by Tanya Spackman
I currently have a couple blue streaks in my hair. I don’t like it and will soon be dyeing my hair– all of it — a lovely auburn. The blue was preceded by a couple purple streaks (liked it) and several fuchsia streaks (liked it). I’m much too old for this to be any sign of rebellion; it’s just something I’ve always wanted to try. I’m almost over it. Luckily, I work in a job where I don’t necessarily have to have a professionally conservative appearance to meet with clients or that sort of thing, so while my supervisor may be thinking, “Early midlife crisis,” he isn’t thinking, “Conform or be fired.” However, this experimentation has led to some interesting (to me) thoughts.
As I’ve explored my looks with various colors, I haven’t felt comfortable going to temple, so I haven’t gone. In reality, my temple attendance is not as frequent as it should be and I would likely not have gone anyway during these few weeks, but the fact that it has been hanging there, not feeling like an option, has bothered me. I certainly don’t feel that merely slapping a little unnatural color in my hair has made me any less worthy. However, I feel like I would be a distraction to others, and that seems selfish of me. While it is likely no one would say anything, and if anyone thought anything, it would probably be something like, “Hmm, you don’t see blue hair in the temple every day,” and then they would go on with their work, for some I may be a stumbling block. They might find my blue streaks offensive, or even just distracting enough that they may have a difficult time focusing on the reason for being there. Whether they are going out of duty, seeking the Spirit, or to find answers to questions, my presence distracting them is selfish on my part when the blue streaks are totally in my control.
It may be that I attribute too much power to my hair and, really, no one will care and I’m just being silly. Yet, this is a very conservative church, and that includes appearance. And I would definitely argue that (let’s be realistic) people should not be so focused on others as to care what someone else does with their hair. And yet, appearance matters and, like I said, it is selfish of me to place myself in a position to distract others when distractions really shouldn’t happen. I don’t know how much of this concern about appearance is American culture and how much is Church culture. Should we be less concerned about it in the Church? Should we be more accepting? Or do we believe that what is on the outside reflects the inside?
On a related issue, a youth in my ward had pink hair, and I’ve been told it is now blue. I found out that he is not allowed to pass the sacrament until his hair returns to a natural color. I don’t know this kid at all– I don’t even know his name– so for all I know the hair color is only part of the issue in his case. I can see how a rebellious attitude could play a part in it. But the impression I was given was that he had no other issues besides the hair. Assuming it is just the hair, I think it is silly that he cannot pass the sacrament, and yet I also feel torn between how much we should submit to requests from priesthood authority, regardless of how we feel about it (Humility? Authority? Sustaining?), and how much we should say, “This doesn’t matter” and give it no more thought. Does pink or blue hair make him unworthy? Does it have something to do with the appearance of evil, or is conformity too much of a Church value? And is this just an American issue, or does it come up in other wards throughout the planet?
Where is the line between This Matters and This Doesn’t Matter? Have we moved too many things across the line into This Matters?
Tanya Spackman is single (and looking) and lives in Dugway, Utah. She served a mission in Chicago, and graduated from BYU in 1998 with a degree in molecular biology. She currently works for a contractor as a technical writer and editor at Dugway Proving Ground, a fun place to work. And, yes, she is related to Ben Spackman — they are cousins. (Hi, Ben!)