When I made the decision to dye my hair from dark brown to platinum back in May, it was with the best intentions. For ages, I'd played it safe with my look because I was so concerned with being what our senior beauty editor Alix Tunell and I call "guy hot." Meaning, I avoided any beauty look that could potentially turn off men (like micro-bangs, blue lipstick, and unnatural hair color). But after some soul-searching — and a year-long stint in therapy to bolster my depleted self-confidence — I decided to bleach the ever-loving shit out of my hair to untether it from my identity. But things didn't go according to plan.
Instead, I wound up completely losing myself. After the initial shock and amazement of my dye job wore off, I found myself waking up every morning, looking at myself in the mirror, and wondering what the hell I'd done. My hair was majorly damaged thanks to the bleach, which meant I couldn't really heat-style it if I wanted to. Its color made the pink tones in my skin stand out more, which meant it was much harder for me to conceal a zit. And I hated the way most of my wardrobe looked with my new hair, but didn't have the funds for a closet overhaul.
I'd only been blond for about a week-and-a-half when I looked at myself in the mirror and decided I was no longer pretty. I was staying with friends in Austin, and we were getting ready to go out to dinner — but I couldn't settle on a makeup look. All the makeup I wore as a brunette looked wrong. Red lipstick made me look more Marilyn Monroe than Courtney Love, and for whatever reason, winged eyeliner just didn't work anymore. But the "new" makeup looks I was attempting (bronze eyeshadow, brown lipstick) felt off, too. I followed all those "Find the Best Makeup for Your Skin/Eyes/Hair" guides you see in every magazine and Bobbi Brown book, and still hated the end result. "I'm hideous!" I anguished. "This was the worst mistake of my life!" Tara, my friend who had dyed her hair gray for an R29 story last year at my behest, laughed. "You just need to get used to it," she said.
Well, I've been a blonde for three months now and I'm not used to it. Aside from not feeling like myself, the maintenance of it sucks — like, really sucks. This has nothing to do with the quality of the colorists I went to — both of the women who dealt with my strands as a blonde were amazing, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. But the touch-ups hurt like hell and leave my sensitive scalp with scabs. They say beauty is pain, but I can't help but feel I'm getting the short end of that deal.
There are moments when I enjoy being a blonde. Sometimes, it feels like I'm playing a fun little game of dress-up, and there are days when I think my strands look totally killer — usually after my roots grow in a bit. I've been able to try a bunch of new products, and I look forward to my weekly, hours-long hair wash. My initial theory — that men wouldn't like my artificial, high-maintenance hair — turned out to be bunk. Lots of dudes love a blonde — and so does the rest of the world, it seems. I've received compliments on my hair almost daily — via Instagram, Twitter, and on the street. But what I've realized is that this doesn't really matter to me anymore. I've become confident enough in myself that I no longer seek the approval of friends, strangers, or guys I'm dating.
There's something else that's nagging me. I feel like I might be handing over my feminist card by saying this, but I don't feel sexy as a blonde. I feel cool and fashion-y, but I also felt those things with my natural color. My brown hair made me feel sexy, and that sexiness made me feel confident, which, in turn, made me feel powerful. My brown hair was like that perfect black dress that works with everything and flatters you like nothing else. For three months, I've been living with the regret of metaphorically setting that dress on fire.
Sexiness is a tricky concept, because it tends to be wrapped up with the male gaze. As Emily Ratajkowski brilliantly put it in her essay for Lenny Letter earlier this year, "The implication is that to be sexual is to be trashy, because being sexy means playing into men's desires." But that's not what it means to me. I feel sexiest when I put on a good lipstick, tousle my curly, brown hair, and throw on a great pair of jeans. My sexiness comes from within — not from what men say looks "hot" on me. So I'm bailing on platinum. Peace out, Team Blond — I haven't had more fun.
I have grown, though. The whole experience has taught me that brown hair is an important part of my identity — a part I don't want to lose again. Chad Kenyon, a colorist I went to during my blonde phase, put it best: "You realized that you're beautiful just the way you are." Amen. I didn't need to bleach my hair to find myself, but it sure sped up the process.