Maybe you’re aware, but in case you’re not, we’re having a recession. A recession! What fun! It’s a party! I’ll bring the drinks! You bring the home hair coloring kit! They’re on sale at the CVS!
No longer do I have the luxury of calling up Justine the Magician and scheduling an appointment with her, plunking down $200 for some highlights and a 3-hour trip to the salon. Honestly, I never had that luxury to begin with; a trip to see Justine was always a “save-up” event, but I’d do it because I have gray hairs (Thanks, Mom!) that seem to be multiplying and while the silver looks great on my 63-year-old mother, it does not look so great on 30-year-old Me.
But we’re in a recession, people! And I decided that 2009 is my year of personal fiscal responsibility! Pay off that credit card debt! Save more money! No more superfluous spending!
But do something about those grays!
So to the box I went.
It was early March and my friend Deb was in town for a few weeks. She was eager to get off the military base where she was staying, so I drove out to Virginia to pick her up. Before we left base, however, Deb informed we had to make two stops: Dunkin’ Donuts and the PX. Having never been on a military base before, and being fascinated by its weirdness, I simply said okay and steered the car down the road.
She bought me a hair dryer (mine had gone kaput a few weeks earlier), and a box of Natural Instincts, color: Cinnaberry. “It’s your birthday!” Deb said happily, waving my Visa card away. I rolled my eyes and protested, but it was futile. Plus, as she pointed out, no tax on base.
“Because it’s my birthday?” I asked.
“No,” Deb shrugged. “That’s just how it is on base.”
We wouldn’t open the box until later in the weekend, and as I stood in my bathroom squirting hair dye all over my head, trying not to get it on my forehead, in my ears, on my shirt, Deb sat on the toilet, directing. And while I wandered around my apartment trying not to drip deep purple dye on the hardwood floors, Deb sat on the couch knitting, keeping an eye on the time.
“The box says for stubborn grays you can leave it on a couple minutes longer,” I paced about Deb. “So I’m going to leave it on for 12 minutes instead of ten. Do you think that’s okay? 12 minutes instead of 10? Do you think that will work? Huh? Huh? Deb?”
“Yeah, Mol,” Deb replied calmly. “I’m sure that’s fine.”
“Okay.” I paced the three feet between my bathroom and living room. “And you’re watching the time, right?”
“Yup.” Knit, knit, purl, purl. “You still have seven minutes left.”
And of course it was fine. The color was….different. Not exactly what I expected, but then again, I didn’t know what to expect, because I hadn’t colored my hair since my last visit to Justine at the salon, almost six months before. There was certainly berry in the Cinnaberry. Deb proclaimed the hair coloring a success. I would agree with her two weeks later, when the color had settled in some, faded a little.
And then it came time to color again. Except that Deb is currently at another military base that is not even in this country, let alone a state away where I can go and pick her up to make sure I don’t screw up the dying of my own hair. You can do this, I told myself. There is no reason to be afraid. Women have been dying their hair on their own for years. Besides, it’s not like for the rest of your life you can go grab Deb every two months to talk you through the process and make sure you’re not missing any spots when applying the dye. So build yourself a bridge and get over it.
Which is how I found myself at 10 o’clock at night standing in my bathroom, rubber gloves snapped on, my hair in a damp, midnight purple pile on top of my head. I grabbed a hand mirror to check out the back, easing some of the thick dye into the baseline of hair, turned around and peered forward into my bathroom mirror and gingerly swiped away a purple mark at the top of my hairline.
And then I sat on the toilet for 13 minutes to let the color take. (13 minutes this time. Take that, you little gray bastards!) It was as if all the stars had aligned for this waiting period, as I’d just received the new Crate & Barrel catalogue in the mail. I sighed longingly at the lanterns and the patio furniture, thinking that while I may not have a patio on which to hang said lanterns and put said furniture, I would at least have shiny, newly-dyed hair. And that was something.
Except there’s that tricky part, and as the clock ticked toward that 13th minute, I admitted to myself that this was the part I really wished Deb was here for. Really, anyone was here for. If Jesus Christ Himself had walked in at that moment, I would not have hesitated in asking, “Um, hey, so d’you think you could help me rinse out my hair?”
For those of you who color your hair at home, this will come as no surprise: rinsing out your hair is a fucking mess. Especially if you have a showerhead that is not detachable from the wall. Your choices then become: A) Do a backbend into your tub to rinse out your hair, or 2) bend forward and flip your hair forward and rinse it out that way. Seeing as how I’m still sore from the yoga class I took two days ago, where the instructor, while instructing the rest of the class to go up into a backbend, took one look at me and said nicely, “How about we have you do something else?”, I went with the forward bend and flipping my hair in front of me. I tried to be gentle about the flip, but even so, I saw the flecks of purple flung to the far corners of the tub. I saw dots of it on my shampoo bottles.
As water flowed through my locks, the purple dye flowed with it, splashing about the white tub and swirling down the drain. (Because my tub is fex!) It was all fine and good for the first 30 seconds, until the water decided it didn’t want to flow so nicely and straight through my hair and down the drain, but rather wanted to take the scenic route down my face, across my forehead, through my eyes, into my ears, and, when it could get up enough effort, down the back of my neck. The first time I did this, I yelled, “DEBBIE!” and she handed me a towel. This second time, however, I groped blindly for anything resembling cloth and swiped at my eyes to clear them.
I needed to make sure I could see when the water ran clear, of course. How else would I know it was time to apply the deep conditioner?
It always seems to take eons for the water to run clear, but it does. Eventually. I tried to gently flip my hair back into normal position, a blob of deep conditioner in my glove-shod hands. I worked it into my hair, then sat on the edge of the tub for two minutes as directed.
There was purple dye everywhere. I have no idea how it got on the floor underneath the lip of the vanity, but it did. How it got on the outside of the bathroom door? Not a clue. But there were some dabbles of it. I took my washcloth and wiped away the purple smudges, thinking that if/when I move out of this apartment, if they even try and hoard my security deposit for any leftover purple stains, I will demand, then, that they give me back some of the rent I paid over the years, which I was able to give them because I didn’t go to the salon to get my hair done.
And then, again, it was time to rinse. Except that this time I had the brilliant idea that since this was just conditioner, and not hair dye that would splatter all over, I could do a modified backbend while sitting on the edge of my tub and rinse it out, thereby eliminating a second water-in-the-eyes adventure.
Which worked magnificently until I realized that it would have been a much better idea had I been topless.
The entire back of my Tshirt clung to my back as I muttered “fack” and tried to carefully twist my body around and flip my hair forward without shaking water everywhere like a spaniel emerging from a lake.
There are two pieces of good news to come out of this, the first of which is that my hair does look pretty good. The color is better this time, not quite as berry-y. And secondly, thanks to all the forward bending, I can now touch my toes.
But alas, I don’t think a white, pristine bathroom – like the one I saw in the Crate & Barrel catalogue – is ever going to be in my future. At all.