Nickel Novelette: Purple Hair

“It’s just purple hair, mom. Purple highlights, actually, even tamer.” Kim had wanted to color her hair for ages, but her school banned “unnatural” color, to her mother’s quiet relief. But after class petitioning, requesting, signature collecting, meeting holding… finally, a worn down principal lifted the ban, and by the following Monday bright hues of blue, purple, green, orange, pink, and red flashed along the hallway between classes. Granted, it wasn’t a revolution, or a “statement” of rebellion. This wasn’t a “stick it to the man” sort of thing. Maybe ten percent of the kids took part, and by Thursday, half of those had washed out their temporary highlights and didn’t bother reapplying. But to Kim, it meant something.

“It’s not about the color, Kim, it’s the message others will read into it. Staff is going to assume you have an attitude, that you’re trying to make a point, and I don’t want them judging you unfairly.” Kim’s mom had been around a bit longer than Kim, and understood that despite best intentions and “the principle of the matter,” the world worked in a certain way, whether fairly or not. She just didn’t feel that Kim needed to make her own life harder that a teenager’s life already was.

“Well that’s their problem, then isn’t it? And besides, how can I expect anything to change if I don’t prove them wrong?” Kim was full of ideals of how things “should be,” and thank God for that passion and innocence in teenagers, no matter how misguided it sometimes gets. Kim didn’t care if she was scorned at first, or if teachers she’d never had rolled their eyes at her. She was willing to take one for the team and keep working hard so that her teachers could see that her hair didn’t define her, that heaven forbid people make decisions that don’t hurt anyone else, that people could live and let live.

“I’m just trying to look out for you, hun. I care about you, you know that. I guess I just want you to be prepared and to remember that you are a worthy, unique individual with or without purple in your hair.” Kim’s mom silently prayed those parenting articles were right: validate you teenager, respect their quest for identity, and pick your battles.

“Oh gawd, Mom, you’re starting to sound like those parenting magazines in the bathroom.”

“Wait, you read those too?”

“Of course, I have to be prepared to spot whatever tactics you might try to pull on me.” Kim smiled, and her mom laughed. “Besides, when I do recognize them, it reminds me you give a crap. So… yeah.” Kim looked down, then turned to walk away before the moment got too mushy; she took a few steps, paused, and said over her shoulder, “Oh, and by the way, I’ve seen the picture of you with dreadlocks in college. So at least I’m addressing this ‘phase’ a bit sooner than you did. I figure I’ll get it out of my system by the time first impressions really start to matter.”

Kim’s mom sighed an equal mix of relief and annoyance, and Kim headed up the stairs, calling down to her mom, “Then I’ll move on to sensible tattoos, ones that can be covered by business professional clothes. See mom, I’m thinking ahead, give me some credit... I mean, I’ll have to wear long sleeves in the summer, but that’s the price ya pay, right?”

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