way, a more grounded way.

Aside from that my hair is the healthiest it’s been in nearly twenty years and I’ve probably saved around a thousand dollars since I went cold turkey.

But the very best part is that changing my hair is didn’t make me any less of who I was. I’m still weird man, just ask my cat.

  • Anonymous

    Your Natural hair color looks absolutely beautiful!

  • Jackie

    Love the old photos. I’ve got some of myself hanging around too…including the pixie (also confused for lesbian) cut, except mine was burgundy. HAHA. BTW…I agree with Brian…you are “tahtally ahhhhsaam”!!

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