Ash, Ash Baby….

People sometimes ask me what color my hair really is…implying that my particular shade of blonde may not even be possible in nature! Let’s set the record straight right now…I did have very light blonde hair…um, as a baby. Please note Exhibit A: Blonde Baby Picture


Exhibit A

And yes…that’s a 2 year-old me being potty trained by my grandmother…I cropped it to protect my PG rating.

Fancy Hair0001

Exhibit B

It’s not clear at what point my hair went from adorable baby-girl pale to the ashy, dishwater color I ended up with as an adolescent, but it definitely happened by the age of 10. (Exhibit B: Who Does This to a 10 Year Old?) 

The color was natural (and drab), but seriously…what’s with that hairdo? I’m pretty sure that this country music wannabe ‘creation’ was concocted by one of the two male hairdressers who owned the beauty parlor (old people speak for ‘hair salon’) that my mother and grandmother went to–“John & Quincy’s” (right near the Dobb’s House diner). Once a week, both of my female role models would spend an hour or two hooting it up with the boys, come home crunchy, and then sleep with their heads wrapped in toilet paper for the next 6 nights. (Oh, a final note on the scary Exhibit B hair…everyone thought this was so cool that they had a friend paint a portrait of this shot…thankfully, it has mysteriously disappeared, hopefully to never surface again.)

When I was a teenager, it was popular to use ‘Sun-In’ to add blond streaks to whatever color hair you might have (an unfortunate choice for some of the darker haired girls who ended up with harsh orange-ish swatches). My own hair lightened up a bit when I spent time in the sun, so I stayed away from the commercial lighteners…at least for a while. In my junior year of college I worked as a receptionist at a barbershop for a few months, and one of the perks was getting my hair done. I had it frosted…the rage back then. The stylist was a friend, and she went to the trouble of pulling my (very long) hair through the awful cap with all the holes in it, bleaching it, and then invited neighboring business people in to see how ridiculous I looked before she took the cap off…somewhat like a scary, half-bald white-haired witch. I decided it was time to start looking for a new job right about then…

Me at 25

Exhibit C

Enter Exhibit C: Honeymoon #1 Hair.  The blonde streaks had grown out by now and I was back to my normal ashy tone. This is the last existing photo evidence of my natural hair color before I started going back towards the lighter end of the color spectrum (with a vengeance…and a little help from the kind folks at L’Oreal). You can’t see it in this picture, but I was already getting gray at the ripe old age of 25–I’m told that my father’s mother had silver hair by her 20’s, so I guess I was lucky! 

Between then and now I’ve probably had every shade of blonde you could imagine. In fact, it‘s been so long since I’ve seen my real hair color that I don’t even guess at what it might be anymore. I just add a little of this and a dash of that…with a heavy hand on the Preference #8 – Medium Blonde, and it seems to work out. I also figured out that I need long hair…no bobs or short cuts for me. (Here is some evidence of some pretty frightening bad hair days that I suffered through as a child. You’re welcome.)

About 8 years ago I had a job that required me to travel regularly between Portland and Montana, so I spent a lot of time in smoky hotel bars (the living room of the road). I didn’t want to wash my hair every day, so I got the brilliant idea of spraying just a little Febreze on my hair brush…and it worked like a charm! I was all proud of myself for figuring out how to keep my hair smelling fresh like some kind of Clairol/MacGyver…until I got back to Portland and decided to touch up my hair color. I put the solution on my hair just like I always did, but it felt strangely sticky. I checked the mirror and…oh my GOD…my hair was AQUA! I tried to wash it out but it wasn’t working, so I panicked (of course). I finally calmed down enough to call a salon and they said, “Get down here NOW!” The chemicals in the Febreze had bonded with the color I was adding, and they had to pull that color out of my hair…strand by strand…ouch! In addition, like my friend at the barbershop, they felt the need to share my shame, and they had everyone they could find come by to see what the woman with the aqua hair had done to herself. Three torturous hours and $250 later, I was back to normal…well, at least my hair was.

Tammy closeup small

Exhibit D

I haven’t had any more hair-science experiments, thankfully. I keep it long and get good cuts, so I only need to have it styled about 3 times a year.  I do have to admit though…I’m not an easy client when it comes to someone who’s tasked with using scissors on these beloved, processed locks. The first time I went to my current stylist I almost made her cry. I didn’t mean to be mean…I’m just so picky when it comes to my hair! I got nervous because my ‘do’ didn’t look exactly like I thought it should, so I got a teensy bit critical. I felt awful about it later, and I think the stylist was surprised when I walked in a few months later to see her again. I only cringed a little that time, and we laughed about it. She’s great, and I’ve been with her for over 10 years now, but she’s got me pegged. She won’t finish the final stages of the styling after she cuts and dries my hair! She just hands me the brush and curling iron, and I finish it up myself…and everyone’s happy. I’ll bet that neither John NOR Quincy would have allowed that!

I’ll leave you with Exhibit D: Grown Up Hair with Birthday Tiara, and this quote…

Only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.

–  W.B. Yeats (who was married to a woman with DARK hair)


8 responses to “Ash, Ash Baby….

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