How I stopped worrying and learned to love my hair.

 

blonde

I rarely — or maybe never? — write posts about beauty and fashion.    There are plenty of bloggers — most of them much more glamorous and fashionable than I — who write about those things much better than I do, so I leave the stuff about hair, clothing, dieting, and makeup to people who are really into that sort of thing.

I’ve always been a geek and an introvert, and I like being comfortable more than being fashionable.  I have never owned a pair of high heels, for example.  Kitten or low heels, yes, but spike heels? Hell, no.  I hate them.  They’re torture.   I can’t wear them because of my wobbly, easily-sprained ankles (the result of a figure skating accident when I was 15 — yes, I used to figure skate, and I wasn’t half bad either.  I’ll write about that sometime soon, I promise, even though I have no photos of me skating).

I dress like I walked off a time machine from 1994 — worn old jeans, cargo pants (yes, I still love them because I like lots of pockets), sandals or slouchy ankle boots, plaid flannel men’s shirts (I have about 4), T-shirts (though as I get older, it’s getting harder finding T-shirts that are flattering).   If I wear a dress (rarely), they are almost always loose and high waisted floral numbers (flattering to my “comfortable” figure), worn over leggings, black tights, jeans, or black pants.   (I don’t do pantyhose — I hate them).   It’s all very ’90s, though “being ’90s” was never my intention.   You can still get away with looking ’90s, but looking ’70s/’80s will get you some weird looks (and ’70s/80s clothes are NOT comfy).

Unlike about 99.9% of other women, I have never owned a little black dress.   And I don’t care.  I will probably die without ever having owned one.  Is that sad?

Truth be told —  and I hope I don’t sound too snobby — but minds fascinate me more than bodies. That said, I’m still a girl and sometimes I like to indulge in…the pretty externals.   So here is a post about my hair.

Whew, this is going to be a lengthy hair story.   I have a complicated relationship with my hair.   It’s mostly been a hate relationship, but I think I might finally have found peace with my hair and am learning to love it, or at least like it.

hairage5

Towheaded at age 5 (1964).

I was born nearly bald, but the hair that grew in during my first year was white platinum blonde — and it stayed that way for a long time, probably until I was at least 8 or 9.  My hair was also terribly fine and tangled easily.   It had no weight to it at all, and as it was never stick straight, it was prone to frizzing from the slightest bit of humidity.  People used to compliment me all the time on my “angel hair,” but I hated it.   I hated being the blondest person in my class, and I hated the fact I couldn’t grow my hair long like my friends — because it was so fine it would break off at the ends and become a stringy, knotted mess.  I remember crying when my mother impatiently tried to comb it out, and then she’d yell at me for allowing it to get so tangled and knotty, but I couldn’t help it!

As a result, my mother kept my hair cut in a pixie or other short style, or if it was allowed to grow out, it was worn in two thin ponytails on each side tied with yarn, but it never got beyond just below my shoulders.

hairage7

Age 7.

I remember envying the girls in my class who had long, thick hair that fell like a curtain down their backs.   I envied their Clairol Long and Silky conditioner (or was it cream rinse?)   At about age 14, I demanded my mother buy me some Long and Silky, even though my hair only just touched my shoulders.  Using it made me feel more normal (and the stuff smelled good), but it did nothing for my thin, pale, easily broken hair.

Growing up in northern New Jersey and later New York, I felt odd with my blonde hair.   It had darkened only a shade or two since I was a baby — the color was no longer the platinum of my early childhood — by my early teens had developed a slight streakiness, with the underlayer being a slightly darker medium blonde.   If you had to give my color a name, you would probably call it champagne blonde or beige blonde with medium blonde lowlights, but I still hated it.   Most people thought my hair was beautiful, and they couldn’t understand why I hated it.    How could I explain at the tender age of 15 that I felt…too white?    Most of my friends in my New Jersey and New York neighborhoods and at my schools were of Italian, Jewish, Hispanic, or some other darker-haired, darker-skinned heritage,  and so I felt self conscious and so conspicuously white — and that was not cool!

1970slongandsilky

Long and Silky ad from the 1970s.  I wanted hair like these girls!

Another problem I had with my blonde hair were the inevitable dumb blonde jokes that were always directed my way.   I was book smart and usually made high grades, but I was also very sensitive and the jokes hurt my weak sense of self-esteem and began to make me feel like maybe I really was dumb after all.   I felt like I had to make a big show of being smart all the time, in order to prove that I could be blonde and also be smart.  It was very stressful always having to prove myself.   I felt like, because of my hair color, people just didn’t take me seriously, and treated me like I was stupid, even though I wasn’t.  I hated feeling like I had to be on all the time, and couldn’t just be myself, because the real me might come off stupid and make those dumb blonde jokes true.

