“YOU HAVE SO MUCH HAIR,” my friend lamented, violently raking bleach through my locks. I sat there grinning, watching episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race and trying to ignore the bleach fumes that were burning my nasal passages and eyes. I was happy and expectant.
When my friend had called me earlier, saying that she was bored and that we should finally do my hair, I instantly agreed. “Make me look like a fake bitch,” I said. I wanted to be platinum blond—Britney and Sharon Needles blond. I told myself that I didn’t care how good it came out. I just wanted to look like an entirely different person.
We drove over to Sally Beauty Supply and I found myself in HEAVEN. Also a devotee of Claire’s, I now want to own everything in Sally’s: the hair extensions, the nail polish, and every single shade of the itty-bitty $1 lipstick tubes by the cash register. We picked out my desired shade of blond (platinum) and a couple of packets of bleach. Our total came to about $35. “Wow. That’s so much cheaper than when I went blonde,” the cashier said. We laughed knowingly. Getting it done professionally is soooo overrated! We knew everything about hair, and I was going to be a different person by the next day.
Fast-forward a few hours. We were only halfway through my hair and completely out of the chemical paste we were using to strip it of all life. One ride to Walgreens, a trip to Chick-fil-A, and 1,000 listens to Danny Brown’s “Monopoly” later, we were back at it—this time with fried chicken and tall Styrofoam cups of Hi-C.
By the time we had bleached my hair twice, it was well past midnight. At that point my hair had achieved a fiery orange, so we decided that tomorrow we would continue to bleach it until it was blond. “We’ll just buy more and show it who’s boss,” I said confidently as we went to bed.
On our fourth bleach the next day, I wanted to cry. My friend was doing my roots, and it felt like my entire head was consumed in flames. It felt like if I were to move my head at all, my entire head of hair would just slide off and onto the floor. A few minutes in, I said something close to “OWMOTHERFUCKERSHITFUCKSHITSHITNOOOO” and ran into the shower. No amount of cursing or rinsing could alleviate the burning and the bleeding of my scalp. When I got out of the shower, we finished watching Heathers, ate some macaroni and cheese, and decided that it was time for me to go home. “Just finish bleaching it later, and wear lots of makeup” was my friend’s advice.
When I got to my house, I pulled my baseball cap over my eyes and ran for the door. I didn’t want our neighbors to see. Words my friend and I had used to describe how I looked included: friendly crack whore, meth incarnate, Guy Fieri, and Kreashawn. IN MY HEART I knew it was wrong, but it wasn’t until my mother saw me that I decided to quit bleach forever.
Mom sighed and suggested that I call every salon in town—we only had two days before we would be leaving on vacation. No one would take me until my mom got her hairdresser to agree to do it the next day.
The salon receptionist knew who I was the second I walked in. Over the next three hours there were lots of “Oh honeys” from the hairdressers and lots of laughs and “What did you do to look like that” from elderly women getting their hair done.
By the end of my ordeal, my hair was a weird, ashy yellow color and a few inches shorter. Parts of my hair that turned green from the bleach still showed through, but I looked like a normal person again. I didn’t like it, but I can live with it for a few months.
I wish there were some PSA that said “don’t do bleach, kids” or that I knew someone who could have been a voice of reason. Still, I don’t really regret my bleaching adventure that much. I did for a second, but then my brother told me something that changed my mind. “Some people just aren’t meant to dye their hair. You’re one of them. Do you think Lena Dunham would do this?” I said yes, she would. He rolled his eyes. I walked away, covered my hair with a scarf, and felt OK about it all. ♦