It was probably around sometime in eighth or ninth grade when I dyed my hair for the first time.

I remember riding with my mom out to my MawMaw Bain’s house and looking through an issue of Seventeen magazine. That was the car ride where I solidified my decision to do something with my unruly hair.

Most of the girls in my class at school had always had sleek and straight hair. I always felt ugly and poor in comparison. It may have looked like I never ran a comb through mine, but brushing was fruitless. It only made my locks bigger, frizzier and uglier. It didn’t help that I had cow-licked bangs. I nearly always wore my hair in a little bun at the bottom of my skull by the end of the day. My hair would not make a proper or pretty pony-tail.

So I flipped through that magazine and wondered why I couldn’t look like Britney Spears in that Herbal Essences ad, with her soft, blond, neat and short cut. The picture is probably still hanging on the back of my old door at my parents’ house. 

I’d go blond, I decided. And not just so I could be like Britney, but also like Gabrielle — best friend to Xena the Warrior Princess and a bard to boot.

That weekend my mom bought the dye and set to work on my hair. But I didn’t end up with hair that resembled Britney’s, or hair that didn’t have cow-licks. Instead of blond, I got light red hair. Maybe you could call it strawberry blond. Dying my hair didn’t fix all of my problems then, and I just let it grow out.  I remember overhearing a girl from a rival basketball team saying that I needed to do my roots once. Too bad that whole ombre trend didn’t come about until twenty years later.

It wasn’t until college that I tried hair dye again. I’d dye my hair often. I loved to dry different colors, though nothing like the youths of today with their blues and pinks and purples. I have to say that I truly enjoyed having black hair. I would have kept it except that it was too much work and looked awful when my red roots started coming in. As much as I loved it, I have never revisited the color since it took all day in a salon chair and a lot of money to get it out.

There was just something about dying my hair back in college that made me feel better about life. But then my hair started falling out and Mama said my hair dye was to blame, since I wasn’t using Loving Care as she had suggested.

I gave up the bottle, the hair dye bottle that is, sometime before graduation I think. Since then I have learned to love my natural hair color, with its hues that naturally range from red to brown to blond. But now those hues include a great deal of gray.

I was feeling particularly down last year around Christmas and decided to try the ol’ hair dye therapy. I loved the results, but I felt like I was being unfaithful to my God-given color. When the dye eventually faded, I was left with many more gray hairs than I remembered having before.

Maybe it was the hair dye, maybe it was COVID-19, maybe it was stress. Maybe it’s just plain aging. Whatever the reason, my hair is turning gray and I don’t like it.

Is Seventeen magazine still a thing? Maybe I’ll get a copy and pick out a new color, although it probably won’t be from an ad featuring Britney Spears. I guess her hair has seen better days too.

Danielle Wallingsford Kirkland is a former Sentinel staff writer and correspondent. She can be reached at danielle.w.kirkland@gmail.com.

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