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Lighten up: It's just hair

by Stephanie Hickey, assoc. Lifestyles editor

The saying “bad hair day” can be understood to mean that things just aren’t going your way, but when women say it, we mean it. My hair is too frizzy, too curly, too brassy, unmanageable, weighed down, dull, damaged, or in my face or in yours when those words escape my lips. I spend more money on my hair then I do on food. My conditioner costs as much as an entrée at a restaurant, $12.75. I have “high maintenance” hair, meaning I use different shampoos depending on what my hair needs: deep cleansing, moisturizing, damage control. You’ve got a problem; my bathroom’s got the product. As my roommate says when she opens a drawer or peers into a cabinet, “You’ve got so many cosmetics, it’s sick.”

However, like many college students, I can’t always afford the entrée and instead should stick with the appetizer. In other words, Suave Shampoo can replace Graham Webb. So, when my boyfriend offered to help me spruce up my dull locks with an at-home highlighting kit, I thought to myself, “Well it would save me an expensive trip to the salon.” My hair disasters of the past, (bleaching my hair blond at home, then dyeing it brown, which turned it green) should have taught me a lesson. Not so.

After perusing the hair care aisle at the 24-hour Pali Longs, I decided to try L’Oreal’s Feria hair chunking kit. The sleek-looking model on the box stared at me from the shelf, her shiny, sunlit locks assuring success. Had I’d read the fine print, for medium blond to dark blond hair only, I might have grabbed a different box, saving myself from the disaster that was to follow.

Blonde, as a kid, but brunette as a young adult, I’d clung to the notion that I was still a blonde. Blonde progressed to dirty blonde progressed to dark blonde, but now I was, without a doubt, a brunette, or what is referred to in the hair color world as a No. 6. On a scale of 1 to 10, one being the lightest, I was definitely no longer a pale beauty. My refusal to relinquish the idea that “blondes have more fun” had me consistently plotting ways to transform myself from Audrey Hepburn to Marilyn Monroe, a behavior that turned me many a shade of what I like to call copper-coated candy, which really meant orange and frazzled. (Think the Pantene girl before the Pantene).

It had been awhile since I’d ignore the saying “Don’t try this at home,” and I allowed myself to get suckered into to the farce of “Do it yourself, hair color.”

John, my boyfriend, took direction beautifully, though. I armed him with tin foil, a comb, and a beer; he was ready for action. I sat. Gloves and all, he gulped his Guinness. Spatula in hand, he was prepared to make me a blond bombshell.

Four beers later, things were starting to lighten up. Wearing a silver crown of foil, I now had John sitting down, ready to have his own hair transformed by home color. Sporting orange kitchen gloves (it’s impossible to reuse those that accompany a L’Oreal package) I swirled the leftovers around on his head. John gulped his dark beer, while I caressed his hair with potion.

Almost an hour later, we’d both changed. Showered too soon, neither of us had left the color in long enough. My mid-back locks were streaked with a color that resembled pumpkin pie. He began calling himself Agent Orange, because if that poison had a color, it was his hair.

We walked around like this for a week. John’s not the type of guy to care, but he knew he looked bad. At nine the next morning, I called Renell, my stylist from Macy’s on Fort Street. She couldn’t see me for three days. John held out as long as he could, and not inclined to visit a stylist, toughed it out with a baseball cap. Few were ever shown what was under the Oakland A’s hat.

Finally, color day came. After some conversation with the other hairdressers, Renell was confident she could fix me. What I thought would be a short two-hour hiatus from my normal morning, turned into four hours of conditioning packs and lowlights (which are the opposite of highlights: dark streaks on light hair). John had picked up some men’s brown hair dye, and spent his morning standing in front of the bathroom mirror applying it.

One-hundred forty dollars later, my hair was a light golden brown, with shades of copper. I looked better, but was still hues away from the platinum-streaked princess I had envisioned. My advice: unless you’ve perfected the art of home color, avoid the booze and the hair color aisle all together. In fact, leave your hair alone! As I’ve come to realize, Audrey Hepburn was a better actress than Marilyn Monroe anyway.



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