What I’ve learned going blue

by Ellen Rex, Contributor

henever you turn on the TV, read the news, or even browse through Facebook, you can usually find a few articles about the way people treat others differently based on physical appearance.   While I knew this was a common phenomenon, since I never found myself doing it, I never really thought about it in any realistic sense. This was the case until I dyed my hair bright blue — think mermaid meets smurf blue. While I love my hair, I have noticed a significant change in the way many people address me.

The biggest change comes from the way strangers address me. Suddenly, with blue hair I am either really cool and approachable or really eccentric and rebellious ­— but not in a good way. It doesn’t seem to matter that my personality hasn’t changed in the least ­— I’m still the same introverted girl constantly listening to music on her way to class.

Yet, I’ve had people that would have never spoken to me if I had brown hair come up to me just to tell me they love my hair and ask me questions about going blue. There also seems to be this strange camaraderie around people with not just blue hair, but colored hair in general.

When I walk past someone else with blue hair, they notice me almost immediately and greet me like we’re lifelong friends. As if having the same unnaturally colored hair immediately makes us buddies. Don’t get me wrong, I love that my hair color is a conversation-starter with people I would have never spoken to before, but it does make me wonder why we treat people so differently based on one change in appearance. How far does that change in attitude go?

Although having new people talking to me and complimenting my hair is great, not all changes in attitude are good. Others seem to think it makes me too rebellious and eccentric. People that would have never had a problem with me or my brown hair before suddenly give me dirty looks as I walk by or take it upon themselves to inform me I will never get a job with colored hair and a nose ring.

I have a job.

Others believe I am suddenly a devil-worshipper.

I was raised Catholic.

Most of these come from strangers that don’t know me to begin with, there is also a distinct change in the way some friends and family treat me. Suddenly the girl getting a degree in business from one of the best California State Universities is no longer a good role model for their children. Because she has blue hair. Nothing else about me, including my personality, goals and beliefs, has changed, yet people still alter the way they treat me.

This experience as a whole has made me wonder how far that change can go. Would I ever even know that sorority girl’s name if she hadn’t come up to me to ask about maintaining blue hair? Would I even notice other people with blue hair if my own hair was not blue? Exactly how many great people do we miss out on due to our own predisposed ideas and judgements about who they are based on their physical appearance?