To this day, I don’t understand why blonde jokes aren’t considered racist or at least politically incorrect.  But people still tell them, and seem to like them;  even other blondes like them.  In fact, some blondies seem almost proud of being seen as “dumb blondes” but that was never me.   Maybe you have to have a healthier sense of self to be able to appreciate such jokes if you’re a blonde, but in my teens, I had dismally low self esteem and could not laugh at myself.    I cringed when I heard those jokes, and felt like running away in shame.

A third factor contributed to my hair-hatred.  I felt very rebellious toward my narcissistic parents, who seemed to love my hair color more than my talents, my intelligence, or my personality.   They always bragged about how “Lauren was the only blonde baby in the nursery” or “Lauren is the only blonde in her 5th grade class.”  God, how I hated those “compliments.”  They made me cringe.   I just wanted to be like the other kids, dammit.  Why couldn’t they understand this?

hair_rowan

This isn’t a picture of me, but of my daughter at about age 9.  The color of her hair here is what my color was from mid- childhood up until my mid-teens, when I decided to start dying it.  (My daughter’s hair is dark blonde now, and she actually lightens hers).

When I turned 16, I found the solution to my problem.   I decided to dye my hair.  I had a sort of crush/obsession on a girl, Denise, who I thought was gorgeous — mostly for her long, shiny, silky curtain of light-chestnut brown hair with its gorgeous reddish-gold highlights.  It swung when she moved her head!  Mine never swung like that!   Compared to her hair, my hair looked so washed out and boring — it was mostly all one color: pale beige blonde on top with ashy medium blonde undertones.   I also didn’t like the way there was hardly any contrast with my pale skin.   I thought darker hair would make me look more dramatic and bring out my attractive facial features more.

So I decided Denise’s light chestnut brown hair was the color I wanted, and to my shock and delight, my mother reluctantly allowed me to dye my hair that color, although she insisted I use a temporary dye that would wash out in 6 shampoos.   She moaned pitifully and literally cried during the whole process.  “You’re going to ruin your hair!”  “It will never be the same again!”  “People would kill for hair the color yours is, what is wrong with you?” and “Why on God’s green earth would you want to have mousy brown hair?”

Well, as things turned out, I loved the results.  I liked them so much I decided I was never going back to being a blonde.   To my delight, the chestnut color had come out a little more reddish than it showed on the package, probably because it was several shades darker than my own hair (you’re not supposed to darken your hair more than one or two shades, but I had darkened it by about 3 or 4!)   It looked very natural, it actually fell better (because the dye thickened the hair shaft), I could actually grow it long for the first time in my life (due the the added weight), and my friends actually liked it!  They were puzzled about why I didn’t want to be a blonde (because just about everyone in those days was going lighter, not darker), but they had to admit the light auburn color flattered me and went well with my very light skin.   I only had to wear a bit more makeup than usual.  My self esteem improved, and I no longer felt like I had to prove to everyone that I was smart.  No one would ever again call me a dumb blonde!

hairage18

Proud of my new long chestnut hair at age 18 (1977)

Over the years, I continued to dye my hair.   Eventually the permanent dyes were drying it out and making it frizzy, so I switched to safer temporary dyes.  An added bonus of the extra color in my hair was that it actually thickened the hair shaft, and made my hair heavier and fall in a more flattering way.    One reason I continued to use dye was for exactly this reason.   I needed the extra weight the dye added to my hair shaft, which made it look so much thicker and fuller.    I did not want to return to the flyaway, hard to manage fine hair of my youth. The leave-in conditioners that are supposed to add body to your hair had never worked for me, they just left my hair feeling greasy.

Eventually, I began to experiment with other colors: bright red, strawberry, auburn, dark brown, black!  The black looked horrific — I looked exactly like Morticia.   I hated it so much the next day,  I went to the hairdresser and begged them to fix it.  They had to spend 3 hours bleaching my hair, but it never got lighter than a medium reddish brown.   My hairdresser decided to enhance the color I wound up with — a color called Red Setter.   It was actually a dark auburn and looked quite pretty.  Although it was still too dark for my complexion, the stylist had done a good job making it look natural.  It wasn’t perfect, but I could live with it for awhile.

hair_wedding

My hair in 1996 — way too dark here, but not as bad as the BLACK.  Sorry about the poor quality of the photo.

