Aspen Princess: A lifetime of blonde moments
My longtime hairstylist gives me a dead-eye stare in the mirror, wielding her mighty comb and says, “What do you mean, it’s not blonde enough?”
“I just think I want it a little blonder,” I say, shrinking into the chair.
She rolls her eyes at me and goes off to mix the color. She’s been putting up with me for a long time, so she knows when it’s time to argue and when it’s time to save her breath. But if there is one thing she has always known, it’s that I’m a blondoerexic.
The need to be blonde (and then blonder and blonder and blonder until I look like a Swedish exchange student for the two weeks before my roots start to grow back in) has only been exacerbated by the fact that I now have a child who is a towhead and has the hair I’ve always dreamed of my entire life. It’s so flaxen it’s practically see-through. I stare at it all day long, running my fingers through it, marveling at its natural shine and how the color is consistent roots to ends. I’m also stunned by his flawless skin, his long, thick eyelashes and perfect lips.
And that’s when it hit me: The beauty industry has me fooled into thinking I should look like a 2-year-old.
I have never been a natural beauty. Throughout my life, I’ve had unfortunate reminders of this.
Once, in high school, my best guy friend tried to reassure me when I wasn’t invited to the senior prom. (Granted, I was only a freshman, but still.)
“You’re just not the prom date type, Al,” he said.
Then in college another close male friend was lamenting about his love life. “You know, Ali, people like us, we’re just not lookers,” he’d said. “It’s always going to be a little harder for us.”
“What do you mean people like us?” I wanted to say. But instead, I kept quiet and just listened, mostly because I knew he was right.
Throughout my 20s, I was labeled “cute,” a descriptor that was relatively easy to live up to as a short girl with a lot of personality. And while I did have a series of long-term boyfriends who adored me, I always wanted the guys I couldn’t have. I was kind of like a guy that way. The more unavailable they were, the more driven I was to seduce them, and the more convinced I was that achieving a certain look was the only way to do that.
If you’re sitting there wondering what in god’s name this has to do with my penchant for blonde hair, hold on just a second.
In all those years, I felt the need to mold myself into the person I thought I should be: thinner, prettier and less ethnic. While my ethnicity isn’t obvious in terms of skin color, it’s the things I don’t have that separated me from the blue-blood friends I grew up with, the types of girls who looked like they jumped out of a J Crew catalog: the straight, short nose, the lithe, tall frame and narrow hips, the stick-straight blonde hair. While I never could find the courage or the money to get a nose job, I have probably spent a small fortune on taming my unruly hair, which is naturally wavy, wiry and brown.
My mom was a towhead until she was about 12, and my brother inherited her coloring. But I resembled my dad’s side of the family, with their deep-set eyes, dark frizzy hair and (if we’re being nice) stocky body types.
I started bleaching my hair in eighth grade and never looked back. I was a blonde in every way except the god-given one. I also went to great lengths to make it straight — the straighter the better. This was achieved with a drawer full of products and heating tools, everything from leave-in conditioners and silk sprays to high powered hair dryers and nuclear flat irons. Between the bleaching and the styling, it’s amazing all my hair didn’t fall out — only half of it did. Instead of the long hair I always wanted, I was often forced to cut my hair into a bob when half the hair on my head broke off.
Let’s not forget all those trips to the salon for color processing that involves painting individual strands of hair with different shades of blonde and wrapping it in tin foil strips. The color has to process for about two hours, so I get to sit around in black smock with aluminum dreadlocks reading tabloid magazines and sitting under the dryer until my brain melts and my eyeballs fall out, to the tune of 200 bucks.
Also, once a year I get a Brazilian blow out, not to be confused with a Brazilian wax. It’s like the opposite of getting a perm. It’s a protein treatment that makes my hair permanently straight and silky, at least until the wind blows or it grows out enough to get frizzy again. That only costs about $300 bucks, takes another two hours and means I can’t wash my hair for three days while the stuff sets.
One night, I fell asleep with my hair wet. When I woke up, it was super wavy and curly, like I’d just stepped off a beach.
“Look at how cute your hair is,” Ryan said. “Why don’t you just wear it like that all the time?
So I did. And you know what? I heard that same refrain from almost everyone I saw. I guess it let a little more of the real me come out. As I get older, I realize you spend half your life trying to figure out who you are and the other half trying to accept it. That’s all good, as long as I can do it as a blonde.
The Princess really needs to get her roots done. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.