Wednesday, May 2, 2007
As a woman, there are quite a few ridiculous things I do to myself in the pursuit of "pretty." The least of these is my weekly scouring of local drugstores for my favorite fake eyelashes, and the most of these is my regular salon appointment to keep this crazy platinum mess on top of my head from looking like a Jerry Springer special.
Blonde hair requires maintenance—lots of maintenance. I won't mention how much my hair color costs to maintain because when they hand me the bill, I hand over a card and desperately try not to look while I sign my name. When people ask me what my natural hair color is I usually respond with, "I have no idea." I haven't seen it since I was 19, and I really don't plan on seeing it again before my death.
Being blonde is important to me. It's about as important to my self-definition as believing I'm good at my job and that my extensive and creative use of curse words will one day earn me a paycheck. At my last hair appointment, when I sat down and asked the stylist to "bleach it within one inch of trashy," he got upset. He says my stringent color requirements put a damper on his creativity as a stylist. He wants to add some brown, maybe some darker streaks. I say, "Give me blonde hair, or I'll give you death."
When I was 19 years old and in college, my hair started to darken to this mousy light brown color. It perturbed me. I did not recognize the almost-brunette in the mirror with the wan skin. My roommate decided that "highlights at home" were a viable option, and she was more than qualified to perform this procedure for free. I agreed.
We were in college, after all, and having her bleach my hair meant our weekly fun-money allowance would cover an extra case of Busch Light. We settled into strapping a cap on my hair and applying bleach. Neither of us understood that because of my very thin hair, the bulk of it was going to pull through the tiny little holes in the cap. Neither of us could have known that because my hair was naturally light, it would take half the time the box instructed to bleach. Neither of us understood that because of this thin texture and naturally light hair, I would have an "allover cotton top" instead of allover highlights. When the timer went off and the bleach was washed down the drain, what was left of my hair was white. It practically screamed "tart."
When we dried it and saw the final color, I cried and screamed. She tried not to laugh. Then, we both laughed. As is true with all women who have ever been the victims of a home-hair accident, most of the time the best you can do is live with it for a couple of months and buy lots of interesting headwear. But amazingly enough, after a few days of this "Marilyn" hair, instead of feeling like a bleached freak, I began to feel "pretty." I liked the new platinum blonde that was me. In public, people noticed my hair—though I will admit I couldn't have been more conspicuous if I had attached blinking red beacons to the sides of my head and began wearing my underwear on the outside. I think it was at this moment that I stopped just being someone with blonde hair, and I actually became blonde.
Current statistics say that three out of five American women color their hair. This statistic makes me feel not so alone in this pursuit of "pretty." Three out of five women follow me into a salon every few months and change something fundamental about their appearance just because they can. Impractical actions in the pursuit of pretty often characterize a woman's daily routine. One has to wonder what miracles we could achieve if we weren't so often trying to do it "pretty." I wish I cared more about that, but I really don't.
There was a time when I almost felt guilty for the American excess this baby blonde color symbolized to others. It is completely at war with my socially conscious feminist side. This blonde hair is the unlikely symbol of the fight between my pretty side and the side of me that believes women should never have to change their appearance in order to feel socially accepted. Yes, I admit it. My hair color is ridiculous. It is as ridiculous as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. It is as ridiculous as every other non-important physical aspect of a woman that the American public uses to define us. But it makes me feel pretty.
Not too long ago, I had a friend try to convince me that going back to my original shade was the only socially responsible thing to do. This suggestion infuriated me. Being blonde isn't about being logical. Being blonde isn't about saving the world. Being blonde is only about feeling pretty. If it's the one thing I do until I die that allows me to feel pretty, then I will die blonde and ridiculous, but I will also die pretty.
When I am dead and lying in the casket with my platinum "do," the most I can hope is that some lone mourner walks by, sees my perfectly colored hair and realizes that whatever I did on this Earth for all the years I was here, I did it pretty, I did it blonde, and I had a ridiculous amount of fun doing it.