Even with mixed results, color experimentation is usually worth the effort.

    "To blonde or not to blonde…"


    This was the opening line of a monologue my eldest once performed as part of a series of vignettes that make up a one-act play all about hair. A natural brunette, after contemplating that question herself for two and a half years, she decided to take the plunge and go for a significantly different look.


    The result was eerily similar to the one I experienced more than three decades ago.


    Although I've become less daring with age, perhaps because I discovered my "true" color long ago and tend to not stray too far from it, in terms of hair, I had quite the reputation in my middle and high school years. Unlike today, where it's not unusual for girls to experiment with a rainbow of highlights in grade school and graduate to more extreme looks by sixth grade, it was very rare in the 70s to see girls sport anything other than their natural hair color before hitting the high school halls. Even then, only about half were daring enough to alter their hue, or permitted to by their parents. And the changes tended to be rather subtle – a few blonde highlights, a shade or two lighter or darker, from light red to blonde – rather than the bold, otherworldly effects and colors so popular now.


    Katy Perry blue or pink would surely have gotten you expelled for a few days.


    Every class had (and still does) its pioneer trendsetters, the students who pave the way for others to follow suit with clothes, makeup and hair. While I don't profess to have set trends with my hair antics – can't think of any gals my age who decided to even remotely copy my style or color – I was nevertheless my class's pioneer, one of the first to use artificial hair coloring. It started in seventh grade with temporary foam that simply gave my mousy brown hair some golden undertones (hence the colors name: medium golden brown).


    By spring, however, I had grown tired of something so boring and desired something different, as in different from everyone else. So on a Saturday afternoon when my parents were gone for the weekend and I was in the care of my brother and his wife at their home, they allowed me to go hang out with BFF, who was completely trustworthy. That, she was, but I, on the other hand, was not. After dragging her to my house, I cajoled her into helping transform me into a black head. Big mistake.


    Neither of us could even be considered a novice at hair coloring, although BFF had observed her mother do it from time to time. The temporary stuff I had used previously was so close to my natural color that missed spots could hardly be detected. Even if they were noticeable, I merely had to was wash my hair 6 to 12 times to get it all out.


    Well, this time I chose permanent hair dye, in jet black. Even with fairly short hair, BFF and I apparently did not completely cover my head completely with the awful smelling stuff, because there were quite a few uneven brown splotches peering out from beneath as well as right on top. It was a highly unusual look, to say the least, even with today's standards.


    The perm Mom gave me that summer managed to fade the color considerably, and once I discovered the new home highlighting kits soon after at the beginning of eighth grade, my love affair with sun-kissed blonde hair began and continued through my junior year in high school.


    It started gradual with highlights, but by the end of ninth grade, I graduated up to streaking, as in the home frost kits with the nasty cap that you pull the hair through with a tiny crochet hook. After having my sister-in-law do this three times over the course of a year or so, I told her to pull the hair through all the holes on the cap. Another big mistake.


    As one could expect, my whole head was very light blonde, except for the dark jagged roots. I looked utterly preposterous! Following trip to Eagle Drug the next day, I managed to appear at least somewhat human in a shade of apricot blonde.


    The blonde grew on me and, although my skin coloring really doesn't agree with it, I decided to stay blonde for another year before going back to golden brown, and then auburn a few months later. Keeping up the light blonde, especially when your real color is considerably darker, is no easy task. Your roots show very quickly and come in at such a sharp contrast, you need to touch it up practically every month. And with darker hair, you need to get about the lightest blonde hair dye possible, and even then it's probably going to be more on the orange side. That, or bleach the heck out of it.


    A chip off the old block (unlike her sisters), my oldest has done a considerable amount of color experimenting with her hair, although she refuses to go red like me. I warned her before this latest undertaking about the difficulty of transforming from brown to blonde without turning orange, but as usual she didn't listen.


    Well, I was right, but she'll never admit it.