Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Better Living Thru Chemistry: Hello, my name is Kristen, and I'm a hair-dye-aholic

I'm descended from women who dye their hair. My maternal grandmother: shoe-polish black, my paternal grandmother: maintaining the ginger brilliance. My mom is where it starts to get interesting. On her side, we grey in our early 20's. She's been every color from blonde ( Born that way, then bleached in the 60's, baaad idea. Ow. Ow. Ow.) She's been brown, red, black. That was before the color revolution in the 80's. When I was 14, I just wanted to be preppy blonde. Cool, aloof, wanted. My mom had her hair spiked and, "cellophaned," in plum. My mom had punk hair. Talk about taking all the fun out of my adolescence. Thanks, mom.

 I finally convinced her to go back to blonde. This was a mistake. I'm responsible for it. I cut her hair, (thick, wavy,) and I'm in charge of a double-process bleach job.Ye-ah. Thanks mom.

My own adventures in better living through chemistry started when I was about 8. Not color, perms. I wanted curly hair. I had stick-straight, baby fine hair. The irony is that while my mom was born with straight blonde hair, I was born with jet black, curly hair. Which soon devolved to my dad's mom's red, and bleached blonde in the summer. Until I was 10, when it darkened and became the mouse-brown bane of my existence.
(You know those baby barrettes that snap in, with teeth? The ones that aren't supposed to fall out? Yeah, they slid out of my hair like a fireman down a greased pole.)

Perms are a bad idea. Really. Home perms stink to high heaven, melt your hair and don't make it curly, so much as crimped. Ish. (Btw: If crimping irons make a comeback along with 80's fashion - I'm shaving my head.) Still, from age 8-11, I periodically did the perm. Oy vey.

Eventually, perms became a worse idea than straight hair. About when I hit puberty.
Perming is also a family trait. My father had a portrait painted during his Brady-Man perm with Scooby-Doo Fred neckerchief and diamond stud era. Poodle-man reigns!

(I do not have photo of this, but I did once pee on him during this era. He tickled me. I warned him, he didn't stop. Whoops. I do have photos of my parents' wedding. Brown velvet and gold satin. On both of them. If my mom stops threatening to kill me and hack up my body to feed to the dog, I'll post them.)

.....Back after a brief twitter interruption.

My adventures in hair color, or: How I learned that Sun-In is a bad idea.
1.7th grade. Summer vacation. Wanting to be a bit more cool, aloof, preppy blonde and not wanting to ask my mom's permission. (It was the 80's, I was basically a good kid.)
Bright, day-glo-fluorescent-fucking ORANGE hair.
I knew nothing about tones, base color and the limits of peroxide then.
I learned, really fast.

Fortunately, I started my experiment early in the summer. After enough time in the pool and enough sun, I ended up with dishwater blonde. Better.
No. There are not photos. Not anymore.
Fuck off. I burned the negatives.
I didn't try to go blonde again, for 4 years.
Cut to my 18th summer. I'm in a heavy, itchy annoying cast. With pins in my foot. (That's another story.)
I discovered the joy of playing with scissors when washing my hair became irritating and the equivalent of dumping a bucket of water in my lap. Chopped the hair off to shoulder length, bought the, "New and Improved, SUPER Sun-in."
Motherfucking ORANGE again.
You can't recapture the hair color of your youth without a serious investment.
I bleached my hair fo' real this time.
Born Blonde = stripping all the color out until hair is a butter-yellow and then adding, "toner," to achieve the color you want.
This was painful.
This was melted scalp.
This was a week of scabs on my head and big chunks of skin coming off scalp like leprous dandruff.

This...was the 90's.

After that, I ended up going to, "Medium Ash Brown," for the winter. I then discovered you can't strip colors past Light Brown out. (Actually, you can, but it's really, really, really gonna hurt.)

I lived with my natural color for about five years. It was dull and mousy in the winter, brassy and ginger in the summer. I just didn't feel like screwing with it anymore once the goth-y darkness grew out.
Also, I got a real job.
Also, I was broke.
Also, I had a broken heart and didn't give a flying fuck anymore.

Then I turned 25.
Then I found my first gray hairs.
Then I had a bloody quarter-life crisis, experienced the death of dreams and ambitions and said, "What the Fuck?"
Enter: Blonde/punk/streaky/go-to-hell-corporate-barbie hair.
Ok, not really punk. Just long and a good cut.
The streaky blonde over dark brown...that was my rebellion-within-reason. They couldn't fire me over it.
Blue hair = pink slip, I was trying to figure out how not to wear pantyhose.
I like that hair. A lot.
Eventually, I ended up with cherry cola (burgundy brown,) straight-up burgundy (wine red,) and a sort of plummy brown.
Then I left the cube farm.

Hello, Blondie.
I am a: triple-process blonde. Allow me to explain: My base color is chestnut brown, with an underlying red tone. This means that if I lighten my hair even one shade, I get orange tones. Really. To go blonde I: Use a bleach-out kit, (prefer Garnier 100% color, it lifts beautifully.One box. 2 hours. Pinky swear.)
II: Use a color to darken the above color to an appropriate shade of blonde. Occasionally mix two shades to get the mid-shade. Usually med-dark ash blonde, sometimes champagne. One year, totally platinum. (Another year of chopping the hair off. Waaay shorter. Playing with scissors is fun and therpeutic!)
III: high/lowlight, or both, to achieve the perfect blending of tones to ensure that the regrowth is only going to look mildly trashy, and/or will blend out in an unobtrusive way.

I've reached an age where high-maintenance hair is not really a good idea. I don't use a blow dryer, I don't use styling tools and almost no products. I've got my makeup down to a bare minimum that's effective and let's me face the world without feeling as though I look like creamed, chipped death on toast.
I live in jeans, peasant skirts, flip-flops, tank tops, sweaters and boots in winter.
I'm not a prissy, fussy princess.
I. Don't. Have. That. Kind. Of. Time.

Sometimes, if I've been very blonde, I do the Kool-aid color to mix things up. Black Cherry is my fave.
Blue hair doesn't go with my skin tone.

My employer doesn't care.
I'm very good at what I do.
I've gone to work in jammies and slippers.
I have nice jammies.
So, yes: I'm a hair-dye addict.
Given that two energy-juices, a Dr. Pepper and 2 cups of coffee leave me feeling like what I imagine tweaking on meth feels like... It's probably a good thing that my idea of better living through chemistry involves which pretty color I can put on my head.
I forgot to mention: the stick-straight, baby-fine texture... When I turned 30, I got a miracle - wavy hair.
I have no idea how. Really.

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