I have a weird obsession with changing my hair. It’s weird because I’ve lived in the same town my whole life, I travel to the same places every year and I shop at the same three stores every week. Variety and change are not my typical seasoning. It’s a bonafide obsession because the second I get used to the way my hair looks I am driven to change it and make it different. It’s impulsive, and I am consumed by the itch to cut it off or color it. It’s the same feeling that makes bored teenagers do really stupid stuff on YouTube.
As a lady who has spent a war-sized debt on trips to the hair salon, I know that box colors are basically a sin and somewhere out in fiction land Elle Woods; attorney at law, is dying on the inside (see what I did there?) to know that today I caved and bought the box of bleach from the shelf at WalDrug.
I was pretty certain that I was buying a big box of mistake. With my toddler scream-flailing under my arm in a desperate attempt to gain freedom from his ball and chain of a mother, I “swiftly” bent down, grabbed a box of “champagne, caramel, honey wheat” whatever and made way for the register quickly enough that I couldn’t hesitate or rethink my hasty decision. (Or lose control of my toddler and be forced to let him be adopted by the nice staff at WalPharm).
“That’ll be $17.48”, the cashier said.
Holy crap, it’s under twenty bucks for a box of bleach and here I am going to the salon every few months and spending over a hundred and fifty dollars on highlights? Not to mention the begging I have to do to pass my kids off for an afternoon while I sweat it out under a smock. I’m a chump. On the other hand, this project could fail terribly and I’d be walking around with a frizzy, orange, clown ‘fro and be begging my stylist to take me back immediately and make me whole again.
And if she told me no, I would know that I deserved it because I bought that dirty box of hair color.
I have to buckle down on my budget, and it’s boot season. It’s boots or salon highlights this month. Mama can’t cobble her own leather, so at home highlights it is.
For added situational drama, my toddler has recently ceased sleeping due to teething. (On the behalf of parents everywhere I’d like to interject: Fuck You Molars.)
I knew fully that I would be bleaching my hair while simultaneously chasing my toddler and keeping him from falling off of furniture. That’s the twenty dollar, hair color in a box experience for you. No sweet receptionist is serving me tea or water today.
My husband took our preschooler off to school this morning, and I went to work immediately. I’m pretty sure errrbody knows that highlights take eons, and I have only three hours. Tick tock, time’s wasting.
I put on the funny little shower cap that comes with the box, it’s a plastic bonnet, a la great grandma, and it has tiny holes in it that you pull your hair through. With what you ask? What do you pull your hair through those holes with? A knitting needle. Or at least it looks like one.
Prepare to meet your maker, frugal lady. Stabbing yourself in the head with a knitting needle approximately a hundred times and pulling your hair out with it is just as fun as it sounds.
About one hour and four hundred tears later, I had pulled all of the hairs I could handle through those tiny hat holes. And I did it while catching my toddler eating toothpaste, losing a pair of my earrings, opening up a water bottle and dumping it out in the kitchen, then crying because he was wet, then following me back into the bathroom and opening up a bottle of mouthwash and dumping that out on the floor. Mmm, minty fresh toddler spirit.
I take tiny tot out into the kitchen, and fetch him some milk and snacks to hopefully keep him sitting for the next stage.
Mixing the bleach.
I read the directions pretty darn well, because I’m no scientist and I really needed to dummy-proof this part. The box had six different packets in it, six. I had to figure out what I was mixing with; what I was conditioning with and what I was toning with. Who knew that Hairdressers are also chemists?
Alright, frugal pretend chemist, let’s apply this creamy eye-stinging mixture to your raw and beaten scalp!
On went the cream, saturating all of the strands I had pulled through the hat holes. Just in time for the toddler to start screaming because his milk was gone. But this could be good, I might be able to get the baby to sleep while I marinate in bleach fumes.
So I covered my ‘do with the extra plastic bonnet they give you, making sure not to bleach the baby, and I hauled my little one upstairs to go “night-night”.
I basically rocked that kid for an hour, trying desperately to get him to sleep while I was certain my hair was falling out of my head in snowy-white chunks.
After a lot of typical struggle, involving me getting kicked, punched, scratched and yelled at in angry toddlerese, I had the baby asleep in his crib and I was able to sneak out and check the damage on my head.
To my shock, after a full hour of tingling bleach on my hair, it was still pink. Pink? Well that shit just won’t do because I can’t pass for a thirty year old rock star in maternity leggings, no matter how hard I try.
I decided to play it by ear, according to the directions my hair should be in a pile on the floor by now, but it seemed to be holding up, despite my great attempt at murdering it.
In ten minute increments I checked, and rechecked my hair until I was certain it looked more peachy than pink. I convinced myself that I could pull off peach colored hair, because by now I had to be at school pick up in half an hour, so even if it was pink I was going to have to work it, cover girl.
After a rinse and a confusing shampoo with two more packets from the box, I was ready to blow dry this hot mess out and see the damage up close and personal.
I was shocked at the result.
I managed to pull it off.
With mouthwash on my feet, a missing pair of earrings and a toddler with a belly full of “berry blast” Thomas toothpaste, I had created salon quality highlights.
Let’s just use the term “salon quality” loosely. The hair looked good, I was spared an orange, frizzy afro but in no way would I compare what I did to what a salon would do.
I guessed, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. I had poured chemicals on my bird-pecked scalp. I wasn’t sure if I’d end up in tears and I probably gave both of my babies learning disabilities, all in the name of my vain and uncontrollable urge to constantly change my hair.
I am however going to take pride in this accomplishment, because every craft I have made from Pinterest has failed, every attempt I have ever made at sewing something has ended in my fingers bleeding and nothing gained. But this, this I nailed.
And I probably will never, ever try to nail it again.