The past couple of years, I conducted an informal sociological study of how strangers treat me based on my hairstyle. I didn't set out to do this, but being a person who switches hairdos with the frequency most people change light bulbs, I couldn't help but to notice the differences in behavior.
Let me start out by saying the only reason I am able to modify my hairstyle so often is because my best friend Renee is a stylist, and whenever we get together, it usually includes a bottle of wine and a salon-like experience in my very own kitchen.
So, here's the rundown of my most-recent hairstyles, and how they were publicly received:
Dreadlocks: My dreads were professionally done at a salon on the North Side of Milwaukee by a lovely French-speaking West African woman, and after 10 hours of twisting, they looked pretty good (as opposed to those uneven, matted dreads White folks usually end up with). I think the dreads made me feel extra folksy, because I have never been so chatty -- or well received -- in public as I was with the dreads. Wherever I went, people asked me about them, and I got into a number of interesting conversations with strangers while simply standing in line at Target or whatever. However, the dreads drove me nuts eventually, because I felt like I couldn't really "wash" my hair. Hence, at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve two years ago, Renee lopped them off and shaved my head down to a shadow of hair.
Shaved Head: This was interesting and fun, because I got a lot more public attention from lesbians than I normally do. It was very flattering. Especially for someone who, at the time, was still carrying around an extra 10-15 pounds of baby weight and not feeling much like a hottie.
Mohawk: This was definitely the least popular 'do among the masses. I had wanted a mohawk since the '80s, when I saw Annabella Lwin wearing one on the cover of a Bow Wow Wow record. So, two decades later, I went for it. Most people see a mohawk and they think "freak," "drug addict," "hotel trasher" or "undiagnosed mental illness." My mohawk phase only lasted a few weeks, but during this time, I either received stares or a complete lack of eye contact. In short, I didn't care for the public isolation -- or the amount of time and product it took to stay spiky -- so I ditched it.
Muppet-blue and short: This was the perfect hair color to have when President Bush visited the OnMilwaukee.com offices. I wore a red and white striped blouse to meet the prez, so the shirt and hair combo made a lighthearted patriotic fashion statement. "W" took notice right away, and upon meeting me joking asked that I never give his daughters fashion advice. Fair enough. As for public response to bright blue hair -- I got a few eye rolls (not outwardly, but I could feel the energy was there), especially when shopping at Pick 'n Save in Shorewood. Some, I'm sure, were thinking I should grow up and get myself some practical mom hair. Maybe when I'm 40. Or 50. Or dead.
Pink bangs: Pretty uneventful in public. I think pink hair is "natural" for me, and I plan to go back to it someday.
Long, normal hair: I have had long, brown, normal hair for a few months now, and I am noticing more attention from the men folk. Deep down, I think most men prefer long-haired women, and I admit it's flattering to sometimes get "the look." I like having long hair because there are lots of options. However, I'm not sure how long I'll have this hairstyle -- I guess it depends on how much wine I drink next time Renee comes over.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.