Born to be blonde | On a Brighter Note

When people ask me what my real hair color is, I usually tell them it's grey. The truth is, I was blonde when I was young, but as I got older, my hair darkened. By the time I was in high school, it was considered "dirty blonde" – no matter how often I washed it.

I hated my hair back then. It didn't fit into any categories. It wasn't curly or straight, and it wasn't blonde, brunette or red. To me it was nondescript and in-between.

Regrettably, I had no appreciation for my thick, natural waves, its fabulous long length, or the fact that it required no styling products to look great. All I could see was boring and bland, so I decided to do something about it.

Against my mother's wise advice not to spoil my virgin wash-and-go locks, as soon as I graduated from high school I bought myself a box of Sun-In so I could get beautiful, sun-kissed highlights like the models in seventeen magazine.

Unfortunately my hair didn't end up looking anything like theirs. It turned a weird yellowish orange, and believe me, back in the '80s this was not a cool hue to have. My mother was not pleased.

Despite her disapproval, I experimented a lot with my hair over the next decade. Dark brown, light brown, auburn and several shades of blonde were all tried out on my slow learning noggin at some point. My self imposed struggle also included a few bad perms and too many horrid haircuts for any insecure young woman to enjoy.

By the time I reached my 30th birthday I realized how good I'd had it in my youth and wanted to revert back to my natural unprocessed state so I wouldn't have to spend valuable time taming the fried-out, frizzy, cavegirl hair I now had. But by then I had too much grey and I was unwilling to embrace my natural state.

I found a dark blonde color, slightly lighter than my natural "dirty blonde," that suited me best and was easy to maintain. No more color experiments for me.

Sixteen years later, I changed my mind.

"Do you think I should dye my hair red?" I asked my husband a couple of weeks ago.

"No," he said. "You're a blonde, not a redhead."

Three days after that, as he was on his way home from a work trip, I sent him a text with a picture of my bright red hair.

My text said: Don't freak out. His reply simply said: I am.

Entering the house he looked at my face, then my head, and then he started to laugh.

"What's so funny?" I asked, imagining a picture of me as Ronald McDonald in his head.

"You asked my advice, but you didn't take it," he said. "Again."

"The cashier at Walmart thought it was a great idea," I replied.

"Well, that's nice," he said, scratching his big, shiny bald spot. "But she doesn't know you like I do. Look at all the times you've cut your bangs when I warned you not to, and then you regretted it like we both knew you would. You know you'll go back to your regular hair, so why bother?"

"I just needed a change," I explained, shrugging. I knew he was right, I wouldn't be able to stay a redhead for long. Not just because red fades fast and is hard to maintain, but because, as much as I love red hair, I don't really feel like me when it's attached to my head.

Luckily, now that it's washed out to more of a strawberry blonde, the red is so subtle it's barely noticeable.

"Nice orange hair!" my daughter's 9-year-old friend just exclaimed as she climbed into the back seat of my VW Beetle. "You're the exact same color as your car now."

Awesome. I look like my car and a clown at the same time. Precisely the sweet, subtle style I was hoping for.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. You can contact her at

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