Once, in my thirties, I even decided to dye my hair platinum blonde just to see what it would look like.  I hated it, and ran back out to the store, my head covered with a bandanna, and selected a dark blonde color to fix it.   After that escapade, my delicate hair was a straw-like frizzy wreck from having been so damaged from all the bleaching and dying.   I went back to the hairdresser and got a short cut to get rid of all the split ends and dry frizz.   The result actually looked cute.

I went back to my tried and true light chestnut brown.   For a time during the early 2000s, I got the idea to dye the underlayer of my hair dark brown and leave the top layer lighter.  I rather enjoyed the two toned effect, but keeping up with it required a lot of maintenance, which requires patience which I don’t have.   A few years ago, I had a haircut and on a whim, told the hairdresser I wanted the strands framing my face to be blonde and a few other blonde highlights.  This decision surprised even me.  The hairdresser fingered through my roots and asked me why I was dying my hair darker since she thought the original color at my roots was much prettier.  “What’s the point of having blonde highlights when you already have a lovely blonde color and are covering it up?” I felt judged.  I decided not to go back to that hairdresser.  I didn’t like her attitude.  She didn’t understand.

I continued to experiment with different colors, even with pink streaks at one point.  But never once did I consider returning to my natural color.  It occurred to me I no longer even knew what my natural color was anymore.  When I reached my late 40s, I realized that I had been dying my hair for so long I really didn’t know what color it was, and not only that, I could have gone gray and didn’t even know it!

selfie1

A selfie I took three years ago during my adventurous/experimental phase.  Dark brown underlayer, lighter on top, a few pink streaks.  I like this photo of me!

By my 50s, I stopped dying my whole head, because I had noticed that after awhile it always became way too dark at the bottom and lighter at the top, and acquired a muddy, uneven look, so I started dying only the roots.   Eventually the bottom and outer parts of my hair faded back to a sort of golden blonde, not all that different from my original color, just more yellowish.

Over the past year, something strange began to happen to my hair.  Although I was using the same temporary light golden brown color I had been for years, my hair began to take on a purplish cast that I’d never had a problem with before.   Was it the product?  Did they change the formula?  Was it because I was older and the composition of my hair had changed, making the dye take less well than it used to?   Had I gone…gray?

topofheadwet    topofhead1

Top of my head today after shampoo and lemon juice rinse (slightly damp, and dry).

I decided to find out, but the only way to do that was to let my hair grow out and see what my actual natural color was.  After more than 40 years of covering my natural color, I no longer knew what my hair color really was!   So as it began to grow out, I used a dark blonde rinse (Roux makes an excellent wash-out rinse in subtle colors) at first just to try to even out the color, cover any gray,  and make the roots less obvious.

But I needn’t have bothered.   I’ve been growing my hair out now for about 2 months, and using a lemon rinse to reduce the purple tinge of the dyed parts of my hair (which is itself fading).  The color that is coming in is a bit darker than it was when I first began dying my hair in my teens — it’s a medium honey blonde now with the underlayer a darker ashier blonde.   It’s a beautiful color, and I have decided to grow it out.   But the best part of all?  At age 59, I don’t have one gray hair!   I never would have known that unless I finally decided to let my natural color come out of hiding.

hairfallingforward

This is my hair combed forward over my face, and it’s very close to my actual natural color.  Where’s the gray? There isn’t any!

I feel like as we get older, we have less leeway in experimenting with various colors and probably shouldn’t do it.   Young women can get away with trying all sorts of crazy colors — lighter, darker, or even colors like pink, blue and green — and still look good or at least intriguing.  But I feel like for an older woman, straying too much darker than your natural color, especially if you’re naturally fair haired, ages you.

No longer will I worry about dumb blonde jokes.  Dumb blonde jokes are pretty much limited to the young anyway, and I have enough self confidence in my intelligence today that those jokes won’t bother me if someone does tell one.

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About luckyotter

Recovering from BPD and C-PTSD due to narcissistic abuse from childhood. Married to a sociopath for 20 years. Proud INFJ, Enneagram type 4w5. Animal lover, music lover, cat mom, unapologetic geek, fan of the absurd, progressive Catholic, mom to 2, mental illness stigma activist, anti-Trumper. #RESISTANCE
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43 Responses to How I stopped worrying and learned to love my hair.

