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"Your hair is getting so long!"
Say that to me, and my first instinct is to schedule a haircut. I've always preferred classic bobs to long, bombshell waves. Long hair struck me as vain and childish, while shorter hair felt more modest and professional. Still, I've always wondered what it would be like to be the girl with the long, sexy hair.
I got my wish with human hair extensions, which were styled into big, bouncy waves that made me gasp at my reflection. To hell with modesty -- I looked hot!
Now I know: Bombshell hair takes a village. Armed with detailed instructions on how to curl and style my new mane, along with a bagful of products, I headed to the salon door.
"Wait! You need more eye makeup," said the stylist as he pushed me in front of a makeup artist, who applied a sultry cat eye with dark eyeliner. I was finally ready. Well, almost.
"They gave you Victoria's Secret model hair!" my mom gushed when I met her for dinner. As I removed my coat, her excitement faded. "Is that what you're going to wear?"
"This?" I asked, glancing at my button-down shirt and cardigan, seeing how it defanged the sex kitten vibe. Note to self: Reveal more skin!
I got it right for a night of karaoke with my coworkers. Wearing a slinky, back-revealing halter top taught me that longer hair not only looks sexy, but it feels sexy, too. With every move, those extra inches of hair tickled my neck, brushed along my shoulders and caressed my back.
Likewise, I couldn't keep my hands off my hair. I ran my fingers through it and cradled it around my shoulders like a comfy stole. My husband didn't have to worry about the whistles and stares from men -- I was so busy having an affair with my hair, I barely noticed.
While my new style was a big hit with my friends, coworkers and even strangers, my husband was less enthusiastic. "I need to get used to it," he said. Later, though, I caught him staring at me with a goofy grin.
"You know, you look like a superhero," he said. Finally, a compliment! I certainly felt like super girl. My long hair made me feel more comfortable with myself and able to guiltlessly enjoy the fun of feeling pretty. No small feat!
I've decided to grow out my hair. Accordingly, I've been practicing saying "thank you" to any comment on future hair lengthening. And I've even taken my hairdresser off speed dial.
Q. What did the blonde girl name her pet zebra?
Okay, I admit it: I had heard the above "dumb blonde" joke and plenty of others, too, over the years. But even so, I was dying to be a blonde; I mean, it's every curly brunette's secret wish to be idolized, objectified, and glorified as only blondes are, right? As soon as the wig was fitted I spent a good 10 minutes swinging my straight, golden locks side to side in the mirror, drinking in my oh-so-obvious new hotness.
I knew that everything was going to change. How could it not?
The first thing that happened was that Juan, the doorman of the apartment house where I've lived for nine years, asked me where I was going as I swanned to the elevator (swanning, of course, because all blondes swan, even when standing still). And he wasn't that nice about it. I stared at him. He stared back. "Don't you recognize me?" I squeaked.
"Oh! You look so...different," Juan said. "Here's your dry cleaning," he added, backing away.
That was my first clue. You could say that my husband's reaction was Juan-esque. Although he knew that I was going blonde, his first sight of me caused him to drop his crossword puzzle, his jaw, and his fork, all at the same time. "My God," he breathed. "You look cold, like one of those type-A, aggressive women." (Friends offered a different sentiment: "You're channeling the Jersey Shore, circa 1971, right?") My apparent new swagger made me feel super-sexy and extra-powerful, followed by a strong urge to change my outfit.
You know why? Because you have to wear totally different clothes and makeup when you're a blonde. Out with the black blouses and silver eye shadow and in with the warm brown V-necks and ocher eyeliners.
Then my husband and I went out to dinner, where it was clear (to me) that everyone paused to gawk at my beachy beauty, men and women alike. On the way home, however, it rained, leaving me looking like a lost member of Spinal Tap. Had I not been wearing my wig, my curls would have sprung back to life within five minutes of getting inside.
So for me, the Big Blonde Experiment was a mixed blessing. It taught me that a) it feels weird to have your family, friends, and doorman not recognize you, b) browns and ochers can also flatter brunettes and c) curly hair does better in wet weather. All in all, I'll take my uncontrollable, dark curls any day.
Fantasy hair calls for some expert help from the pros. Erica's extensions were made and styled by Marc Mena, senior stylist at the Warren-Tricomi Salons, in New York and Connecticut, and her makeup was done by Maral Balien, makeup artist at Warren-Tricomi Salon, in New York. Roberta's wig was created by Barry Hendrickson, owner of Barry Hendrickson's Bitz-n-Pieces, in New York, and styled by Edward Tricomi, co-owner of the Warren-Tricomi Salons, in New York, Connecticut, and Los Angeles.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, June 2008.