I originally planned to skip blonde.
I’ve never felt like blonde suited my personality. Which still feels like an odd observation, even though at this point I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how cultural stereotypes around hair colors have influenced my feelings about dying my hair. And let’s be honest, blonde has a lot of cultural baggage.
Blondes are dumb, shallow, basic—the chosen hair color of wannabe Hollywood bombshells and high school cheerleaders. It’s the hair color of every white, all-American, girl-next-door. Swiftian, you might say. Or Ivankian. It is the Aryan Ideal, the hair color most laden with racist undertones, the thing I most anxiously don’t want to be identified with.
No, I did not want to be blonde. Which is why, at the end of the day, I decided I needed to give it a try.
Because if there’s anything you can take away from that torrent of negative stereotypes I’ve just unleashed it’s that they’re nasty. Like, really vicious. And, for the most part, fairly groundless.
Yes, obviously, people who choose to dye their hair blonde (like I was about to do) might want to conform to a certain stereotype. Maybe we think of blondes as shallow because shallow people dye their hair blonde for shallow reasons? But I also know some truly excellent, intelligent, compassionate people who also happen to be blonde—naturally and otherwise. But I still felt weird about it.
All that said, my trepidation proved mostly groundless. No one made any dumb blonde jokes. In fact, I got more compliments on my blonde hair than on almost any previous color. One of my friends who initially thought blonde hair wouldn’t suit me came round by the end and thought it looked great. Which is nice.
And yet, it never felt entirely normal to me. More than any other color, being blonde felt like wearing a wig. I got used to it, learned how to dress with it, even enjoyed busting out my red lipstick a bit more. But it always felt like wearing someone else’s skin. It lacked the “rightness” I felt with other colors.
More people have been asking me how much longer I plan to keep dyeing my hair. It’s been almost a year now, and initially I only had two more colors planned after blonde. But… I’m having a lot of fun! My hair’s held up well to the battery of chemical processes it’s undergone since last October, the result of working with a colorist who knows what she’s doing and an investment in good shampoo and conditioner. So I can see meandering through a few more colors and just continuing to have fun with it.
Anyway, philosophical ramblings aside, can I take a moment to say: excellent shampoo and conditioner really does make a difference? I accidentally left my current product at my brother’s house in Illinois back in June, and it took over a month to get it back. In the interim, I used my old shampoo and conditioner from before I started this whole process. Holy cow: the difference is actually incredible. I mean, my fancy hair products cost a whole lot more, but last way longer. Although part of that can probably be attributed to how I don’t wash my hair as often as I used to, because it’s dryer than it used to be. Back in the day, my hair got so oily that I had to wash it every other day to keep it clean. Now, my hair only needs washing twice a week. Given that it takes a good twelve hours to air dry, this is a huge life improvement.
A side note to my side note: I hate hair dryers. I have a lot of hair in terms of volume, the the strands themselves are super fine. This means my hair absorbs water like a sponge. I learned years ago that it would take me far too long to blow dry my hair every time I showered, so I gave up. It turns out that blow drying also damages your hair, making it more brittle and prone to breakage. These days, if I need my hair to dry faster I take a walk outdoors. I’ll probably have to buy a blow dryer before winter, because leaving the house with wet hair in the midst of a Michigan cold snap has left me with a head of icicles in the past. But I plan to use it as little as possible.
Oh, and while I’m going through shampoos and conditioners: one of the fun things with blonde hair was needing to regularly tone it with my purple shampoo. Blonde hair gets brassy after a little while, so my hair person (hi, Elizabeth!) advised me to balance it out every other shower or so with a special, purple-pigmented shampoo. It was funny to watch my hair fluctuate between a more orangey shade of yellow and near-white. People kept asking me if I’d gotten my hair re-colored. In fact, my last time round, I actually went too far and ended up with a faintly bluish lock.
OK, hair tangent over. To conclude, I can see coming back to blonde some day. I may try taking it even lighter, going all the way to that silver hue that’s so popular these days. But for now I’m happy to leave it behind. Next stop: copper.