  1. bobcabkings says:

    That is quite a hair saga. The color in that last picture is rather nice. Mine, I suppose, will eventually all fall out, although the bald spot may have stopped expanding. I take a minimal effort approach – brush back and pony tail – it hasn’t gotten longer than between shoulder blades in decades (its very fine and breaks off), despite my last hair cut having been in 1990 (for a job interview).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. nowve666 says:

    Cargo pants are still in style. Aren’t they? I had blond ringlets as a small child, like Shirley Temple. It straightened out and got brown as I got older. I have problems with frizz too. My solution is Coily Custard which stops the frizz and makes defined curls. I have experimented with every color and style. Once, I even had one side of my head shaved the the other braided with extensions the way black women wear them. You’ve seen my hair now. Honey blonde with pink on top. I’m planning to redo my entire head. Dye it honey blonde to make it look more natural and cover all those roots. Then I plan to bleach the top severely. Just strip it of color. Then put more pink in. We’ll see. BTW, I think you were pretty through every stage of your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. swamiyesudas says:

    A little too hairy for me, my Dear Lucky Otter. I like Your hair, and am glad You like it (now, at least!) Love and Regards. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed reading your hair saga. A lot of your story I can relate to. I was bald as a baby, then I had thin, wispy, curly, light blonde hair that started coming in when I was about two. My hair did not grow past my earlobes until I was 8 years old. Even then, my hair stayed thin, wispy, curly, very light blonde, and it did not reach my shoulders until I was 11. Then, suddenly my hair started growing in very thick, much darker — almost dark brown –and in no time at all it grew way down to the middle of my back. I loved it then!

    That summer my parents sent me to stay with my grandmother for a week, and she cut all of my wonderful long hair off short! She even had it “thinned.” She said my hair was “too wild.” Oh I hated that short ugly spikey haircut. Why would a grandmother do something so mean?

    I started dying my hair when I was in my early twenties, because I started to get streaks of gray hair way back then. I have dyed my hair ever since. Now, my roots are almost entirely white. I am thinking of growing it out. But I don’t know…

    I love your natural hair color!

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      Wow! From your photos, I always thought your hair was red! Maybe it’s your freckles — I always associate freckles with red hair. That’s terrible about your grandmother thinning your hair — there is nothing wrong with thick, wild hair! That’s funny it suddenly changed from wispy pale blonde to dark and thick. Funny things happen to kids’ hair. My daughter was born with wild, curly reddish brown hair — I never saw so much hair on a newborn! But then it started to FALL OUT (I was horrified!) and was replaced with stick straight light blonde hair. Now it’s stick straight dark blonde hair and swings when she turns her head, something mine never did. My son also has gorgeous hair — thick and light brown or dark blonde (I can’t tell which) . He was born with light brown hair but then it fell out too, and what came in was much lighter but then started to darken again. I’ve also known of so many blonde babies who wind up with black or dark brown hair later.

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      • That’s interesting, the way your children’s hair changed! All three of mine were born with curly blonde hair, and then their hair slowly darkened as they got older.

        Yes, my hair is reddish blonde in my pictures, because that is the color I have been using for about 15 years. I do think it looks more natural with my freckles. Here is a funny thing: I had my DNA tested by 23andMe recently, and one of the things they could tell by my DNA is that I am “likely to have a lot of freckles”!

        Here’s another funny thing: when I was around eleven and my extremely thin, curly blonde hair suddenly started to thicken and grow past my shoulders for the first time in my life, I overheard my mother telling people that my hair was growing because she was feeding me a special diet that is supposed to make hair grow. Years later, I told my mother that I remembered her saying that, and I asked her what special food did she feed me that made my hair grow?

        My mother laughed and said: “Oh, I didn’t feed you anything different. I just told people that!”

        Lauren — isn’t that just like a narcissist, to lie about a special diet so she could take credit for the sudden dramatic change in her daughter’s hair?

        I was given so many hard spankings as a child, because my parents thought I was lying. (Usually I wasn’t even lying, they just thought I was. On the rare occasion when I was lying, it was to try to avoid another spanking.) After all the beatings my mother gave me over the years because she said I was lying…. for her to laugh and make light of her own lies, and over something so stupid — how infuriating!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • luckyotter says:

          Yes, what your mother said definitely sounds narcissistic, but it’s also kind of funny — a special food that makes your hair grow, LOL! I wish!
          The spankings and then blaming you for lying, when she was probably the one doing the lying — so typical of narcissistic people and it’s certainly hell to be raised by one! No wonder you were traumatized with a momster like that!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Lucky you! No gray! My hair is naturally blonde. I started out using Sun In back in the late 70’s. Wrecked my hair, I’ve been coloring it every since. I can get away with just doing my roots now. My hair is fine and thin too! We are hair sistsas from another mister! My mom too gave me grief about my hair. My hair was straight up until puberty, then it was basically corkscrew curly overnight. My mother (being the wonderful lady she wasn’t) once said my hair was wrecked because I dyed it so much. My quick response was, “mother, if dyeing my hair ruined it, you would be bald.” Shut her up quick. She always tried to pass off her dyed red hair as natural, in her 80’s! Don’t think so granny!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. nikitalondon says:

