August 28, 2012

I'm Not Waiting by the Phone for Clairol's Job Offer

Instrument of torture
I'm not at all crafty or girly. I've never mastered knitting or crocheting, I can't cut straight with scissors to save my life, and you'll never catch me scrapbooking. I am so un-girly that I don't wear makeup, I am lucky if I get a semi-annual haircut, and my fashion sense could be summed up as "slovenly". When I was working full-time, however, I did make more of an effort, especially in the area of hair care. I'd pick a salon and get a good cut and highlights. I'd give my bangs a trim from time to time (usually with my head bent over my work trash can), and come out looking like an escaped mental patient (or that's how a previous co-worker described it). There's no way in hell that I'd ever highlight my own hair (aside from experiencing the wonders of Sun In during my misspent youth). My total lack of experience in all things hair-related did not deter my neighbors from thinking I'd be the go-to girl for a bit of home highlighting last Saturday afternoon.

I can just imagine the conversation at their house:

"Jimmy, I need to get my roots done. I bought this highlighting stuff, but need someone to help me. Who do you think would do a good job?"

Jimmy, after consulting his address book, cell phone contact list, family Bible, as well as their church directory - and finding everyone else busy or unsuitable..."Gee, Bren, I don't know anyone. Let me go out to the car and get the Ouija board." Jimmy unlocks the trunk of the Chevy just as I come outside on my deck for a smoke.

Jimmy flashes me a million-dollar smile. "Hey, Kim, are you busy? Brenda needs a little bit of help with dying her hair. You can do it, right?" Lucky for him, I'm a helpful sort, even when I am clueless...or vice versa.

Brenda'd had her hair colored a while back, and her roots were showing. Even after I explained my total lack of knowledge, acumen and confidence, they were both onboard for my maiden voyage on the SS Peroxide.

It was the most terrifying procedure I've ever performed on another human being, and that's saying a lot. I had once had a job where I was trusted to use an ear piercing gun on innocent children. I don't have nightmares about that horror anymore, although I'm not sure my victims can say the same thing.

If you've ever used a home highlighting kit, you'll know that it comes with that ridiculous highlighting cap with the holes in it. You know, the one that makes you look like you'd just successfully completed a round of chemotherapy when the hair is pulled through? Yes, it's that attractive.

I failed miserably with the cap - I could only manage a single strand of hair in a single hole with that crochet hook-thingy. I was afraid I'd hurt Brenda. I must add that I'm assuming that Brenda has as sensitive a scalp as I do. When I used to do the whole cap/highlighting thing at the salon, I'd have tears running down my face because of the pain caused by the dreaded hook. It's not that my stylist was overly rough, it's just that my head is so tender that I get teary even from a vigorous shampooing. I totally chickened out on the cap for Brenda. I even had her husband Jimmy give it a whirl. He did a little better than me, but it just wasn't working out.

I made an executive decision and we dispensed with the cap. Brenda's goal was to cover about an inch and a half of her roots, as well as to lighten up the rest of her hair. She said this as if I was perfectly capable of doing so...and I felt my gut clench.

I read the instructions carefully. I poured and mixed and stirred enough dye to do a test section. Then it was a waiting game. The instructions said the color would process from a minimum of five minutes to a maximum of 90 minutes. Quite a range, don't you think? I checked the color every five minutes. At 10 minutes, there didn't seem to be much change. At 15 minutes, I was alarmed to see that Brenda's hair turned this awful shade of orange.

I was scared shitless. I said words that were never uttered in Brenda's home before. I frantically wiped the stuff out of the test section and the apologies began in earnest. I told her to take a look and tell me what she thought. As she walked to the bathroom, I waited for her scream of terror - but none came. She said I could do the rest of her hair...and my bowels became liquid.

I mixed up the remainder of the products and started applying it on other sections of her hair. I apologized every 45 seconds or so, sure that she was going to need, at a minimum, a followup appointment at a salon to repair my atrocities.

Working quickly (since timing is important in haircoloring - and I really needed to go to the bathroom), I managed to slather the foul-smelling foamy stuff on her hair. At no time during this process did I notice smoke coming from her scalp, and I witnessed no severe scalp redness or hair loss - events that I was sure were about to occur. When I was done applying the product, I excused myself and went home to visit the facilities, smoke a cigarette, and pray that everything turned out all right (none of these were done simultaneously). If I had had a ready supply of alcohol, I'm sure I would have knocked a few cold ones back to steady myself. I returned to the scene of my crime before the final reveal.

After fifteen minutes had elapsed, the timer alerted us that the processing time was at an end. I took a good look around Brenda's home, since I figured that once her hair fell out I would not be invited back, and I wanted to commit the space to memory.

With a bit of assistance at the kitchen sink, Brenda washed out the chemicals and applied the conditioner that came in the box of dye. In my attempt to be helpful, I managed to soak a portion of Brenda (and the kitchen floor) with the sink's spray attachment. I know she appreciated how cool the water made her feel (I could see it in her eyes). And her kitchen floor looked so clean in the spot where I hosed it off.

Brenda dried her hair and it lost that hideous orange color, thank God. She noticed a section that was a bit darker than the adjacent sections, so she had me stir up the noxious crap and apply a bit to even the color up. After ten minutes or so, it was wash/rinse/condition/dry time once again.

I was so happy to see that I didn't cause Brenda great bodily harm, and that I didn't cause abject hair loss or undue embarrassment by turning her hair into something resembling a fright wig. And now, 10 days later, I peek out behind my closed blinds when I hear Brenda's car pull into her driveway and check out her hair, just to reassure myself that Brenda hadn't found it necessary to don a big, floppy hat...or worse.

This activity was so fraught with terror that I'll never volunteer for such duty again. I think all concerned would be better served if tasks such as these were left to the professionals  who know how to crochet.

I'm going to write the company and complain about the product's name. Nice 'n Easy? I don't think so.


  1. Idk if those were their real names or not, but that's my aunt and uncle's names. Totally sounds like something that could've happened with her. Hilarious. I don't do highlights either. Just using a box of regular dye freaks me the hell out. The stuff for highlights looks like a torture device. Sheesh, the things women go through smh.

  2. WOW! I would NEVER ask friend or neighbor to help color my hair, unless they had a license to do so! You certainly were kind, considerate, and helpful....and I definitely felt your angst!!

  3. I used to frost my neighbor's hair and she used to perm mine. Sometimes my hair was curlier than her poodle's and sometimes she had more white hair than a grandma. Glad you and your friend survived.

  4. I agree .. this is NOT something you do to someone else if you don't know what you are doing. I do it to myself and I get angry with me so I wouldn't put another person in that position. Glad you and she survived!


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