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face plamAfter four years of colorful hair, I’ve gotten a lot of reactions from people, of every conceivable variety. (Of people and reactions, that is.) From positive to incredulous to backhanded, I can’t hardly leave the house without multiple people having something to say about it. As most of it is positive, I don’t mind when strangers stop me and compliment my hair, and I try to give them a big grin and thank them every time.

But over the years, I’ve also grown a little weary of some of the reactions. Most often, it’s cases of well-intentioned strangers just trying to make a connection or make me laugh, but after several thousand interactions exactly like that, it starts to grind on me. I know they’re just trying to be friendly and give me a compliment, so usually I just clench my jaw and smile, maybe give them a little laugh that I hope sounds sincere. But sometimes, I wish social mores didn’t restrain me with politeness and I was allowed to say exactly what I think…

Five Things I’d Like to Tell People About My Hair

 

It’s never “for” something.

The obvious one is Halloween. “Oh, was it part of your Halloween costume?” But I’ve also had people ask me if I did it for breast cancer, St Patrick’s Day, even if my purple hair was in honor of Prince’s death. As if my hair was one of those stupid flag or rainbow overlays people put over their Facebook profile pictures.

I think the reason this assumption bothers me the most is because it tells me that the person is searching for what they deem to be a good reason why I possibly could have dyed my hair that color. That by making such a bold fashion choice, I must have something passionate to say. It tells me that they can’t grasp wanting to have purple hair for the same reason other people go blonde or red: because I like the way it looks. And that’s kinda insulting.

 

I don’t know why your hair got fucked up that one time you tried, but maybe it’s just because you’re an idiot.

Many a time has a stranger complimented me on my hair only to follow up the compliment with a story about the time they tried to dye their hair blue or pink or whatever only to have their hair ruined. And yes, I sympathize, it would totally suck to have your hair wrecked by a bad dye job.

Red Hair

Colors in pictures may be less cool than they appear.

But here’s the thing: I’ve never had that problem. I’ve never fucked up my hair. I’ve never had a color just straight up not turn out. I’ve never had things go tits up and have to run crying to my stylist. Have I had colors that I didn’t like as much as others? Sure. (See: my one attempt at bright red.) Have I had colors that didn’t last as long as others? You betcha. (Again, the red.) But I’ve never taken off the towel after rinsing my hair and said, “Fuuuuck, this is bad,” so I don’t know what to tell you.

So when you tell me that you ruined your hair or fucked up your color, I can only make one assumption: you’re an idiot. Because dying my hair? Not that hard.

 

 

 

No, it’s not my natural fucking hair color, and that joke wasn’t funny the first fifty fucking times.

Or even the first time. That joke almost always comes from a mid-fourties, early fifties white guy, and it’s always accompanied with a shit-eating grin that says that he’s pretty fucking proud of that little gem. What I hate the most about it is that there’s no real good response to it*, forcing me to simply smile and force a little giggle. Which I super hate doing.

*Not entirely true. There’s good responses, just none of them polite. I was once at the grocery store, in kinda a hurry, when some guy stopped me just so that he could bust out that quip in reference to my teal hair. I was so irritated that I looked straight into his eyes and with a stony face and said, “Yeah, my mom fucked a smurf,” and walked away.

 

I don’t think you understand how matching works.

Auuuugh, this one. If I am wearing an item of clothing, from my jacket to my watch to my shoes, that is in even the same remote side of the color wheel as my hair, someone will proudly point out that they match. As if they cracked my secret code or found Waldo. As if it was something other than the fact that I wear colors other than black and change up my hair often, so at some point my clothes will be a similar color to my hair. (There’s only so many goddamn colors in the world, people.) As if the possibility doesn’t exist that my hair was a different color when I purchased that particular item. Nope, I clearly go to extra lengths to coordinate my clothes and my hair to give idiots like you something to do. I’m your motherfucking walking Eye Spy game, right here.