    Loved this post. Super fun to read!
    My daddy way born blond in latin america and he was admired everyday becausd of that. My grandma way soo proud. They would stop her to look at the very blond boy with light skin and honey brown eyes. As she was dark and had black hair. 😂😂
    Your hair looks now a lovely color. And way to go with no grey hair 💪🏻💪🏻👍🏻👍🏻👌🏻👌🏻.

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      That’s nuts about your daddy being born blonde as a Latino. But it does happen sometimes. There are also blondes in the Middle East and even India, but they are very rare.
      There are blondes in countries in southern Europe like Italy — it’s not as uncommon as people think, especially in northern Italy.
      I’m a mix of nationalities — no Scandinavian blood at all, that I know of! I shouldn’t be as blonde as I am based on my ethnic heritage. LOL!

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      • nikitalondon says:

        Never seen a blond girl indian and i work with hundreds of them LOL. Middle east\Africa i did study with a blond algerian girl here in Switzerland. You have German blood and those from the North are very blond!
        My dad should not have been blond neither based on heritage. Only My great grandfather who arrived from somewhere in the planet on a boat was very blond and had green eyes. And about North Italy let me tell you why it is. Told friend m a blond blue eyed italian guy from the North. Part of the north of Italy was once a Swedish colony!!! I had no clue.

        Liked by 1 person

        • luckyotter says:

          I didn’t know that either — but it’s interesting. Come to think of it, many northern Italians do look very Nordic, even more so than Germans. I think heritage and geneaology is really interesting. I found out I have Spanish royalty ancestors (from Ancestry.com). But mostly I’m of Celtic heritage — Scottish, Irish, Welsh, English, some German, French, and Eastern European, and there’s a rumor I have native American blood somewhere too. Not a drop of Scandinavian blood that I know of!

          My kids both look Germanic, and their dad is half German, but he also has Russian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Italian blood. So my kids are pretty much everything Caucasian.

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  7. I go for comfort more than fashion, too–no high heels, nothing constricting, no panty hose, and even no jeans because I don’t like how they feel.

    As for the hair–1) As a brunette who always hated how blondes would get more attention in our culture, I’m glad to find a blonde who wanted to be brunette. 🙂 2) I’m jealous because you’re not gray yet and I’ve been going gray for a while now, 15 years younger than you.

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    • luckyotter says:

      Embrace the gray! (j/k!) You’re brunette — is your hair salt and pepper? I think salt and pepper hair is attractive — blonde hair streaked with gray/white not so much. So you can look at it that way, if that’s any consolation.

      I’m glad you can relate to my preference for comfort over fashion. Dressy high heeled shoes and pantyhose are the WORST! (I like to look at high heeled shoes in ads and in stores, but just won’t wear them)

      Liked by 1 person

      • At the moment, it’s still more brown than gray, but with a bunch of gray hairs increasing every year. I looked up “salt and pepper” and no, I don’t have silvery hair. Maybe in another 10 years?

        When I was of the age to switch from socks to pantyhose, I don’t believe white nylons were in vogue yet, so I resisted. My mom couldn’t understand it. When I discovered knee-high nylons, and white ones became popular instead of the typical ugly brown color, I finally relented. Knee-high nylons are much more comfortable, and I always wore long skirts. Some years ago I tried wearing pantyhose to go with a shorter skirt I had just bought, but I couldn’t get the dang things to go on straight. 😛 Even thigh-highs are more comfortable than those things.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Alice says:

    Oh, honey golden locks. As Paris Hilton would say, that’s hot. 😉 My narc mom cut off all my hair because she hated having to comb it. Then she got mad because everyone thought I was a boy. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a great post Lucky! Im younger than you and I think I AM going bald. Some women experience thinning, some dont. Looks like I am one of the unlucky ones. Whats surprising is this…I had too much hair, now I have barely enough so it hasnt even been a gradual loss which is more normal. I am betting in the next couple of years I will be in a wig. Maybe I will go blonde too! Im still not getting activity on my new blog. Maybe its not even a good idea for a topic. Not that many people on disability like me. I could use some advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is getting strange…there are actually several posts there. Make sure you check the one with the word “Blog” in the title

    Liked by 1 person

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