So I’m hanging out in a Starbucks in the well-to-do Boston suburb of Brookline, and in walks a dog with one ear dyed purple. That prompts me to ask my readers: When you encounter a person with purple hair, what do you see?
Do you see an in-your-face attempt to shock you by defying convention?
Do you see a manifestation of self-hatred — a woman’s desperate bid to distract you from the body she loathes?
Do you see an advocate for a hippie lifestyle of illicit sex and drugs?
At one time, those might have been my interpretations. Perhaps that’s because if I were to dye my hair purple, there would definitely be strange motives at work. Purple hair is just not how I roll. In the last few years, however, I’ve come to realize that someone else’s motives for doing X are not necessarily the same as mine would be.
I learned this by getting to know a few people who wore pentagrams, yet were not Satanists; or who wore skull earrings, yet did not glorify death. I met a young man who plays drums in a “death metal” band, yet is also thoughtful, intelligent and well-mannered. In fact, I met him at a church.
People are more surprising than we give them credit for. One pentagram-tattoo-sporting person I know does believe in magic, but only casts spells for good. Some kids wear skulls just to fit into the one group that will accept them. The death metal drummer I know finds sophisticated structure in music that most of us don’t understand. And maybe he just loves to bang on his drums.
Which brings me to the most important point for those of us who tend to be a little uptight. Some people wear purple hair just for fun.