One of my favorite fictional characters of all times, and my most beloved childhood heroine, is Anne Shirley of Lucy Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.
Anne is a spirited orphan who is sent to an elderly brother and sister by mistake, but who ends up winning their hearts and the hearts of the community. Anne feels her greatest curse is her bright red hair. Anne is smart, imaginative, curious, dramatic, strong willed, adventurous, and above all, fiercely loyal to those she loves. The series is positively delightful and follows Anne, and eventually her daughter, over many years.
Before I read the books, I fell in love with the movie adaptations from the 80s starring Megan Follows. I identified with her in so many ways, being a ginger myself. She was teased relentlessly about her hair until she would explode– usually landing herself in a predicament. This could not have been more true for me.
But as I aged I realized that what was mocked by children was often envied by adults. I grew to love what made me different and unique. By the time I was in college I was a bit of a snot about it, too. My Mom was trying desperately to hang on to her color, trying different shades of red and sometimes mixing them to terrifying results. Sometimes her color would end up being Ronald McDonald red, and sometimes it would be pink. I’ve vowed that I’d never color mine-it was too precious. I’d rather just accept the gray than have fake red over my natural color. Heaven forbid someone think my shade came out of a bottle! In my mother’s defense, I was a hellion of a child and probably gave her most of her gray. I also had three younger siblings who ran her ragged. (Note: She has since embraced a natural cinnamon and sugar look and she is positively beautiful.)
Most of my adult life my hair has been medium length, give or take a couple of inches. But about five years ago I started growing it out to see what would happen. I’ve always done a lot with braids, fantasizing about the princesses of the middle ages (that’s the Anne in me). So I pretty much became obsessed with the Game of Throne plaits. I wanted to fashion Sansa Stark (there’s another redhead hottie!) or Daenerys Targaryen styles but that needed that significant length. And I did get there. Until yesterday, I had full-on, thick, healthy mermaid hair that reached almost to my waist.
I turned 40 in November and it has triggered a couple mini-existential crises. Who am I? Why am I here? Why do I have long hair? Am I me without my hair? Oh, the questions that we privldged folk have the time and resources to consider. At any rate, I needed a change and decided donating my hair was one way to go–there is a kiddo out there who needs my hair far more than I do. It’s one thing to get teased for having red hair. It’s quite another to suffer the indignities of losing it all.
That brings me to yesterday. It was with a bit of fear and trepidation that I arrived at the Aveda Fredricks Institute of Cincinnati. I wasn’t worried about students cutting my mane. I’ve been going to this school for years, as has my husband, and they always do a great job. I was just nervous that I might be acting rashly and that I’d regret it 15 minutes into the cut.
There was a lot of excitement and a bit if ceremony around the actual donation. Several of the students came around and took video and pictures as the instructors sectioned off and braided my hair into four ponytails. Forget butterflies, I had a hamster and his wheel in my tummy. The scissors action felt like it was cutting through a bath towel and tears caught in my throat, but I was committed now.
It took awhile from the time the braids were cut until we had my finished bob. I ended up being thrilled with the results and I love my new look. Once I looked at my shorn braids, all 18 inches of them, I knew I made the right decision.
The first time Anne’s arch nemesis Gilbert Blythe called her carrots, she smashed her slate over his head. Later in the day, in a desperate attempt to be rid of her curse, she buys dye from a peddler who promises it will change her hair to a beautiful raven black. It didn’t. The dye turned her hair green. It’s not entirely tragic, however. She has the offending green cut off, but she also finds out that she’ll be allowed to stay on at Green Gables and won’t be sent back to the orphanage.
I can’t help but wonder if hair donation were an option for Anne, if she wouldn’t have jumped at the opportunity. I think she’d find it terribly romantic and she’d imagine the recipient’s name was Cordelia. Knowing her however, there’d still be some mishap or catastrophe.
Over the years, I’ve had plenty of my own Anne-esque mishaps and catastrophes. I’ve also had many adventures. In my heart, Anne will always inspire and remind me to keep dreaming, writing, and believing. So, I’m raising a glass (of cherry cordial) to redheaded heroines, children’s literary classics, and charities who give sick kids confidence.
Check out Wigs for Kids, the awesome organization that helps kids look like themselves.