I met my friend’s “crazy Aunt Jane” last week and the first thing I said to her was how much I loved her hair.
“Thank you,” she laughed, obviously accustomed to hearing compliments like that.
Jane Coryell was visiting from out of town and we didn’t get to exchange many words during our first encounter, but a few days later I was able to pose the question I immediately wanted to ask: “How do people react to your purple hair?”
“Oh, they love it,” she said. “They think it’s fun.” I did too.
I asked her if it was an ice-breaker and she figured it probably was. “People of all ages are always commenting on it,” she said. “It makes them smile.”
The 70-year-old artist from Oakville, Ontario said she’d been dyeing her hair bright colors for decades and enjoyed the attention. I could understand that.
Over the years I’ve met so many creative people who have expressed themselves in uncommon ways with their physical appearance, and I’ve always admired it. Their individuality and courage to stand out is so appealing, even when their look isn’t something I’d want for myself.
In my twenties, I had a co-worker in her thirties who liked to play dress up on a daily basis. We worked in a large government building with thousands of employees, and at some point during my first day on the job I noticed her.
She was wearing a red leather skirt, a zebra print blouse, black sequined stilettos and a shoulder length blonde wig that I didn’t know was a wig until the next day when I saw her with long curly red hair, and the day after that with a short brown bob. I quickly started looking forward to seeing what she’d wear next. Aside from her beautiful smile, she never seemed to sport the same thing twice.
“Crazy Colleen” was how some people referred to her, but like Jane, she wasn’t crazy at all. She was just artistic, theatrical and fearlessly playful, and I was instantly attracted to her courage and freedom of expression. I hadn’t seen that before. Not in real life anyway.
Attending a small high school back in the ‘80s, everyone seemed to dress the same except for a tiny group of goth kids who scared people away with their black hair, black makeup and black nail polish. The rest of us tended to blend in and not be too different from one another – like most of the cars on the roads and houses on the streets.
To observe someone like Colleen Ostlund, so willing to showcase her eccentricity in such a corporate setting, not caring if people snickered behind her back, was a real eye-opener. I believe it changed me.
I had always flown under the radar, afraid to stand out for fear anyone might think I was spreading my feathers like a proud, pompous peacock. Over the years, I stopped worrying about people’s perception of who I was or what I did, and I started doing my own thing.
I’m not visually colorful like Jane, Colleen or the peacock, but I know I’m unique, just as we all are. I now not only accept the things that make me different, I embrace them.
Life’s short, so we might as well celebrate who we are and have some fun while we’re here. If someone doesn’t approve, that’s their business, not ours.