16 February 99

I colored my hair again. It didn't come out as expected. It was supposed to be "Lightest Auburn" (read: bright red), but it was very cold in the house, and that affected the chemical process resulting in a darker color. I now have dark auburn hair. It's not what I expected... but it's interesting.

This whole hair coloring business is interesting. Since I've been experimenting, I find I no longer think of myself as "brown-haired," a trait which heretofore defined me.

When I was very little, I hated having brown hair. It didn't matter that my shade of brown was an excellent, vibrant, deep color with bright copper lights. It didn't matter that other people would kill to have my fine, beautiful, manageable hair. Because when I was growing up, blond was the color hair to have. I remember dying inside because I couldn't even enter the Miss Something-Or-Other contest because the first requirement was that entrants be blond. I hated Shirley Temple.

Over the years, I got used to my hair color. I got used to thinking of myself as having brown hair. I got used to thinking I wasn't as beautiful or as interesting as persons with blond hair. I got used to feeling slightly undesireable.

I thought about coloring my hair. There was a time when the phrase "blonds have more fun" dinned in our ears continually-- and we believed it was true.

I really did want to be a blond, but, in those days, in spite of the stigma of being a brunette, in spite of the ads telling me I could be a blond, too, there was a worse stigma attached to being a Person Who Dyed Her Hair. And besides, everyone also told me that dyeing would destroy my hair or make it all fall out or-- even the professional hair colorist I consulted told me scare stories. I think he just didn't like me. Probably because I was a natural brunette.

The ads said I could color my hair myself, that anyone could be a blond. But, on the boxes, there were pictures of the "results" you'd get when the blond color was applied. They said anyone could be a blond, so why did the boxes always say the color was unsuitable for persons with dark brown hair and therefore the product would not lighten hair to blond?

I gave up. I didn't know anything about coloring hair. The professionals told me I couldn't do it. I left my hair the color nature had made it. Resigned, I toughed it out, convinced deep in my heart that I was missing something because my hair was brown.

So my hair stayed brown until it started getting gray. In my family, you either go gray at 30 or you don't go gray until you're in your sixties. I'm not in my sixties. But, looking in the mirror, I started to feel I looked it. And that's when I thought, What the heck? What's the worst thing that can happen?

Worst case scenario: All my hair breaks off and I have to wear a wig until it grows out-- and that probably isn't going to happen because if stuff like that happened, there wouldn't be so darned many hair coloring products on the shelves of every supermarket and drug store, right? Right. I read the boxes, and I bought the color stripper and I went to work.

I had to strip my hair twice to get all the color out-- or most of the color, anyway. I went from brown hair, to lemon yellow on top with blotchy orangey on the sides. It looked a bit like animal fur-- kinda like tortoise shell cat fur, only in yellows and oranges. I left it that way for a day while I thought about what to do next. I hadn't settled on a shade of blond, and I wanted to be sure... When people saw me, they asked what happened, and I told them.

I looked and looked, but I couldn't find any shade that was exactly right. Then I remembered the green dye. Envy Green. My friend out in L.A. had sent it to me as a joke a year or so before. It said on the bottle it wasn't permanent, and it would wash out-- What the heck?

I liked the green hair. I liked green the best of all the colors I've tried. And everyone that saw it liked it too. And someday, when I don't have to answer to anyone for my pay, I'm going to have green hair again...

But, for now, it's enough that I am no longer defined by the color of my hair. I'm not "brown-haired." I'm not a blond, I'm not a red-head. I'm not trying to fool anyone; they all know when I color my hair, so no one whispers behind my back "That's not her real hair color, you know." Most folks, take a look at the color-- whatever it is-- and smile, and say, "Wow, that's a good color." And I smile back and say, "Yeah, it is, isn't it?"

And I have the impression that they envy me a little. Not because of my hair color, but because I'm not defined by my hair color.

When I think of myself now, I think adventurous. And having an adventurous spirit is far more interesting than being blond could ever be.


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