Sunday, June 9, 2013

Not Just A Blonde...

I've always been a blonde... at times a shade or two darker or "dirtier" but nonetheless blonde. Over the years I have come to realize this descriptive fact has permeated my identity. I especially enjoyed the time in my late teens and early twenties when I "enhanced" my natural blonde shade to a lighter and more golden hue. Life seemed to just be better as a blonde!

There was a time, however, when my lust for golden locks took a terrible turn.  I was nineteen and it was the early 1990's when long hair full of body and wave was highly desired. Being in college my budget for vanity was low so I "enhanced" my dishwater blonde with a spritz or two of Sun-In to return my "blah" into "beautiful" long blonde hair. But my hair seemed to be more limp and stringy as an old perm had grown out it's effectiveness. I wanted more bounce in my blonde... And on a large poster hanging on the wall of an in-home salon (owned by a close college friend's older sister) I discovered what I believed would bring my head of hair into blonde perfection... A spiral perm!

Well, I gathered my money. I'm pretty sure I got this perm for a great price as I was a poor college student and also dear friend of the stylist's sister, after all. I eagerly sat in her chair and awaited my enhancement. Except, when the rods came out and my hair was dry my hair wasn't exactly enhanced...  it was curly... too curly! I was immediately encouraged by my stylist that "after a couple of washes my hair would settle down". I relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief, internally counting the moments until I could get home and start the process ASAP.

I got home and got into the shower... and that's when I noticed something was terribly wrong! My bleached blonde hair had had enough and was falling out by the handful as I scrubbed away. That's when I panicked. I was told I had thick blonde hair while I got the perm (as it took longer than typical to roll me up) and I was glad about that. Perhaps no one would notice... perhaps it will still be all right.

Except... it wasn't! Not only did my hair continue to break off...but what was left was more frizzy than full and the texture was more straw-like than the shiny silky hair I had had just a few days before. I was devastated... and honestly depressed. It turned out, after consulting with other stylists as I questioned again and again "How could this have happened?!"  The Sun-In that left my hair so beautifully blonde and shiny... also stripped the hair of the needed protection needed for a perm. My blonde ambition set me up for this disaster!

My hair was the basis of my positive self concept and in my mind it made up for the many negative characteristics that I already suffered with and loathed! Now with the one thing I loved having  been stripped away... all that was left was the ugly. My big thighs, my small squinty eyes, my short legs, my bubble butt seemed to be all that was left. Who would ever date me? Who would ever love me?! My self-esteem plummeted as it was unfortunately tangled up with the color and quality of hair on my head.

I was at a sensitive age when most young ladies, myself included, were in a hunt for Mr. Right. I was convinced I would miss out getting married, having children, being happy unless I found him before he found somebody else. Fear, anxiety and sadness in the loss of my self-concept overtook me... pushing me over the edge with an already fragile psyche. I was lost. 

Sure, I knew my family loved me, I knew God loved me... but I was a young hopeless romantic that wanted to be perfect... to look perfect. My hair cut shorter and shorter in an attempt to salvage what was left... to no avail. It was then that I realized that my self-esteem was entangled with my hair... a superficial and unstable foundation for a solid self-concept to be built upon.

Another frustrating fact I live with is the slow pace in which my hair grows. My guess is at a pace of around 6 inches a year... although nice due to not needing frequent touchups of highlights... it is horrible if wanting to recover from a humiliating hair catastrophe! So, needless to say I had a loooooong time to recover and rebuild an identity other than one that depended on the color and quality of my hair to stay secure. My spiritual identity became more of my focus and the curse was transformed, in looking back, into an undeniable blessing!

There have been a few times along life's path where my self-identity, as it is tied into my hair, has been tested. Having forever sworn off all perms... I have yet to let the blonde go! After self-coloring throughout my 20's I had to give it up that up the day I self-colored my hair into a shade of purple... after having it corrected at a salon I now leave it to the professionals. The well-intended professional that color-corrected me that day recommended I go darker due to the chemical harshness of bleaching. Although I went to her several times, after too much pressuring to go darker blonde... to me a light brown... I never went back. Blonde being part of my identity I didn't want to let go!

I then found a new stylist... being a colored blonde herself she understood my desire for blonde. Self- aware of my fragility I communicated clearly to her from the start how important my blonde hair was to me. After a flip-flop color job where she darkened the majority of my hair and highlighted minimally instead of the other way around... I began to cry, not recognizing myself in the mirror, she immediately went to work to correct what had occurred. Another reminded my identity was still linked with my locks.

