Yesterday’s kerfluffle at the DMV got me to thinking about identity. Mine, in particular. Because in the same sort of way I would imagine finding out you were born with a tail changes your idea of yourself just a little, finding out you’ve been going through life for the past three years oblivious to the fact that a simple traffic stop could land you in JAIL alters your perception of things juuuuuust a little.
(I totally kid. Finding out you were born with a tail would be much cooler and far less traumatic. Your kid couldn’t have ended up in DSS custody because of a tail.)
(I love that I have wonderful friends who point things out to me – like, OH HEY, if you’d been stopped with just you and Earl in the car, you know she’d have gone to DSS, RIGHT?)
(But I digress.)
I’ve spent a lot of my life adjusting my own perception of myself, usually through changing my hair color. It started early, when I unearthed an absurdly large lock of my preschool hair in my mother’s jewelry box. Because where else would you keep something like that? My own natural hair color at that point was leaning toward what a friend dubbed “baby shit brown,” and, well, that just wouldn’t do. So in middle school, I started having my hair highlighted. No big whoop—it was used to the chemicals from being permed since 5th grade.
When I was a junior in high school, I got purple contact lenses. Not subtly purple, but VIOLET. Like HIT YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH THEIR PURPLENESS. I walked up to my father that evening, blinking furiously. “Notice anything different?” I asked. He stepped back, looked me head to toe, met my furiously blinking eyes, and said with a completely straight face, “You started highlighting your hair.” Yes, dad. Five years ago. Try again. (I had to tell him.)
By my freshman year of college, I was still getting perms, had discovered hot rollers, and was not just blonde, but FROSTED blonde. This was 1996, long after such things as big hair had gone out of style.
Sophomore year of college, the perm had gone by the wayside, but the blonde. OH THE BLONDE, the BLINDING blonde.
That, my friends, is ALMOST what my first passport photo looked like (I had gone more gold blonde by the time this picture was taken). My Cullen-white skin was completely washed out by the platinum. I looked like a ghost.
Which could be why, when I went to New Zealand in 2001 (still very very blonde when I got there) and came by looking like this less than a month after September 11 with security at its most insane level, it took two customs agents an awkward amount of time to agree that, yes, the girl in front of them is likely the person in the passport picture.
My mother HATED the black hair with the fire of 10,000 Hells (despite the fact that I still kinda dig it), so as soon as I was home, she dragged my mid-20s tail to our hairdresser friend to strip off the black. Do you know what happens when you strip black hair? This.
I LOVED that color. LOVED. Still love. Can’t seem to get anyone to try it on me again, but c’est la vie.
Anyway, we’re 13 years later and my hair continues to change colors just about as often. I’ve been almost every shade of brown and red (and sometimes orange and purple) that you can possibly conceive, and when I get bored, I change it.
Which is why, when I went to apply for an Amazon credit card a couple of years ago, I ran into a bit of a problem.
The application asked: “What color is your hair according to your South Carolina driver’s license?”
(See? You didn’t think I could bring it back around to my license, did you? DID YOU?)
Easy enough. I went to my purse and pulled out my license…which…um…doesn’t actually LIST my hair color. Which means I have to go by what I wrote on the application and ohdeargodicouldhavejustmadeupaword! Who KNOWS what mood I was in that day. Did I go by the color on my head? Did I go by what I had in mind for my next appointment? It was a 10-year license I was applying for—did I list what color I thought it might be in 10 years??
The answer to the question was a total crapshoot, so I closed my eyes and shot.
They declined me because I got my hair color wrong.
I had to wait 60 days to try again. Surely, there would be a different question, right?
THREE TIMES I was denied before I FINALLY got a NORMAL security question (like “Who was your best friend for three months in fourth grade? No, not her, the other one.”) that I could actually ANSWER.
I think when I apply for my license in Tennessee for a few weeks, if they inquire as to hair color, I will simply scrawl a big, bold question mark. Because, really, who knows.