A couple of weeks ago, I told my mom I wanted to get bangs. She suggested this sudden need to change appearance — last time I had bangs was fourth grade, and they didn’t suit me then — wasn’t really about wanting bangs. So instead, I decided to do the much more extreme and expensive thing, which was to bleach my naturally brunette hair platinum blonde.
Why am I, a romance columnist, telling you about my hair care crisis? Partly because writing publicly about my bad decisions helps me lend them some rhyme or reason but mostly because it was about a boy.
I was desperately sad at being rejected by my summer fling, who came upstairs one morning holding a $300 lingerie tag that belonged to someone else and who, while he was dumping me, actually said the words: “My roommate doesn’t think it’s a good idea for us to see each other anymore.” I will likely never understand getting Dear John-ed by a 23-year-old man’s roommate, but it happened. And, due to less than wonderful circumstances, we continued to live together for another month following our return to platonicness, which meant I had the infinite pleasure of witnessing him spend hours previously spent with me exchanging novel-length texts with a girl he met on Hinge and FaceTiming with Lingerie-Tag Girl. This left me with a shaky sense of self and the kind of antsiness that usually precedes a radical change in appearance, ill-advised romance and too many margaritas. Stay tuned for all three!
Boring old brown-haired and recently rejected Ayla hauled her ass to the beauty salon. Three and a half hours, a lot of bleach and a fat check later, the transition was complete. I was a bona fide blonde.
Some people are natural blondes and look naturally amazing, like Taylor Swift and Blake Lively. Some people are not natural blondes but can rock platinum locks with an effortless cool, like Ariana Grande or Kylie Jenner. To the growing list of things that me and Kylie Jenner do not have in common — like our bank accounts, Instagram followings and ability to pull off a nude lip without looking ill with tuberculosis — you may add our capacity to pull off blond hair, or lack thereof.
Instead, I looked like mid-meltdown Lindsay Lohan. Granted, I was mid-meltdown, but now the top of my head announced that to the world. Plus, my naturally brunette eyebrows looked caterpillar-esque and my skin looked like I’d died in the 1700s. Sure, with enough makeup and black clothing, I could rock a sort of I’m-coming-to-steal-your-husband aesthetic, but honestly, that wasn’t what I was going for.
My week as a blonde coincided with my week attempting to rebound from the summer fling debacle with a cute outdoorsman I met at a gear retailer one night. We hit it off over a pair of mountaineering pants. He asked me if I was a climber.
“Oh, yeah,” I replied. “I love climbing. I’m really into it.”
A lesson I have learned repeatedly, my friends, is that it is never smart to overpromise and underdeliver. In this case, by “I love climbing” I really meant “I have climbed and managed not to fall off the mountain.” I am by no means a competent climber. I am, however, a competent flirter and, not thinking I’d ever have to prove my skills, chatted excitedly about sending outdoor V4s on Mount Sanitas and my favorite couloirs to scramble (if you didn’t understand any of that, it’s okay, neither did I).
But outdoor-gear guy called my bluff by asking me out. Again and again. After a few dates — he gracefully got over the shock of me showing up to our second date with platinum hair — we finally decided to go climbing together. Looking particularly washed out under the gym’s fluorescent lights, I was confronted with the Belay Test. He wanted to “lead climb,” something that’s dangerous when you’re good at it and a death wish if you’re not. In order for me to be his climbing partner, I needed to pass a knot-tying test about arresting lead falls and securing climbing gear.
“I’m having a blonde moment,” I joked when he handed me a length of rope and my knot-tying skills were less than admirable. He laughed, but the disappointment was evident.
“The girl I came climbing with yesterday was doing 10As on the lead wall,” he said, bitingly. If there’s one thing guys can do on a date that will bring it to a rapid close, it’s comparing you to other girls they’ve been with. I left shortly thereafter and haven’t heard from him since. RIP, rebound.
I’m not a climber. I’m not a blonde. I’m not over my summer fling gone awry. And outdoor-gear guy didn’t stop calling because he asked out a brunette and ended up with a blonde, he stopped calling because he asked out a climber and ended up with a girl who couldn’t tie belay knots.
When you realize you hate your blond self, hate the fact that you lied about being good at climbing and hate how perversely heartbroken you still are over someone you barely dated, downing margaritas and throwing up in your best friend’s bed on a Monday night is not a healthy coping mechanism. Add this to lessons learned the hard way during my week as a blonde and shoutout to an amazing friend for holding back my blond hair at 1 a.m. on a school night. You are a saintly person.
So what have I learned from my week as a blonde? Trying to get over someone by being someone you’re not will not make it better. I’m all for radical changes to your appearance for the right reasons, but I learned the tough way that doing it to mend a shaky sense of self isn’t one of those reasons and usually leaves you feeling less like yourself than you did before. So, my friends, think twice before running to the hair salon post-breakup or rushing to the climbing wall to secure your rebound fling or heading to the tequila bottle when you feel like you’ve betrayed your better self with a scalp full of bleach. I’m writing this in my final hours of being a blonde because, thankfully, ill-advised hair care mistakes can be ratified with another three hours at the salon. Shoutout to my stylist for not hating me — or at least not doing it aloud — when I called to make another appointment.
In the future, I’m going to stick with my usual breakup remedy, which is a pint of Phish Food and “Legally Blonde” on repeat. And I’m going to do all that as a brunette. Until next time.
Ayla Besemer | firstname.lastname@example.org