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Sitting on the top bunk of a stiflingly hot train headed to a Chinese desert with my family wouldn’t usually be my idea of fun.
But, contrary to my expectations, it felt like an adventure. Maybe it was the low light or the darkness of the tunnel outside, or the fact that we had stockpiled water and instant noodles, but I was having…well, not exactly fun. It was more like this trip was a new experience, something different.
I’d always been a sucker for a good overnight train journey.
As I sat on the bed suspended with thick chains above the bottom bunk of our tiny cabin, I realized now would be the perfect time to bring up a very important subject with my parents.
“Mum,” I said, “Would you let me dye my hair completely purple?”
She grimaced slightly and shook her straightened hair out. “I don’t think it would be a good idea.”
I was never satisfied till I’d been given a good explanation of exactly why she didn’t think something was a good idea.
I leaned over the side of my bunk, peering at her upside down.
“Why not?” I asked.
Mum glanced to my father for support, but he was dead to the world, headphones in and chewing contentedly on a onion flavoured cracker.
“It’s just...I don’t want you to dye your hair. It’s not good for you.”
This, as both she and I knew, made no sense. I ran my hands through my curls and gestured at my brown hair, streaked through with blonde highlights. Even if we were both standing up, I was a respectable four centimeters taller than her, a fact that I enjoyed very much when we were arguing as I could look down at her.
Mum sighed. “It’s just…”
There was a long silence as I waited for her to finish the sentence.
“Well, if you dye your hair then you might look a bit like a…” She paused again and fidgeted slightly with the blanket. “A Pretty Woman.”
Please tell me I had just imagined that last part.
“Excuse me?” I said, “Since when is dyed hair a symbol of prostitution?”
In the background, my brother was silently laughing. I shot him a look, then climbed down from the top bunk and sat down next to my mother.
“Honey, it’s just with the way you dress, if you dyed your hair you would look kind of…you know.”
Against all odds, it had gotten worse. Not only had my mother connected prostitution with coloured hair, she had insulted me.
“What, so I dress like a hooker, is that what you’re saying?”
Mum looked away.
Great. Wonderful. My own mother thought I dressed like a streetwalking lady of the night.
As I gave up and retreated back to my bed, I thought of what a good story this would make.