I Am #HairStrong: The Hair Chameleon, From Bleach Blonde to Mom and Beyond
I grew up in a salon. I remember as a young child visiting my mom at our small-town salon and being just infatuated with the creativity all the stylists had, what you could accomplish with a color flip, the latest perm trend, or even just as simple as a snip snip.
I also remember my sister had the most amazing hair and I struggled to have any kind of a good hair day. We came from parents with very different backgrounds and it was bound that one of us would get the short end of the hair stick. I was that stick. I was born into this world in 1982 with barely any hair; a few strawberry blonde strands; my sister, showed up two years later with the thick, black, curly hair that I struggled to have as a young girl.
I’ve experimented with so many looks; I can barely remember the few times my hair wasn’t treated, whether it was a perm, begging my mom to put sponge rollers in, or coloring it every which way. My first sad attempt was wanting it to look just like my mom’s by cutting it short. In the late 80’s I remember distinctly my mom cut her hair short and bleached it and I was in awe — she looked like one of the female guitarists right out of Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible" music video (if you don’t know what this video is go check it out!) and I wanted that look. I begged and begged her until she said yes, thinking I would look just like her — sadly, as a four-year-old that didn’t include all the cool bleach blonde and perfectly curled coif. I, with my awkward self, just ended up looking like a boy.
Honestly, even growing up in the environment I did, and let’s face it, with some of the most liberal parents one could have, I never truly ever felt good with my hair. Part of it was likely being compared to my sister, part of it was just growing up as a girl. And there was the part where people misconstrued me for my dad; people would always see framed photos on my parent’s long bathroom counters that were filled with memories and ask “Why does Erin have her hair slicked back that way and wearing a plaid shirt?” They were looking at a photo of my dad, not me. My sister would taunt and tease me and tell me I looked like a boy.
My hair was one of my insecurities. Some people have skin issues or weight issues. I had hair issues. I think there is only one time in my life I remember my mom complimenting me on my hair and it was such a rare occasion it still resonates with me. One night after watching TGIF with the family and eating pizza, my mom, for whatever reason, wanted to brush my hair and just hang out. She reminded me of my hairs' mousy-brown-blonde nature regardless, but then began to brush it and part it to the side and said, “Erin, you look so beautiful.” These moments were few and far between, but one of the scarce moments I felt at peace with my hair battle.
Then came the show My So-Called Life. I was obsessed with that show and was determined to dye my hair as red as Angela’s. I have to admit – red was a good look on me. I felt vibrant, I stood out, and most of all I was able to be another part of myself with that hair color. I remained red almost all through high school, until roughly my senior year, when Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were at their peak and when my first boyfriend thought I would make a better blonde. And then entered the bleach phase….
Blonder, Blonder, Blonder was my mantra through age 23. The blonder, the better I thought. I damaged it left and right. I would cut it into a bob, let it grow, keep bleaching. The bleach routine was brutal and my already fine, yet resilient hair withstood all of it — just the effort alone and repeat process to get to that perfect state of platinum requires so much diligence and rigor. And then one day I just got tired of being “blonde Erin.” It was about a year after a really bad breakup that took me to some depths of depression I honestly did not know how to process, so changing my hair was my way of reinventing myself. It was a way for me to take control, or what I thought was taking control since I had no real control of my emotional being at the time. It’s actually funny to think the things we do to try to gain control when we have none.
After that I spent most of my twenties and still into my thirties going back and forth and in between blonde, brunette, red and then circling back. I just never felt content and the self-expression and excitement of being able to change it frequently quenched my chameleon nature. It’s only now, writing this, that I am coming more and more to terms with my mercurial mindset. I change my hair, I change my style, I change my mind constantly, always evolving in a perpetual state of confusion most of the time, but it also makes me who I am, and I quite honestly love that about myself. I never dwell too long in one place. My father once said he was never a dweller and writing this made me realize how much we are such kindred spirits in that regard.
At 31, I was happily married at the time and we were ready to start a family. I thought this will take roughly six months to a year to get pregnant. Well boy was I wrong, it took six weeks. Pregnancy was not my favorite adventure at all, I have to admit. Many women will tell you how much they love/ed being pregnant – so blissful carrying a child; that was not me. But for me there was a silver lining, aside from yes, the fact that we were blessed with getting pregnant so easily and we had a daughter on the way — MY HAIR!!!! Pregnancy hair is literally the BEST! Aside from dealing with raging hormones, those hormones also cause you not to lose the normal hair you would typically lose day to day, plus your hair and nails are growing at a rapid rate--- yasss that pregnancy glow, that pregnancy hair — filled with voluminous body and as much movement as a Pantene ad. I woke up every day for about seven months looking in the mirror thinking “yeah girl, good hair!”
Being a new mom was even harder than the pregnancy for me. I am usually good at navigating life situations, but there is definitely no road map for what parenting can bring. My daughter was born and remains to be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done, but also the MOST challenging. She was very colicky, didn’t sleep well, and I had a hard time interpreting how to make her feel better. All the while learning how to be a new mom, no one really tells you the after-pregnancy symptoms aside from lack of sleep. I think it’s because you already are struggling, why would anyone want to cast another rain cloud over your head. Some people had alluded to the fact that a few months after having a baby your body regulates all the hormonal changes you experienced back to its original state — first off, it’s amazing how resilient women’s bodies are! But also, what comes with that, is sometimes not pleasant.
After about four months in to becoming a parent, while absolutely exhausted, I was still loving all my locks, well that is, until they started falling out. It’s super common for your hair to fall out a few months after pregnancy. Typically, with your body regulating itself you lose the pregnancy hair you gained. Sometimes, you lose more. I was that person, sadly. It just started coming out in bunches and I felt this lack of control again. How was I going to gain it back? How was I going to bounce back to feeling beautiful again in the midst of already new parent exhaustion, being career driven, and wanting to have it all? Cut it off! I walked into my stylists’ salon, sat down in the chair with my thinning hair, also filled with this hedgehog spiky out growth and said to her cut it to my chin.
Since my pregnancy I’ve been battling my love/hate relationship with my hair. It’s really never been the same. I’ve been through my cuts, colors, extensions, greying hair, a divorce, new jobs, being a single mom trying to get back in the dating game. But what I will tell you through these experiences, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve realized that I will always have a relationship with my hair — it’s a part of me and I can change it or not change it and that’s okay. I’m learning to be more comfortable and embrace my ever-changing chameleon personality and know that one bad hair day is only temporary. I have so many more things to look forward to – my family, my friends, my thriving career, and most importantly that beautiful spunky (who was blessed with the most beautiful hair by the way) ray of a light I call my daughter to look forward to and that makes me stronger than I could have ever imagined.
VP, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Aquis