08/20/2012 11:27 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2012

How Accidentally Going Blonde Made Me Realize I Actually Like Ombré (PHOTOS)

This is the story of how I relearned a long-known, time-honored tenet of hair salons: always bring a picture.

I've been a brunette for a long time and was antsy for a change. It had been 15 years since I last colored my hair (red)--an era you can see captured in my high school senior portrait below. I chopped six inches off my hair last year to mark some sort of transition into adulthood (it didn't work) and it was time for the next thing. The options were chop all my hair off, move to the suburbs or get balayage.

Balayage: it sounds beautiful doesn't it? It's a French highlighting technique wherein the stylist hand paints the highlights on; instead of using foil or a cap, it's done freestyle. "Couture hair" is how the colorist put it. Who wouldn't want that? I wanted hair color that was warm and beachy and would make this summer last forever. It was a date.

I already had gold highlights in my hair thanks to lots of sun...and use of a friend's Sun-In knock-off. I've never been a huge fan of streaky highlights and, working around fashion, I've grown a little tired of the ombré trend. My research of balayage extended as far as Google Images where my eyes settled on Jessica Biel and Lily Aldridge when maybe I should have paid more attention to this random hair model.

So I set off to see aforementioned colorist to the stars Aura Friedman, who has expertly colored the hair of Lady Gaga and MIA and our own Ellie Krupnick. In fact, it was Ellie who made me think that adding a little blonde to my brown was exactly what I needed to brighten up my face.

Turns out what I had in mind was ombré after all.

As Aura and I chatted and she painted away (see photos below), it never occurred to me that the result would be so blonde. As my hair was dried I thought, "Wow, that's really blonde."

Aura did nothing wrong of course. She was just granting me my wish to do balayage and it was a very pretty color--just not the one I had in mind.

I had to rush to a doctor's appointment and then a screening of the (very inspiring) new documentary "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel," during which I fixated on Mrs. Vreeland's elegant, worldly, sophisticated jet-black hair. Then I had a drink with two friends and fixated on their striking dark hair. I love dark hair. I also love blonde hair, but mainly of the platinum variety, and that would never work on me. I looked good with dark hair. I missed my dark hair!

So I did what any accidental blonde would do: I drank some martinis, took lots of self-portraits, sent them around to friends, and stared in the mirror. I thought it was all kind of funny, and I knew I was going to ask Aura to bring me back to brown, so I wanted to get as much mileage out of being blonde as I possibly could.

This included slipping into a meeting the next day unrecognized until someone said "Is Anya here?" and I think getting more looks from men, but that could very well because I was looking at them to see if blondes really did get more attention. So my data collection was wholly unscientific.

Alas, I still wanted to go back to brown with a little ombré thrown in, and Aura handled the miscommunication on my end like a pro. The next day, after a couple more hours in her chair, I emerged with my original color but better. It's true that sometimes you don't know what you want until you've spent several hours in a salon chair trying to get it back.

Going Blonde