Change Your Hair Colour, Change Your Life?

I've decided it's time for a change. By the time you read this, I might be a different person. Okay, not a different person exactly but maybe a less brunette one. Over the past decade I've been mahogany red, iced chestnut, saffron mahogany, copper and probably half a dozen other yummy-sounding shades I've forgotten. I've even been a highlighted blonde.

As you might have guessed, I have a bit of a thing about changing my hair colour. It wasn't always this way. Until I was almost thirty, I didn't dabble at all. Well, like every girl my age, I did the Harmony wash-in, wash-out thing. But I'd grown content with my not unpleasant natural hair colour. I was convinced that my unconventional colouring (at least according to those magazine guides where everyone's either a blue-eyed blonde, a brown-eyed brunette or a green-eyed redhead) meant that I was better off not messing with what Mother Nature had bestowed upon me.

But my new hairdresser (after lulling me into a feeling of security) suggested I try 'just a few little highlights to brighten things up a bit'. I have to admit, I was very uncertain. I'd seen some pretty bad hair colour jobs - not at her hands, I should say (before she throws me out of her salon).  I'd seen artificial blondes who really should have kept that particular colour genie firmly in the bottle. I had no idea whether being blonde would even suit me. No-one, on either side of my family, was actually blonde - either naturally or otherwise. Ebony to brunette, sandy to auburn, yes, but not a single blonde. As it turned out, I needn't have worried. It seems my absolute lack of skintone (okay, alabaster, if you must) and mushy-blue eyes mean that there's little I'll clash with.

Plenty of redheads in our family, though.  Red seems to be a family thing. I had at least one grandma, two great-grandmothers and a great granddad, two great-uncles and a great-aunt with varying shades of red hair. My late grandma, who died when I was very little and to whom I was absolutely devoted, was blessed with gorgeous auburn-red hair. But, despite all this genetic potential and the encouraging fact that I was born a redhead and was a copper-topped toddler, my hair disappointingly darkened to a brown by the time I started school. But psychologically, if not in practice, I always 'felt' like a redhead. Whether I assumed it was my genetic destiny, or it stemmed from a primary school obsession with flame-haired vikings, I don't know but I spent much of my childhood assuming that one day the red would come back. Which is very silly indeed because, as much as I'd like to kid myself, the red in my natural hair is no more than a hint, and even that's almost entirely absent unless I spend hours in the sun.

My avowed avoidance of the sun, and the subsequent dullness of my hair, was what lead me to chemical enhancement in the first place. And with those first few highlights in place I have to admit I felt different. I'd like to say I didn't look better - that my God-given looks could never be improved upon - but that would be lying. I looked more awake, for a start, and was instantly converted to the joys of artificial enhancement. And since that day, when I've got a fresh hair colour, (even if it's the same choice as before), I feel refreshed. Different. More polished.

But does having a specific hair colour really change how we feel? It might change how we feel about ourselves. I feel much more 'me' as a brunette than a blonde. I once read an interview with the famous corn-blond actor Robert Redford, who said he's always felt like a dark-haired person, and it puzzled me. It hadn't occurred to me that a blonde felt any different to anyone else! So does it change our characteristics, our behaviour?

Well, I certainly don't feel any more sophisticated as a brunette, or short-tempered as a redhead. And I don't think my IQ drops 10 points with every highlight that goes in. Because, of course, the stereotypes that go with hair colour are ridiculous. How do people with different hair colours feel about those stereotypes? Well as a natural brunette I find the idea that I'm quiet ridiculous, that I'm boring offensive.  Blondes don't necessarily have more fun, but must get angry at the dumb blonde jokes that used to abound. Although Dolly Parton once claimed:'I'm not offended by all the dumb-blonde jokes because I know that I'm not dumb.  I also know I'm not blonde.'   As for redheads, well ask an auburn haired woman and a similarly crowned man and you'd probably get different answers . And if I seriously believed that changing my hair colour could change who I am, I'd go instantly for Hitchcock blonde and morph into Grace Kelly!

But character changing or not, and particularly for women, our hair is a very important part of how we feel. If our hair looks rubbish (or at least if we believe it does) it can ruin our entire day. After all, where do you think the expression 'bad hair day' originates? And people use their hair to make a statement. That they're part of a group, that they're different or even that they're moving on. Because countless women have reinvented themselves by cutting off, or colouring, their hair after a relationship has come to an end. But this whole 'break-up hair' thing has always bewildered me. I'm more of the 'buy a new dress' type. But I do wonder whether I'm making a statement when I colour my hair. Am I trying to be more dynamic, more mysterious, more arty? Probably not, in truth I think I just fancy a change. But the problem is, when you've tried so many colours where do you go to be different? Perhaps, this time, I'll really shock everyone and go for fluourescent green!