July 2009

Dyeing for perfection

By Suzanne Strazza

The first time I colored my hair was in college. I had a date for a formal dinner dance with a young man from a VERY respectable family. I won’t name names here, but suffice it to say that there is a well-known Center in NYC with an ice-skating rink and extremely large Christmas tree, named after his family.

I wasn’t excited about the guy himself but I did sort of imagine him as somewhat of a Sebastian from “Brideshead Revisited” — young, wealthy, reckless, flamboyant and most likely, gay. As I would be his perfect arm candy, I figured that he would be the perfect accessory to a brand new ’do.

Note: This was back in the day when the only hair-color alteration that a nice girl performed was a bit of summer “frosting.”

So, I wanted to be a redhead like my beautiful friend, Carrie. I had always envied the status that she enjoyed by having flaming red tresses in a world of boring blondes and brunettes.

On the day of the event, I went to the drugstore, picked out a color, read the directions and concluded that this would be a piece of cake.

Somehow in my excitement to unleash the new me, I lost track of the time. My date arrived while I still had the plastic cap on “cooking” my locks. When he knocked at the door, I quickly rinsed out the color, flipped my hair upside down, blew it dry, threw on my gown and heels and ran out the door.

“Wow,” he began, “you look…”

“Thank you,” I demurely replied, quite confident in my glamorous-ness. I held out my arm and allowed myself to be escorted into my waiting chariot.

The dining room was candle-lit as was the ballroom. My Sebastian turned out to be quite entertaining, getting extremely drunk and nicknaming me “Red.” We danced the night away until the very wee hours.

The multitude of comments that I received about the revamped me convinced me that my peers found me daring, bold, and perhaps even sultry. There were a few mirrors around, but who needed one – my martini-fortified confidence made me skate right by without a glance.

When I crawled out of bed the next morning, still sporting the gown, I caught a flash of magenta out of the corner of my eye.

Good God, it was my hair! Not red, not auburn like the box promised, it was Barbie pink.

And I wonder why I never again heard from Sebastian.

So, after calling Carrie in hysterics and a $50 repair job, a deep sink into a tar pit of humiliation and a two-day hangover to boot, I was able to conceive of showing my face around campus once again.

You would think I would give up on hair-dyeing.

Oh, but so not so. I have since been auburn, golden, raven-tressed, aubergine (fancy for purple eggplant) platinum, quite a few shades of orange, and once, accidentally, green.

I have had Tom in the store at 10 p.m. reciting to me the color names off the fronts of boxes over the phone so that I could repair damage before having to go to work in the morning.

I have called friends at their jobs, demanding that they fake sickness so that they can leave to turn green back to brown.

I have tried permanent, semi-permanent, highlighted, professional and hennaed. I have dyed my eyebrows to match the top. I have burned off said eyebrows and scorched my forehead.

I have even tried to abstain. Rumor has it, my natural color is a good one. I actually believe that. I get stopped in the hair-care aisle by women wanting to replicate it. If it came in a box, I would certainly try it.

But I can’t stop myself. I don’t shave, wear makeup or pay for salon treatments. I cut my own hair and wear second-hand clothes. I am not a girl who fusses.

It’s just that those damn boxes in the City Market with all of their shiny new hues and enticing names like Golden Cappuccino and Southwest Desert Sand scream my name. They beckon me in my sleep, tug at my shirtsleeve while I shop for bananas across the store.

Eventually, I always cave. The rush of closing in on just the right color particularly if it’s on sale, is just so good, I can’t live without it.

Let’s face it, as much as I want to deny it, I am a woman who dyes her hair.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.