Once upon a time, about five or six years ago, I went to get my hair cut. As I was leaving my office to do so, I was informed by the ladies in my office, Linda and Diane, that my appointment was also to get highlights in my hair. When I arrived, the fabulous Missy K. at Pecans asked me what color I wanted my highlights to be. I told her that since I was only informed that I was getting highlights ten minutes prior, that I had no idea, and I trusted her judgment.
My hair, as it grows out of my head, is a very dark brown. Charitably, you'd call it “dark chocolate." More accurately you’d call it “topsoil." The highlights were blonde, and over time, as the roots were re-highlighted, I turned into a blonde, although my naturally bushy eyebrows, which, un-manicured, make me look like the love child of Frieda Kahlo and a Russian Dictator, remained dark. It was a gradual transformation, and the truth is, I didn't really care. I don't look at myself much in the mirror, except incidentally when I wash my hands, and the five or so days a week where I bother fixing my hair and makeup.
Other people liked it. I got a lot of compliments, even from perfect strangers in elevators. At some point in there, I switched hairdressers, and I now go to the fabulous Ben Odum at Beauty and Beyond Salon (partially owned by my law partner, Don Jones, and we always call it 'Daddy Don's Salon' in his honor, but I digress.) Ben's theory, which I really can't argue with, is that he is a professional and good at his job, and so I shouldn't have much say in how he does my hair. As he phrases it, "You practice law, I'll cut hair." And I appreciate that. I've always wondered why professionals ask my opinion about their jobs. I remember when I was planning my wedding, and the florist asked me, "What kind of flowers do you want?" and my first thought was: Why are you asking me? I'm not a florist. Why are we limiting this to my knowledge of flowers and flower arranging? As far as I’m concerned there are roses and lilies and babies’ breath and a whole bunch of other flowers that I like when I see but couldn’t name if my life depended on it. I think what I actually said was, “Pretty flowers.”
Back on topic, I've been some variation of blonde for pretty much as long as my children can remember. The past few months have been particularly crazy for me, as Don has been (successfully, thank you very much) battling kidney cancer, and the associate upon whom things generally roll down hill has been out on maternity leave. It has been very difficult for me to find a few hours in a row in which to get my hair highlighted and cut. Ben even hounds me with texts and phone calls because he knows I look horrible, and it hurts his feelings – as it should – to see his work come to such a tragic end. The bottom line is that I had this awful dark reverse skunk stripe running down the center of my head for an inch in two directions. Even I, who am probably the least concerned with how I look as any professional woman, thought this looked unforgivably tacky.
Last Friday, I decided enough was enough, and as I was incapable of cutting or highlighting my own hair, I went to Walgreens and bought a box of chemicals which promised ease of use and an end result of hair that would be "Espresso" colored. I got home, and bowed out of my children's scheduled activity, so that I could try this all by my lonesome and in various stages of undress so as not to ruin any more pieces of clothing than was absolutely necessary.
I opened the box. It looked like a mad scientist's kit. There were four different tubes and bottles, and a pair of plastic gloves, and a warning that if I didn't use it immediately after mixing it that it might explode in the bottle. So I poured bottle one into bottle two, then mixed in phial three, covered and shook. Somewhere in there I took the time to laugh to myself that the directions were in English and French, as if Sophisticated French Ladies were likely to buy home hair dye in the Loganville Walgreens. I opened the bottle to put on the applicator cap, paused to turn on the vent fan, because that stuff seriously stunk, and applied it before it exploded. I massaged the goop in my hair, set the timer for the prescribed 25 minutes, and sat on the step of the tub to read a book, since I couldn't do anything else. There is a mirror across from the tub, and it looked like I had rubbed some thin, nasty frosting in my hair.
About 15 minutes later, I looked up from my book to stretch my neck, and what I saw in the mirror startled me. The goop had turned a rich, espresso colored brown, just like the box had promised. I waited out the time, rinsed it out, used the finishing conditioner found in tube four, dried it off with a towel, combed it out and looked in the mirror. What I saw made my smile. It wasn't an especially striking or pretty color, in fact, where the blonder parts were it didn't cover completely, and in a certain light there is a bit of a green undertone, but it was me. Me, for the first time in years looking back at me. My hair now matches my eyebrows -- the curtains match the valence, I suppose? I got an involuntary grin on my face.
I'm not saying that highlighting your hair or artificial hair color is bad. I did it for years. Change can be fun, and impermanent things like that are harmless. I am just saying that as for me, I prefer being me. My highlights never made me smile like that. And, as my 11-year-old son said, "I like your hair this way. Everyone has blonde highlights."
While we're on the topic, I'm not getting Botox or anything on my ever-deepening crows' feet. I like them. I've spent 42 years smiling and laughing to create them. I'm proud of them. I don't need to look younger than I am. I've rarely met anyone whose efforts succeeded, anyway. I’m not saying I’m going to quit taking care of myself – no one wants to see my natural unibrow, and makeup is part of the polished uniform I wear to work. I’m just going to wallow for a while without being bright and shiny up top.
A few posts ago, I talked about a change in attitude in which I was going to quit trying to fit into an extroverted world when I really didn't want to. This is just more of the same. The world says you have to look a certain way? To heck with that. I don't want to teach my daughter that she needs chemicals to look presentable. If she wants to for fun, or because she prefers a certain look she wasn't born with, fine, that's her choice, but she's fine without it, too. Personally, I think she is one of the most gorgeous, perfect creatures on the planet. I want her to be happy with herself the way God made her. And the best way to do that, I believe, is to lead by example. My brown hair, which she has inherited (except that she has this lovely golden, youthful luster to hers) is my gift to her. She might decide to exchange it later for a more exciting model, but for now, I want her to keep it.