But what bothers me the most is that nine times out of ten they don’t actually fucking match. Matching means that they’re the same color, not that a three year old would use the same word to describe them. Take this picture from a trip to Maine a couple years ago. My hair is a lilac Maine Trip 2013-33with pink highlights. My jacket (Kyle calls it Muppet Coat, because when I leave it around he says it looks like someone skinned a muppet) is royal purple verging on indigo. Those colors are both purples, but they are not the same purple. If someone painted your wall with half one color and half the other, you would be pissed because they’re not the same shade, and therefore, don’t match. They coordinate, but they do not match. And yet, if I wear that jacket with that hair color I will have 15 fucking people (all of them very fucking proud of themselves) point out that my jacket matches my hair. And that’s just a mild case. Wear a green shirt with teal hair? They match. Is my hair currently lavender and my boots plum with red undertones? Matching!

 

Don’t. Touch. It.

Seriously, when did touching complete strangers become okay? What’s that? Fucking never? Then how exactly is it that strangers think it’s okay to reach out and grab a lock? I hate that! It’s not that I’m a super not-touchy person, exactly. If I know you and am comfortable around you, contact is fine. But having strangers reach into my personal space and touch me makes me homicidally uncomfortable. As if my hair color choice negates all social mores about boundaries. And besides, what exactly are they expecting when they touch my hair? That it’s a wig that will slide off at their very touch? That it will feel like plastic? That it’s something other than just hair? Frankly, I don’t give a fuck, I just don’t want them to touch me.

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“That Age”

Nail Polish

It usually comes up over nail polish.

I’ll be at the salon with a female companion who’s a little older than me, a friend or family member, and we’ll be standing in front the rainbow wall of polish making our personal selections. Predictably, I’ll be attracted to the color-equivalent of a shiny object–neon pink, metallic silver, purple so dark that it’s almost black. I can’t help it, I love color. My companion will inevitably say something to the effect of, “Oooo! That’s super cute, but I’m too old to pull off something like that,” before choosing a nude or pale pink for herself.

“Too old.” I hate it when they say that.

I hate it for one because I don’t think any of the women that I’ve heard utter this phrase are too old for shit. These are smart, accomplished, talented women, and I don’t think there’s much in the fashion world that they couldn’t rock the shit out of. (Maybe rompers? Because frankly, I don’t think they look good on anyone.)

But I also hate that phrase because it implies that there is an age between mine and theirs at which I will become too old for things like neon pink nail polish and purple hair and floral Doc Martens. A moment at which I will have clocked enough trips around the sun that suddenly the things that make me “me” will look ridiculous and pathetic and I’ll have to let them go or risk looking like I’m trying too hard. I don’t know what “that age” is, or how I’ll know when it’s here.

But “that age” can go fuck itself.

I can’t stand the idea of “that age.” That at some point, I’ll have to conceal my expression of myself so that I fit into society’s preconceived notion about what a “lady of a certain age” (another expression that can eat shit and die) looks like. Why do we have to get more boring as we get older? Is society that uncomfortable with the idea of someone besides teenagers looking like they could be the sort of person that has fun? And for that matter, why are only teens and young adults allowed to express themselves with abandonment? Most teens and young 20-somethings haven’t experienced enough life to be interesting people, what could they possible have to express besides a collection of naive cliches? Personally, I think most of us get more kickass as we get older, so why should our outward expression be suppressed as our kickass-ness grows?

What I imagine (and hope) is actually happening is big ol’ fatty case of “correlation does not imply causation.” That there may come a point in my life when I stop feeling like my hair and my boots accurately match the person that I am inside. I hope it doesn’t but I’m willing to concede that it’s a thing that could possibly happen. After all, there was a “that age” when I stopped feeling that body glitter was a required accessory for all special occasions, and there was definitely a “that age” when I let go of my belief that ringer tees featuring an ironic cartoon character were the cornerstone of a woman’s wardrobe.

So it’s entirely possible to believe that I may one day let my current fashion choices go. If I decide to stop dying my hair crazy colors down the road because it’s too much work or I don’t like the way I look anymore or I just don’t feel like it represents who I am, that’s fine. Change is a necessary and beautiful part of life. But I never ever want to feel like that choice is being foisted upon me because I’m “too old.”

