My ultimate lady hero, Nora Ephron, once wrote about the pity she felt for women who had bleached blonde hair. She said that "where hair dye is concerned, being blonde is practically a career." She felt sad for the poor, unfortunate souls who spend hours in salon chairs, having their roots touched-up, toned, and bleached to high heaven. I hate to admit it, but I am one of those suckers: I spend an unnatural amount of time "maintaining" my bleached blonde hair.
When I was a kid, I had a shock of naturally white-blonde hair, which remained aggressively platinum until I became a teenager. Then my hair started darkening, taking on the tone of muddled, dirty sand. For a few years I dyed it black, but the color would never quite work. So I decided to go golden blonde. The blonde may be a cliche in our society, but the cliche fits my personality — with my golden locks, I feel as though my natural insta-cheeriness and tendency to wave at strangers is more endearing, and less creepy.
But one thing I have learned over the years is that being a committed bottle blonde does indeed require spending an inordinate amount of time sitting in those salon chairs. I've shuttled around from stylist to stylist through the years, but I have found that, no matter who is doing the bleaching, there's a consistent pattern and set of social rituals involved in my salon visits. A set of rituals so consistent, in fact, that going blonde really is like having a job. Maybe Ephron was on to something there.
Step 1: Apologize Profusely To The Stylist
Going blonde takes time. A lot of time. I've had a lot of stylists over the years, and no matter how familiar they are with me or my hair situation, I will always epically apologize for how much of their time I am about to take. Not only because I waited too long between visits (a stylist once told me: "those aren't roots, dear, those are tree trunks"), but because I have hair so thick that it can take hours just to foil. Hours. I feel deeply, profoundly awful about the way that me and my big, thick hair hogs their chair.
Step 2: Engage In Awkward Small Talk
I'm a pretty chatty person — I consider it part of my Southern "charm" (I call it "charm," you might call it "annoying personality trait," whatever). And so I make the usual small talk with my stylist (How's the kid? Good. How's the dog? Good).
But after about 15 minutes, I hit the conversational wall with my poor stylist. The process of bleaching your hair can take hours — who has that much to chat about? Everything gets awkward, and the remaining hours in the chair casually slide into either my own babblings about Netflix/cats/Ryan Gosling, just to prevent bizarre silence ... or actual bizarre silence.
Step 3: Deal With The Scalp Burning
I know that chemicals in hair bleach are bad. Really bad. If you've never had your hair bleached, here's what happens: a bunch of burny-y feeling chemicals sit on your head for an extended amount of time, until you're pretty sure that your scalp will melt. And they you're blonde!
Why do we do this to ourselves? If I hadn't spent the past decade marinating my brain in all that bleach, maybe I could properly explain it to you.
Step 4: Experience The Awkward Head Massage
The salon head massage has been confusing me for at least a decade. It's already a strange sensation to have someone else wash my hair, so when they go from conditioning my hair into a full-on head massage, my whole body tenses up. I'm pretty sure that's not the idea behind the scalp massage — it's supposed to soothe you during your long, arduous journey into blondeness.
But ... someone is rubbing my head. I juts can't get around that. Like, I know we've logged a lot of hours in close physical proximity while dyeing my hair, but this step is always just too much for me. Every time, I try to settle into it and do the whole "relaxed" thing, but I always end up just staring wide-eyed at the ceiling, awkward and confused.
Step 5: Get Bored Under The Dryer
Sitting underneath those delightfully awkward space-helmet dryers that beam heat onto my dye-covered is a key part of the blonding experience — but it gets real boring, real fast.
And it is surprisingly tough to figure out what to do with all that time while your hair is being fried. Without fail, I forget to bring a book to read every time I go to the salon, and for some reason, my phone never works in salons. Often times, there's nothing to do but read those complimentary salon hairstyle magazines. I smell a conspiracy!
Step 6: Need To Use The Bathroom At The Wrong Time
I feel like I'm the only one that ever has to go pee during my long salon visits. What gives, ladies? What's your secret? How do you hold it through an entire double process?
I drink a lot of coffee, so I always have to go to the bathroom during my salon visits — and it's usually at an inopportune time. And the mortification of walking across the salon wearing two robes, countless foils on my head, and chemicals leaking down my face? Let's just say it ain't pretty.
Step 7: Make An Appointment To Do It All Over Again
Sigh. Do we learn nothing from burning our scalps and emptying our wallets time and time again? But when you run your fingers through that blonde hair, it's all worth it (well, at least, once the scalp tenderness goes down).