To Die For

Being glamorous is easy when you have a personal assistant, a chef, a stylist, a hair and make-up team and time to work out two hours a day. Unfortunately, I have none of the above. It has been an indulgence, however, to go to a top London hair salon every six to eight weeks for highlights, a cut and blow dry.

When I told Cheri how much it was costing me, she immediately whisked me to the nearest Superdrug, picked out a Garnier Nutrisse box and told me she would do my hair for free – or almost free. I would have to do her color as well; we’d make a DVD night of it.

I don’t know why I said yes...maybe it was the name of the color she picked – “Champagne Fizz #82”. I’ve never been one to turn down champagne. Or maybe it was the chance to redeem myself.

About a year before, Cheri had me do her home hair highlights with a new paint-on dye kit. It sounded easy enough and, after all, I had done an oil painting course in college. When she washed out the hair dye, I realized my creation was less Titian and more Salvador Dali. It looked like she had a blonde bowl cut on top of an auburn bob. Cheri shrugged off the results: “I’ll just fix it next time”. I can’t say my reaction would have been as subdued, but I tried to be encouraging: “it doesn’t look that bad,” I lied. Thank God it was winter so she could wear a hat.

So there we were a year later, watching Six Feet Under re-runs, drinking Bellinis and taking turns mixing solutions while wearing thin rubber gloves. I did Cheri’s hair first. I was relieved there were no paint-on highlights this time. Then Cheri did mine. “Do you think I should have done a test first? I do have sensitive skin,” I asked. “Don’t worry,” she urged me, “that’s just legalese so you can’t sue them. I never do a patch test.”

She coated my head in a mass of gooey dye and set a timer. About five minutes later, my scalp started to burn. I decided I would not abandon ship. People have endured worse in the name of beauty. But I did clench my fists so hard I almost gave myself an instant case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Cheri’s time was up so she washed out her solution. When she returned from the bathroom I was relieved to see a lovely chestnut color. I had redeemed myself.

Then my egg timer rang. I washed out the color and looked in the mirror. It took a full minute to register, and then I yelled “It’s ORRRANGE!” I ran into the living room. Cheri’s first words were “DON’T cry!” (I cried over one bad haircut and have not lived it down.) She tried to calm me “use the conditioning rinse”. I leaned over the tub and let the water rinse through my pumpkin-colored locks until all the blood rushed to my head. All I could think was that Cheri had finally gotten revenge for the blonde yarmulke.

A few washes and a blow dry later, my hair was really more of an orangish hue. It wouldn’t be too bad as long as I stayed out of direct sunlight for six to eight weeks. Luckily, that would not be a problem in London.