“Too old.” Fuck that noise.

I prefer to think of it as “too awesome.”

Awesome

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Pink and Purple

It’s been a long time since my original dive into the world of rainbow hair. Almost four years, as a matter of face. Though I’m still just as in love with my unnatural head of hair as ever, a lot of things have changed over those four years. Like, the entire process. The first time I went pink, it was at the hands of my best friend Christine. She did a fabulous job, and it was super fun to hang out with her and drink wine and be girls while she did me up, but that’s a lot to ask a best friend to do every eight to nine weeks.

The second time I dyed my hair was only about six weeks later. (Because thing I learned? Pink, though fabulous, falls the fuck out after about two weeks and leaves me with kinda washed out orange. Not cute.) I was determined to do it myself, like the fierce, independent woman I am. So I rigged a mirror on a bent coat hanger and hung the lot from the molding on our bathroom door (so that I could see the back of my head) and dove in, brandishing my brush like a sword.

And I would like to go on record saying that technically, I did dye my own hair pink, and it came out fabulously. However, I also happened to dye most of the bathroom pink in the process, a predicament about which Kyle was not pleased. After several hours of the two of us scrubbing furiously at the linoleum (and the sink, and the toilet, and the tub, and the mirror,) Kyle announced that I was never dying my own hair again. But even as he said it, he saw in my eyes that going back to my natural dishwater blonde would break my heart.

And thus began Kyle’s tenure as my colorist. It was slow at first, and there were some hard lessons learned along the way. (Like when Stephanie suggests that you wear gloves while applying bleach, you should probably listen. Took two weeks for his fingerprints to grow back.) But he’s faithfully re-colored me every eight or nine weeks for four years, and we now have the process down to a science.

Let’s begin.

The process of freshening my (in its current incarnation, purple) hair-do in reality begins a few weeks before I ever subject myself to the brush. Sourcing my dye has actually been the hardest part of the process. I use Manic Panic’s Amplified formula, and lately I’ve been bouncing back and forth between Deep Purple Dream and Atomic Turquoise. (Blue-based colors tend to last longer and fade nicely.) For a while I’ve lucked out and been able to get it at Hot Topic, who not only has by far the cheapest prices but offers me the opportunity to feel like the world’s oldest human being every time I walk in. But if they sell out of (or stop carrying) my desired color, it’s quite the hunt to find it for a reasonable price. I swear to god, sometimes I think it would be easier to source red mercury than my goddamn hair dye.

BathrobeThe big day is hair dying day, also known as The Day of Perpetual Bathrobes, also known as The Day I Take Four Goddamn Showers. I like to start early, because start to finish, dying my hair is an eight to ten hour process.

I know. It’s a commitment.

We set up in the living room, because it’s Setupthe space with the most real estate in front of a tv. A $5 shower curtain goes down to protect the floor, though honest to god, Kyle’s gotten neat enough that it’s almost not necessary. But you know…paranoia. Better safe than scrubbing dye out of a rug. Kyle’s office chair rolls out for him and I get a pillow covered with a towel on the floor. And the rule is that since Kyle’s the one doing the work, the tv gets tuned to whatever he wants.

BleachingBleaching is first, and not my super favorite part of the process. It smells, it itches, and it likes to inspire a repeating chorus of “All your hair’s going to fall out!” à la “You’re gonna shoot your eye out!” But it’s entirely and unfortunately necessary. Hair won’t accept dye without being bleached, so I suffer through. The good news is that it’s over quick. Over the years, Kyle’s turned into a goddamn machine with that brush, and he can knock out my roots in about 20 minutes. (We don’t bother bleaching my full head ever, even when I switch to a new color. Too much damage and it’s really not necessary. I just make sure that I only move one color Processingover on the color wheel [like blue to purple to pink vs blue to pink.]) I sit with the bleach for ten minutes  and try not to scratch (though a tail comb is really handy for that,) then I shampoo the bleach out.

