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My life-altering blonde to brunette makeover started many moons in the past, with the exact opposite transformation. After I acquired lice in sixth grade, my Mexican mom mentioned she knew the easiest way to treatment it and bleached my brown hair blonde. This was the primary of numerous transformations to come back: I’d dye, model, and suppress my pure brunette mane for many years, evolving right into a perpetual seashore waved blonde, full with extensions to cement the aesthetic.
After the lice, puberty hit. I’d grown a number of inches in each path, and at 11 years outdated, grown males whistled after I walked by. With that, I absolutely fabricated my id as a “busty blonde,” bearing the project like armor. I believed if I beat the stereotype to the punch, I might subvert and protect it. The irrational ideology intensified after I was sexually assaulted by a bunch of associates as a teen, a reminiscence I buried till school after I started to expertise signs of PTSD. And whereas I did begin remedy, I turned blonder, too—including highlights with every repressed reminiscence. Maybe I aspired to be Barbie: a blonde but lifeless physique that couldn’t understand.
After I turned 30, nevertheless, one thing modified. I not relished my prowess at Princess Peach cosplay and awoke with an timeless urge to return to my brown roots. Whereas this choice seemingly got here out of nowhere—genuinely stunning family and friends—this precisely depicted my inner state. I had simply change into a magnificence author, and so I used to be continuously contemplating aesthetics and hair, and the way little (or a lot) which means they’d. It seems issues solely matter as a lot as you allow them to, and that went for my hair’s assigned significance, too. With this readability, I knew: It was time to let go.
An abrupt want to vary one’s hair is widespread for survivors. “The act of adjusting one’s hair after experiencing trauma is a technique we select to take our energy again,” Amira Johnson, LMSW, a therapist at Berman Psychotherapy, tells me. “Though the act is probably not acutely aware and seem like comparatively impulsive when it occurs, there is part of us that’s advocating for the ability of self to be put again into our fingers.”
Take into account the widespread trope of chopping or dyeing your hair after a breakup, or how I chopped my lengthy and luscious hair into an ear-length bob after being assaulted in ninth grade. “Altering hairstyles would possibly symbolize getting into a brand new period or chapter in somebody’s life,” Kara Lissy, LCSW, medical director and psychotherapist at A Good Place Remedy, explains. “The shedding of our useless ends, which have traveled with us by many tough months or years, is a illustration of beginning over with much less weight on our shoulders.”
“What do you imply? Your model is blonde!”
Hair transformations can signify internal therapeutic and shifting from one state of being to a different, provides Johnson—and I used to be actually shifting. In 2021, I endured one thing harking back to what occurred in my teenagers, in addition to sudden being pregnant loss. Regardless of this, atop the psychological impacts of lockdown, I managed to graduate with my Grasp’s from Columbia, and even began working after a lifetime of pondering I couldn’t. Returning to my darker roots felt just like the pure subsequent step (or leap) in my lengthy sequence of transformations-in-spite-of-the-odds.
I texted my trusted colorist, Jaclyn Curti, and stylist, Marc Mena. “I wish to bear a hair transformation,” I started. “I’m going to… darken my hair, and I type of desire a shag lower.” Half-expecting one other exasperated response (my associates yelled, “What do you imply? Your model is blonde!”), I used to be relieved to listen to that each Jaclyn and Marc had been on board and excited for my overhaul.
Inside per week, I eagerly sat in Curti’s chair, watching as she first dyed my hair shiny crimson—it needed to be “stuffed in” to ensure the brown would stick— nd then add a brunette shade that the majority intently resembled the one from my childhood pictures. She added a number of highlights round my face to brighten it up a bit, however total, my hair reverted again to its pure state. Or at the least what it appeared like on my seventh birthday.
As with working, I deliberate to sort out my transformation through interval coaching: Having simply gone brown, shedding my lengthy size concurrently would merely be an excessive amount of. Bodily positive, however primarily emotionally. So after I noticed Marc, we determined to put in a brand new, darker set of Nice Lengths extensions, which he’d then layer right into a very gentle shag. This is able to permit me to keep up the size whereas nonetheless counting as a significant change (in my thoughts, at the least), permitting me to ease my approach into sporting pure hair inside a number of months. Sluggish and regular wins the race.
Sitting in Marc’s chair, my new hair—and self—manifested within the mirror. I didn’t acknowledge my reflection, and Marc didn’t, both—a stylist and good friend who’s identified me for years, even having styled my hair on my marriage ceremony day. “Who’re you?” Marc requested, half in jest as he brushed my freshly chopped strands. “You aren’t the identical one who walked in right here this morning.” Collectively, we laughed, repeatedly inquiring who this new lady was. Associates who noticed my footage echoed the sentiment: I used to be another person completely. I used to be free.
However, like my coloration, it’s not that I’m a “new” individual. That is essentially the most I’ve felt like myself since I can keep in mind, however nobody might know that to be the case: I’d stored myself secret, burying and bleaching what felt too painful to bear, donning blonde locks like camouflage. However as they washed away, so did the disgrace. And so, at present, I’m happy to reintroduce myself and befriend my unfiltered reflection. Roots and all.