2023 Discover FAD

New chapters and new hair colours: what dying your hair can really mean

I’ve known Tara Craemer-Banks since the third grade, and since then have had many adventures. Adventures these days are rarer, what with assignments, AST prep and writing university applications. Despite everything that’s been happening in preparation for what feels like the biggest change of our lives (what to do after school?) we’re having another adventure today: She called me asking if I wanted to help her dye her hair. When I got to her house, her older sister was baking in the kitchen, and she and our friend Eleanor were doing Henna. The fireplace was crackling, and I cuddled with her puppy on the couch and savoured the cosy atmosphere. In this quiet moment while I was recovering from the bone chilling Canberra frost by warming my hands in front of her fireplace, I decided to take advantage of a rare quiet moment and ask her, over a cup of English Breakfast, why she decided to dye her hair.

Q: Today you’re bleaching your hair. Does this feel like a life changing moment?

A: I think in some ways it does because you know I’ve never done anything permanent to my appearance, ever in my whole life. I feel like bleaching to me kind of represents, like, a shedding, because in a way you’re literally physically letting go of the colour in your hair. I think as I approach the end of school I’m trying to become more comfortable with letting go, and change.

Q: So you mentioned finishing school. Do you think this holds significance, and how is this related to changing your hair? 

A: Absolutely. Ending school is making me come to terms with being comfortable with new things, like identity and independence. I guess from as far back as I can remember, school was like the structure of everyday life, and this is changing. I’m becoming more comfortable with that, and I wanted to change my appearance as a physical manifestation of that. Now that I have more independence in leaving school, and have more ability to change my identity, I feel like a physical change helps me come to terms with what these new changes mean for me.

One of many washes of the day
Q: This change is happening today, right while we’re speaking. Can you elaborate on how you came to this moment, what was the process behind it? 

A: I think the idea to have a change in the form of bleaching my hair only came around recently, but the feeling of wanting to change something has been present for a while, a continual idea. In school they’ve been preparing us to move on to university and the next chapter of our lives, so it’s this sort of idea I’ve had on the backburner for a while, because I’ve had to consider things that are entirely new to me, and how the next part of my life will play out. Having to think about moving into a new phase of my life, it’s been something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, which essentially impacted this decision to make a change.

In between washes: henna (not pictured: the adorable puppy who tries to lick henna off people’s hands)
Q: You’ve had friends around today, we’ve been doing Henna and drinking tea, and it’s been a really nice experience. So it’s brought you closer with your friends, who are here helping with your hair, but if it was alright of me to ask, has this decision been met with pushback from family? I’m curious to hear how this has impacted your relationships with the people around you.

A: I feel like parents are sometimes scared of change in their children, especially at this age because I can leave home, I can get tattoos, I can rebel. But I think my parents have always been comfortable with that idea. My mom says that successful parenting is a gradual process of rejection. But i don’t think they see it in that way either, like I haven’t really shared these thoughts with them, I think to them they think it’s purely beauty. But they’ve been really supportive, which makes me feel more secure about, you know, moving out or moving on to different things. Knowing that they’ll support me and my decisions, but still me being able to express my autonomy through these decisions.

Reveal by blow dry in the middle of the living room
Q: I know it’s kind of hard to judge now, but how do you see this decision as impacting your future? A: Do you think you’ll still remember this moment? 

A: I reckon I will. It’s the first time I’ve done something like this, so it is pretty significant. But the bleach itself is unlikely to change anything about my life, but I suppose what it signifies is a changing mindset and independence from my parents. It’s like a representation of internal change, so I do think that the decisions I’m making and the new mindset that has pushed me to bleach my hair, will have a continual effect. Although the bleach won’t last forever, this kind of idea about being more comfortable with change is something that is really valuable that I’ll hold onto.

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Harper Burton is a year 12 student at Dickson College. Coming from a family that loves to spin yarns, Harper enjoys sharing tales that can engage the wider community. This love for storytelling has led to Harper’s passion for journalism, challenge conventional worldviews, and creating empathy for others’ experiences. Harper hopes to study a Bachelor in the Arts and Humanities.