What follows is by far my abso-fucking-lutely least favorite part of the entire dying process. Worse than the bleach, worse even than the part involving actual physical pain (more on that later,) is combing my hair out after the bleach. I hate it because after the bleach my hair is a damn wreck and nearly impossible to detangle. It’s straw-like, it’s sticky, it’s course, and just generally gross. This is definitely the point when I’m semi-convinced that this will finally be the time that I ruin my hair and everyone who’s been secretly jealous will smile smugly and say, “I told you all that dying wasn’t healthy. And now you’re bald.”

DyingAfter an hour or so of drying time (because you can’t dye wet hair,) it’s finally time to apply the actual dye. This is a much more labor intensive process than the bleach, which is okay because the dye actually feels pretty good. It’s like a magical cooling salve on my itchy scalp. A magical cooling salve that also happens to dye my hair purple. It probably takes the better part of an hour for Kyle to make his way through my head, meticulously checking that no spot is missed, but I don’t mind.

What I do mind a little is the last part of the dye application: the comb-out. This is the part where Kyle combs out my hair until the dye goes frothy, ensuring that every inch of my hair is completely saturated. And he really does try his best to be gentle, but…well, remember earlier when I talked about a step involving actual physical pain? My hair is still usually a little sticky and rough, so even with his best intentions, it can yank. I try to be strong and stay quiet, knowing that he’s doing his best, but sometimes I can’t help but squeak.

shower capFinally, we enter the last (and longest) part of the process: the marinade. Once the dye is on, we get cleaned up and I spend the rest of the day sporting a super sexy shower cap. (I actually like to go with a double shower cap, because while I love my purple, the only place I want to see it is on my head.) I spend six hours under the cap, letting my hair soak up all that delicious dye and moisturizer. It bites a little, not being able to leave the house, but what’s one day of hiding from the neighbors and getting weird looks from the UPS guy compared to the 63 days of unadulterated hair-awesomeness that comes after?

At last, six hours later, I rinse the whole thing out. Well, it’s slightly more complicated than that. First Kyle gives me a quick rinse in equal parts white vinegar and water, which, due to the fact that I can never remember how long to nuke it for, is usually either too hot or too cold. Then I’m supposed to rinse my hair completely in cool water (ha!) until the water runs completely clear (or I’m bored.) And then there’s the third step to the rinsing-out process, which is where I panic that the dye is going to stain our white subway tile surround, even though it never does. (That step is important.)

 

Finished PurpleThe results, when compared to my post-bleaching hair, is damn-near magical. My hair is not only a deliciously dark purple, but it’s soft, shiny and feel really  healthy. Even my stylist (who’s still a little miffed that I dye my hair at home instead of paying her to do it) can’t help but marvel at how healthy my hair is despite all the coloring.

And that’s it! The color in it’s original shade will only last about two weeks, but after that it will soften and develop beautiful natural highlights in blues and lavenders and pinks that will look lovely for another six or seven weeks after that.

And when my roots get out of control and my color finally blows out, I know Kyle will be there to make me colorful again!

 

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The Mornings, They Are Mine

My name is Stephanie Van Sandt, and I am a morning person.

Morning

Well, as much of a morning person as one is capable of being when one regularly finds herself working until 1am. In fact, my inconsistent and oddball work schedule often forces me to be an unwilling night owl, working until late into the night and sleeping well into the next day. But give me a couple of days off, and I’ll revert right back to my early morning tendencies, going to bed around midnight and waking up at 7 or 8am.

(I realize that for many, waking at those hours means that you got to sleep in, but trust me, in our house, that waking hour makes me the early bird. Reason #485 why we’re not having kids.)

 

 

This is Kyle Van Sandt, and he is a hardcore night owl.

Night

Kyle doesn’t really hit his mental stride until about 10pm, which is also the time he preferred to start papers in college and the time at which he likes to start projects like rearranging our furniture (argh) now. Given his druthers, he’ll go completely feral, staying up until 3 or 4am and sleeping until well into the afternoon.

