3: Color Me Fabulous

3: Color Me Fabulous

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Color Me Fabulous

My real hair color is dark blonde.

Now I have mood hair.

~Julia Roberts

The whole thing started when I heard through the always-accurate-and-completely-reliable family grapevine that my brother-in-law thought I looked like Julia Roberts. Never mind that what he actually said to my sister was, “Do you ever look at Deb and see something there that sort of reminds you of Julia Roberts?” And never mind that the only feature I possess that is even remotely similar to her is my loud, obnoxious laugh. All I knew was that my self-confidence had just received a major boost. As far as I was concerned, he practically said, “Wow, have you ever noticed that Deb and Julia Roberts are practically twins?”

I happily tucked this lovely compliment away and pulled it out whenever I needed a little pick-me-up. Then came the fateful day when I needed more than just a pick-me-up. My husband had been out of the country for almost a month, and I was run down and worn out from handling our six children by myself. I felt antsy and in need of a change — specifically, something fun that had nothing to do with being a mom and housewife. Something along the lines of a pick-me-up-and-put-me down-as-a-completely-different-person.

And who better than Julia Roberts?

It just so happened that this little epiphany occurred at the exact same moment I found myself standing in the hair-color aisle of the store.

So there I was, staring at boxes of hair dye that ranged from dark blonde to light brown — shades that were safe and subtle and very similar to my natural dishwater brown color. I could have easily chosen any one of these and been fine, but no. I wasn’t in the mood for “fine.” Instead, my eyes drifted off to the right, down to the bottom shelf that held several boxes of the most beautiful auburn shades.

A spark flickered inside, and for the first time in weeks I was excited about something. In that moment, I knew this was exactly what I needed. I stood for a few more minutes, biting my nails and contemplating what box to buy, trying to decide which one would look best with my fair skin and blue eyes. And all the while, my excitement grew. This was the best idea I’d had in a while, and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it a long time ago.

I finally chose a box that showed a picture of a gorgeous woman with glossy, copper-colored hair. It was a change, and a drastic one at that, but my hair philosophy has always been Go Big or Go Home (a motto that served me well in the 1980s). I hugged the box against me and headed for the checkout.

I had just enough time to get home, tuck in the baby for his nap, and color my hair before the kids got home from school. Enough time, I figured, to transform myself into a new woman. I got straight to work, reading the instructions much faster than I should have, and skipping over that part where I was supposed to cut off a small section of hair and test it first. Before long, I was in front of the bathroom mirror, a towel draped over my shoulders and plastic gloves on my hands.

The “transformation” happened with alarming speed. One minute, my hair was wet and dark brown; the next minute, it was… pink. Pinkish orange, actually, with a sickly yellow foam mixed in. I blinked at my reflection, which bore an unsettling resemblance to a human matchstick. I’m sure it’s supposed to look like this, I told myself. Not that there was anything else to do at that point. The solution was on my head, apparently already working its magic. I set the timer and waited.

After twenty minutes, I peeked in the mirror again. My hairline had turned a neon coral that reminded me of undercooked salmon. But hope springs eternal, so I stepped in the shower, tipped my head back, and rinsed.

Streaks of bright red splashed the shower walls and glass door, running down my arms and legs. “It looks like a Stephen King movie in here!” I shrieked to no one in particular. I took comfort in seeing that the color flowing down the drain was a most definite red, not orange or pink. At last, my hair was fully rinsed clean (along with the walls and shower floor), and I stepped out and wrapped my head in a towel.

It was time for the Big Reveal. I stood before the mirror and pulled off the towel. As my hair fell to my shoulders, my mouth hit the floor. My hair was red. Really red. Not a rich auburn red, but more of a flaming stop-sign red. The irony of the whole situation hit me like an icy splash of water: I had wanted to look like a celebrity, and now I did. The only problem was that my look-alike celebrity happened to be Ronald McDonald, not Julia Roberts.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came later that afternoon when my kids got home from school. They piled in the door and filed right past me, dumping backpacks and shoes as they went. At last, my first grader walked in. He stopped two feet from my chair, looked around in confusion and said, “Where’s Mom?”

I burst into laughter and couldn’t stop for quite some time. There was nothing I could do but wait a few weeks and then recolor my hair back to its normal, boring shade. Until that happened, it took a rather insane amount of courage to go out in public. I’m proud to say I did it. And no one asked where the rest of my clown suit was.

And after a few weeks passed my hair color faded to a very attractive strawberry blonde, which I was happy to keep. As painful and embarrassing as this lesson was to learn, I figured it out eventually: I’m better off with a little less Julia Roberts and a lot more me.

~Debra Mayhew

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