My most recent wake-up call came a couple of years ago when the same stylist colored my hair as she usually did... this time with a very unusual result. I had already mentioned that I was noticing more damage lately, and was wondering why. This time, however, it happened again... only worse. After sitting under the warm dryer after an extended length of time... be it due to my thyroid, the dryer, new brand of hair product, or a mixture of all of the above... my highlighted hair turned white!

Large streaks of ash white hair framed my face. Thinking it was the lighting I left the salon only to be confronted with the unnatural shade at home in my bathroom mirror. After going to work the next day... without the usual "your hair looks nice!" that typically occurs after returning to work following a salon day... I knew. It wasn't just me. After asking a dependable, yet brutally honest co-worker, it was confirmed... my hair had been damaged and was "ash grey" as I had feared. I went back the next day to have the stylist add toner to remove the ash... but the damage was done. My hair was once again straw-like and breaking off... a repeated lesson following me into adulthood.

Once again, my lust for blonde hair left my happiness vulnerable to be taken away. Being older and wiser it didn't affect me (thankfully) to the depth of disparity I had suffered in my youth, but was a
reminder I needed to remember happiness does not come from healthy hair. I am not my hair. If I place my value and identity in things such as this... Earthly treasures of self-esteem, whether it be the quality and color of my hair, the clothes I wear, the car I drive, my fitness level, my weight, the side of town I live on, my house, my health... these are all things that can be taken away and mean nothing in Eternity's eyes!

I am not just a blonde! I'm also "not just" a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister, an Auntie, a daughter, or a therapist! Although this may describe me in my Earthly life... eternally my identity and worth is based on something much greater than all these things combined! I am an eternal spirit of God's creation and Love! Why would I settle for my Earthly identity that I have created when a better one awaits? As soon as I let go of what I have placed over my True Identity I can see who I truly am...  a child of the Spirit, a sharer of Light, a daughter of the Living God! In this I find my true self-identity... one that offers me a secure self-concept that cannot be taken away or altered! "Not Just A Blonde" is an important reminder to me... and to others... that none of us are "just" what we seem to be... but much, much more!


  1. Love this post, Ann! And I love that I have been your friend through all these stages of BLONDE! ;-) LOVE YOU!!!!

    1. Ditto to you! :) How lucky am I to have such a longtime friend that has loved me through all my shades! ;)

  2. You teach us an important lesson here whether we are blondes or whether our identity is tied to some other aspect of ourselves. Thank you for the lesson; I can always benefit from it, even though I have dealt with it before.

    I know your college perm was traumatic to you, but, were it not so serious, it would make a great episode on a sit-com. Even the lesson learned would be appropriate.

    1. :) Yes! I agree! It would've made a great Friends episode with the Rachel character who identified strongly with her appearance! I can totally see the humor! Although I was far from laughing at the time, it was an important lesson to go through... I can see that now... but at the time it seemed like I lost myself. I'm continuing to grow in this area but it is encouraging to see how far I've come... there's hope for me yet! ;) Thank you for your thoughts.... always nice to hear! :)

    2. I am glad you weren't offended by my observation (I almost didn't write it). What caught my attention was not just your story but how you wrote it. You made it funny; it was like I could see it playing out on screen, though I know it was not fictional and it hurt you very much, for which I am very sorry.

      I agree; Rachel would be a good candidate.

    3. No, I wasn't offended one bit! I think it's great you could smile along with me as I told the story of this spiritual lesson! I have learned to not take myself too seriously and I think that comes with self-forgiveness and letting go of the deceptive allure of perfectionism! If we could be perfect what need would we have for Christ? The best comedies offer us truths in a way that is the least threatening... and I am actually highly complimented by that observation! :) Laughter is such a blessing!

  3. This was such a good read! My identity is also really tied up in my hair - I love when I change colors and people comment on it or ask what I'm going to do next. I worry about the day when my hair is no longer a topic of conversation. Who will I be then?? It's so great to get a reminder that we are more than our appearance. It's good to enjoy how we look, but not so good to let it define us!

    1. :) Hopefully you won't have to be reminded the hard way like I did! I agree with you 100%! It's fine to enjoy our appearance as long as we don't confuse it with who we really are or let it define our worth... Megan, so good to have your comment! :)