As you can see, Kyle and I are geared completely differently. I can stay up (for me) super late and he can get up (for him) freakishly early, and given a reason, we often do. But it’s not our natural states, and it’s not how we prefer to frame our days.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, used to drive me absolutely batshit crazy. Up the fucking wall. I would get up at 7 or 8am on a day off and enjoy a leisurely coffee and breakfast, accompanied by either the newspaper or morning tv. I’d stretch this out until 9 or 10am, at which point I was ready to start my day. And this is where things started to go south. Sometimes I’d shower and just go about my day while Kyle remained blissfully unconscious until afternoon, when he’d join me for lunch. And those days were fine.

But those days were also rare. More often, I wanted to start my day with an activity that inherently included Kyle, like going to the gym or grocery shopping. So I couldn’t really start my day until Kyle woke up and got moving. And sure, I could go wake him, but that was a tricky business that often backfired. See, Kyle is a master of the snooze. He can not only hold an entire conversation without becoming fully conscious, but he can instantly fall back asleep as soon as the conversation ends. So if I went into the bedroom and gently tried to wake him with sweet words and kisses, he would temporarily appear to respond, only to fall back asleep as soon as I left the room and have no later memory of the exchange. Which meant that I could gently wake him five or six times and accomplish nothing, except giving me ample time to stew in my resentment towards him for metaphorically keeping me a prisoner at home with his sloth. (Aided by my unfortunate flair for the overdramatic.)

Finally, sometime around noon, my resentment would reach the necessary strength to turn me into a level 10 bitch, and I’d storm into the bedroom and start screeching. This would jar Kyle awake, who (having no memory of any of my previous tender attempts to wake him) would be bewildered as to why I was being such a mega-bitch when all he’d been doing was sleeping. He’d get up and shower, we’d eat lunch, and sometime around 2pm we’d start our day, already pissed at each other.

This happened pretty much every time we had a day off, and it wasn’t fun. I felt resentful and he felt attacked, and all because we couldn’t comprehend or respect each other’s inherent internal clock.

But since we moved from our shit shack apartment to our lovely new house, we haven’t had the morning fight once. And as much as I’m kind-of ashamed to admit it, I think most of the change was mine. At first I let him sleep late simply because we were working a metric ass-ton and I knew he was exhausted, but even with plenty of rest behind him, I just haven’t felt compelled to rouse him. I still get up early, still enjoy my breakfast and the paper, but now I’m able to go about my day on my own, without worrying whether or not Kyle’s involved.

(And in the spirit of fairness, Kyle has also made some welcome changes. On the occasions that we do make plans for the day, he’s made some amazing strides towards actually getting up at a reasonable time.  Sure, he has to drag himself up, and he’s not going to be anything resembling chipper until he’s had at least two cups of coffee. We’re probably also not going anywhere before about 10am. But he’s trying, and that means a lot to me.)

Since abandoning my quest to re-mold Kyle into an early bird, I’ve come to enjoy and cherish those mornings as time for myself. In our old apartment, which was dingy and felt closed in and dark, there wasn’t much to do within those walls besides watch tv, dink around on the internet, and cook, so once I’d exhausted those options I felt trapped. But our new house isn’t any of those things. It’s clean and bright and open, and I love my mornings sitting in the living room, quietly enjoying the sunshine and my breakfast. After breakfast but before Kyle wakes up, that’s my time for me, time to do whatever I want. I can indulge my compulsion to clean, I can blog, I can bake, I can paint my nails, I can work on a project at my workbench, or I can simply lounge on the couch and do crossword puzzles–anything that makes me happy. That time is just for me, and I know that Kyle treasures the night for the same reason. There’s no obligation, no worrying about what the other person is up to; just each of us doing our own thing.

And when we’re ready, our days Daycrossover and we enjoy our time together all the more because we have time to ourselves.

 

The nights are Kyle’s and the days are ours, but the mornings, they are mine.

 

 

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