Lori, before and after dying her hair red. Courtesy Photos
My female friends started changing their hair in middle school -- some professionally, some with Sun-In -- and in high school, even the guys dabbled with bleach. But flip through photos of our group over the years and you’ll see no variation in my natural brown. At age nine, I pulled my hair into a Pebbles ponytail, spray-painted it green and went as a troll doll for Halloween -- and that was the extent of my experimentation. It wasn’t that I thought the color couldn’t be improved upon, but I was not inclined to mess with a known entity.
So why consider a change after nearly three decades of the same? To be honest, I was bored. I was reading in bed one Friday night when I noticed just how antsy I was feeling. Nothing was wrong, per se -- I was actually perfectly happy with my life at that particular moment -- but the whole summer I’d been feeling frustrated with the status quo. I was tired of saying “same old” when friends would ask what I’d been up to, and yet I had nothing new to report: same apartment, same job, a few dates here and there that turned into nothing, no big trips planned until much later in the year. I wasn’t looking for drama, but I needed something to point to and say, “This is something new that I did” or “In the very near future, I will be doing this very exciting thing.” That thing, I realized, could be a new hair color. I could shed my status as the 28-Year-Old Hair Virgin.
With fall approaching and me being too much of a baby to even consider blond, red became my default option. As for the shade of red, I wasn’t sure. When you’ve had one thing for your entire life, going in a different direction seems that much more daunting. Plus, my behavior at a nail salon goes something like this: Examine the colors on display, pick up a bottle and flip it over to look at the name, repeat ten to fifteen times, select a color and sit down to wait, pop back up a minute later to look again, swap out the color, settle into the chair and let the pedicurist remove the previous color, apologize and run back to the display to switch out the shade for something only incrementally different from the initial one. Now that I was going to change something that would be much more visible than my toes, I wasn’t hopeful for a sudden surge of conviction. I spent more time than I’d like to admit Googling celebrities with red hair, sending around images of Ashlee Simpson, Julianne Moore and Drew Barrymore to solicit opinions. Then, when I was as ready as I could be, Hurricane Irene happened and I had to reschedule my appointment for two weeks later. This gave me time to throw Lindsay Lohan and Hayden Panettiere into the mix and continue to ponder the question that had been on my mind since the beginning: Would red hair clash with the burnt-orange Texas Longhorn shirts that I would be wearing during football season?
I have been going to my stylist, Lizzie, for years, and our routine has changed very little: I sit in the chair and she says, “What are we doing today?” and I say, “Just a trim, it just needs some shape.” The biggest decision I make is whether she should use the flat brush or the flat-iron for straightening. So when I came in for color and she pulled out the books of options, we were both pretty excited. I didn’t want to go too crazy, but I wanted it to look different. (“You did … something? It looks … good?” would not be an acceptable response.) Lizzie, who has bleached-blond hair and tattoos running up and down her arms, was nice enough to act as if getting a demi-permanent color that would fade in a few months was truly a momentous occasion. We held up tiny swatches to my head and tried, with difficulty, to extrapolate. Really, I just wanted her to tell me exactly what to do, but there was still a lot of back-and-forth. Should we mix red and brown to make sure it wasn’t too wild? Or would that be too subtle and defeat the point? Ultimately we agreed on a combination of two intense red/red-violets that she promised wouldn’t look too Ronald McDonald when she was done.
It was at that point that I relaxed and started to enjoy the experience. Although the goop looked suspiciously orange in the bowl and then rather ketchup-like during the painting process, this thing was now in motion and out of my control. And besides, until she rinsed out the dye out and started blow-drying, it was hard to tell what was going on up there anyway. My friend Chris had come along for moral and photographic support, and as the finished product began to emerge, I watched his facial expression in the mirror. Luckily, I saw a smile of approval, and then Lizzie and I got a little giddy. It had worked! Aside from the stains still on my forehead, it even looked borderline natural under the salon lights. (This would vary greatly depending on where I stood.) After all the research and talk, I still don’t know what I was really expecting, but the result struck me, at times, as vaguely Lydia Hearst 2007. I was genuinely thrilled by both the appearance and the feeling that I could be the girl who just dyed her hair to shake things up. No big deal.
I’m sure there will be a day when this becomes just what I look like. I'll stop doing double takes when I glance in the mirror and trying to coordinate my outfits with my hair color. At the moment, the color doesn’t feel like a part of me so much as a trendy new accessory, like a teacup poodle worn on my head. My friend had a birthday party Saturday night, so it came along. The next day, I took it for a run. I’m thinking about buying it some new shampoo. Sometimes it looks really vibrant red, and sometimes it seems more subdued. It’s still such a novelty, and I don’t yet know if this is a one-time experience or if there will be a repeat performance. For now, I’m just playing dress-up.
And if you're ready to try a new 'do, take a peek at how you would look in the latest celeb styles with this virtual makeover.