• Clare

In which I accidentally dye my hair orange

The Daughter has been trying to persuade me to dye her hair blue and it reminded me of an ill fated occasion, back in my teens, when my hair turned orange!

I must have been about thirteen or fourteen years old when I had the bright idea of dying my hair blonde. At that age, my hair was beginning to turn from ash blonde (which I deemed acceptable) to a boring mousy brown. In my mind, the least attractive hair colour of them all. I went into town with my school friends to pick up a box of dye from Superdrug with my pocket money.

This wasn't to be the first time that I dyed my hair; only, on this occasion, I decided that the usual tone just wasn't bold enough. Upon scanning the haircare aisle for many hours, I finally settled for a very brassy, almost dayglo shade called Golden Auburn Blonde. I suspect I was probably egged on by my friends at the time, emboldened by their wild enthusiasm. Nowadays, if I had suggested that shade to a friend of mine, they would have taken me by the shoulders and said firmly "don't be ridiculous. You'd look like a traffic light!" One of the advantages of growing older, is that you realise the importance of honesty and constructive criticism. I consider a good friend to be one who will tell me the truth.

We headed back to my house and decamped to our family bathroom to begin the task. Not one of us felt confident with our natural shade back then. We all coloured are hair with an alarming frequency. I haven't dyed my hair now for at least ten years. For the three years before that, it was highlighted professionally at a salon. Ever since having children, my hair has changed from a mousy sludge, to a rich mid-brown; a colour that I'm very happy with. One of the few positive changes to my body since giving birth. I am extremely fortunate not to have any grey hairs yet. I'm fully expecting to cry when the first one appears. So, at the moment, I'm taking full advantage of the fact that I don't have the upkeep of dyed hair.

After an hour, we all evacuated the bathroom and ran up to my bedroom; eager to dry my hair and unveil the new me. I removed the towel gingerly. Well, it turned out ginger was the operative word! "Hmm, it looks a bit.... orange" I remarked. "Don't worry" my friends cooed encouragingly. "It will look completely different when it's dry!" It didn't! We tried washing my hair a few more times, just in case it toned down the dye. It did nothing. In my wisdom, I had chosen a permanent dye. I didn't have any pocket money left, so I couldn't buy a darker one to cover it. Going to a salon to have it removed was certainly out of the question. A neighbour usually came to our house for a six weekly family trim. There was no way I could ask her for help.

To make matters worse, that evening we were going to our friend Chris' house. All his friends would be there and a feeling of dread was starting to seep into me. We tried tying my hair up; still Hubba Bubba orange. We tried plastering it to my head with hairspray, a look that was highly fashionable at the time. It only resulted in making my hair reflect like a beacon. I tried wearing a hat, I looked ridiculous. I never wore hats, and to start now would make people suspicious. In fact, it would be like waving a red rag to a bull where schoolboys were concerned. They would immediately rip it from my head, only to laugh at me trying to conceal my misadventure. There was only one solution. I left it loose and pretended I was absolutely thrilled with my new look.

We arrived at Chris' house and I nervously rang the doorbell. He only lived at the end of my road, but this would be the first time any of us had been to his house. His Mum answered the door. If she noticed, she certainly didn't say anything. Either too polite, or probably just thought it was the latest craze. She showed us through to the garden where everyone was waiting; sitting around in deck chairs drinking cherry coke or 7up from a can. A hushed silence fell over the group. "What the hell have you done to your hair???" "Dyed it" I replied, rolling my eyes as if they were stupid. "Yeah - but why's it orange!!!" I liked the colour on the box!" This wasn't a lie; the colour had been striking on the model on the front of the packet. Unfortunately, I now resembled one of those troll figures from the nineties. "Jesus Christ!" "What do you look like?" This kind of ribbing went on for a good ten minutes solid. Eventually, everyone got bored of poking fun at me and moved on to grilling Toby and Sophie about whether they had progressed from first to second base.

And just like that it was over. Thankfully, it was the summer holidays and I didn't have to face the whole school looking like a mad scientist. I can only imagine how much pain it would have caused me to face 600 pupils, the whole sixth form and all the teachers. Once my parents had given me a proper talking to, all my friends had heard about my little mishap and the neighbours no longer jumped every time they saw me, I could just bumble on with life. Eventually, I'd saved up enough pocket money to go over it with a very boring dark brown colour, just in time for my return to school the following week. I'd never been so relieved to blend into the background. Once again I was just the girl with the mousy brown hair; sporting metal braces and a smattering of acne for good measure.

Do you have any horror stories to tell from your teenage years? There could, potentially, be quite a few disastrous hair moments at the moment due to lockdown. Don't be afraid to share them in the comments section.

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