Out of Place

I live in a small rural town. The community is incredibly conservative and incredibly religious. I happen to be neither of those things.   

I’ve gotten used to some of the oddities of living in this place. The strange looks I get from some women at the grocery store when I’m wearing jeans and a shirt that shows a little cleavage, and they’re wearing ankle length skirts. The fact that the population is mostly (at least 90%) white. That there is a church on nearly every corner. That (until recently) local laws banned the sale of alcohol on Sundays.   

Fortunately, ankle length skirts aren’t the norm, even if they’re more normal here than anywhere else I’ve lived. I may not be one of the stereotypical community members, but I still fit in well.   

Earlier this year I had a little purple added to my hair. Just a little. It was my first time. I loved the result. I had three streaks between my temple and ear on each side. It was easy to hide when I wanted and looked great when I let my hair curl. Above all, it looked as natural as purple hair could look.  I really loved the result, and as it faded I decided I would do it again.

The reactions at work were great. Everyone loved it. Some people didn’t notice for weeks. I learned this week that some people had never even noticed. In the town where I live I got some nice compliments and some people getting out of my way at the grocery store (a side effect that I quite like).   

I visited the same stylist last Saturday and came out more purple than before. A lot more purple. It is taking some time for me to get used to, but I think I will love it just as much as last time once the initial fading is done.   

Reactions this time have been even better. People at work have had great double takes and given me great compliments. My boss hardly seems to notice, but his boss gives me a hard time about it.   

In my quiet little rural community, reactions have also been stronger. On Tuesday I had my quickest ever 5:00 trip to the store. Of course, the grocery store is packed at 5:00. But with bright purple streaks through my hair, people get out of the way. I got looks of disgust, shock, and amusement. But amusement definitely least. When I got in line at the check out, the little old lady in line ahead of me hid on the other side of her cart. She was so preoccupied with my strange look that she forgot to finish loading her groceries on to the counter. 

On our way to work the next day, Hubby and I stopped at the local Starbucks for your ritual morning coffee. When we pulled up to the window one of the regular baristas greeted us. She has always been one of our least favorite; one of those chatty types that just has to know what is going on in our lives and interrupt with small talk even if Hubby and I are in the middle of an obviously intense conversation.

Her reaction to my hair was both amusing and troubling. She came to the window, wished us a good morning and then said “Woah! Look at your hair! It’s purple!”

After she took our money she came back and looked into the car again (I was on the passenger side, so she had to bend down to see), and said. “What possessed you to do that? Did the Spirit make you do it?” I was so dumbfounded I just stared back for a minute before I said “It was just a whim.”

(One of my friends pointed out that maybe by Spirit she meant alcohol. But really, this was in [Insert Name of Conservative Christian Rural Town Here]; she was talking about the Holy Spirit.)

She continued to gawk the entire time we were there, and honestly I’ve never felt more uncomfortable and ridiculed in my life. I tried to ignore her, but whenever she wasn’t handing us a drink or asking me a question about what I’d done to my hair, she just stared.

I may not be conservative or religious, but I’ve been pretty happy living in this little town. It is quiet, the people are super nice, and the view during my work commute is amazing.

When I can change something as insignificant as my hair color and have people who I have known in passing for years react in such a strong negative way, it really makes me question their character. It makes me question whether the peaceful neighborhood is worth the judgemental community.

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