A Year of Being Blonde

People ask “Do you have more fun?” or “Do you feel dumber?” I myself am guilty of having made stupid jokes in both of those veins. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what your hair color is. You can’t escape who you really are.

On the night I sat down to write Lisa’s eulogy, I was still a little drunk with the flu. I remember surfing through her Twitter stream, looking for a hook to start with, as if I didn’t have enough material after knowing her for over half of my life. In my job as a writer, if I don’t have a hook, I procrastinate. And so I started telling myself I was going crazy, because I was. I was crazy with grief and longing and sick and tired. Speaking the truth, even inside my head while the kids were downstairs with that week’s third different babysitter, was supposed to help me stamp it down, not rise up and take me over.

But then I started daydreaming about getting in my car and driving south. Where would I stop? I live in Los Angeles. I can drive from here to the very southern tip of Baja California in Mexico. Mexico! That’s it! I would drive to Mexico and drink margaritas and just be drunk all the time so I wouldn’t have to feel this. But I wouldn’t be able to drink the margaritas right away, would I? I would have to drive for a long time to get where I wanted to go – alone, in the car, with only myself and my grief.

I don’t know where the thought came from, honestly. It was another crazy cell in my brain, maybe, or all the running on fumes and hallucinations. Or even a thought put in my head by Lisa herself, if you believe that sort of thing. Whatever the source, one second I was plotting my tragic midlife drunken flee to Mexico, and the next second I thought:

“Or, I could dye my hair blonde.”

I actually lunged for my phone after I had that thought, clinging to it like a life preserver. I called the only hair stylist I know in town, my newish friend from my kid’s school. I am sure I sounded slightly hysterical when I asked her, this woman I hardly knew. She talked me down from the ledge, sort of. We made an appointment, and I didn’t tell anyone. I crept off to our 3-hour session of turning me from a lifelong brunette into an instant blonde.

My kids didn’t recognize me right away. My husband took one look at me and asked with great caution, “Is that what you wanted?” For a very long time, I paused every time I walked by a mirror, wondering who was looking back out at me.

Well. She is different now in so many ways, the woman in the mirror. She has been sobered by death, a very sudden death that was impossible to predict and therefore means Certain Disaster for me.

But one year later, I’m still here. I don’t know that I need to continue to be blonde. But I don’t think I’m ready to go back to brunette. I bought some pink hair chalk last time I got a touch-up, and whenever I feel like scheduling a new color session, I just put a washable streak in my locks.

Yes, in the last year lots of people have said it looks pretty. They have said it makes me look 10 years younger. They have remarked about my blonde hair instead of asking how I’m feeling, or before asking how I’m feeling. It has been less awkward that way.

It does feel pretty, and that does make me feel good, but even my fancy new blonde hair gets really disgusting after a few days of me not washing it because I’m too depressed to take a shower. Even this semi-permanent wig of self-deception gets pulled back in a ponytail far more often than I let it down.

In a recent post here, Pauline declared “I am my own red dress.

My blonde hair is my red dress. My helmet of “Fuck you, Death.” I’m not over her and I never will be. But after a year of being blonde, I’m not dead yet, and I’m a different person. The point is, I have to live anyway. I’ve got to keep enjoying life, no matter what color my hair is. Sometimes it’s easier than others. Sometimes it’s harder than I ever thought possible.

Someday I’ll be my own blonde hair.

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