Envy can make you do strange things.
I have three brothers. Growing up, two of them had the most gorgeous shade of natural red hair I’d ever seen. The third brother had dark brown hair, but his beard would grow in with a distinct reddish hue.
Then there was me. Plain-faced Deb with plain, mousy-brown hair. I hated it. I envied my brothers with their striking red hair. It wasn’t fair. They bemoaned being saddled with hair that stood out, while I languished over being the one who could disappear in a group of three people.
Finally, over Spring Break during my Freshman year of college, I decided I would be envious no more. I went to my hairdresser and told her I wanted red hair. Not fire-engine red, or Bozo the Clown red; I wanted Sarah Ferguson red (I was a big follower of the Royal Family at the time).
Little more than an hour later, I emerged from the salon with the fiery red hair I’d always desired, and I loved it. I thought it was beautiful, and I was sure everyone else would think so.
The first person who obviously thought otherwise was my father. When he drove up to pick me up (no, I didn’t have my driver’s license yet), he took one look at my hair I exclaimed, “I hope to God that washes out! I have two boys who hate their red hair, and what the hell do you do? You go out and DYE your hair.”
Okay. Well, that’s just Dad. Dads are supposed to disapprove of their kids’ choices, right? Right? It will be different when I get back to college.
When Spring Break was over, my brother and I headed back to Susquehanna University (we both attended there). A few friends commented on my hair–some positively, some negatively–but I really didn’t get the reaction I expected.
Especially from my brother’s crowd.
I was involved in one of the campus ministries with my brother and his friends, so I often hung out with them. So, the first time we got together after Spring Break, one of them commented, “Did you do something to your hair over Spring Break?”
“Yes. Yes, I did.”
“I thought so,” she said. “A new haircut?”
Really? “Well, I got a little trimmed, but nothing major.”
Another friend piped up. “You got a perm?”
Does my freakin’ hair look curly? “No, that’s not it either.”
A third offered, “You’re wearing it parted differently, right?”
This was ridiculous. “No, guys. I dyed it red.”
They all looked at me funny. The first friend said, “No you didn’t. You’ve always had red hair. Just like your brother.” When I gave her an incredulous look, she added, “Well…what color was your hair?”
I felt absolutely deflated as I informed my friends that I’d had brown hair. They all looked at each other, unable to recall that I’d been a brunette just a couple weeks ago.
Now I had another crisis of identity. At least they saw my brother as an independent, stand-alone person. It didn’t matter what color my hair was. The problem was that they didn’t see me as just Deb; they saw me as Gary’s little sister, Deb.
Now, it seemed I had another reason to envy my brother.