I waltzed into the hair salon with the giddy anticipation of a woman on the edge of a personal transformation. “What are we doing to the color today?” the stylist asked, and I raised my hands and sort of waved them around my head as if my barely-contained excitement was pulsing out of my own follicles in crackling-static waves. I used words like DRAMATIC and TOTALLY DIFFERENT and LET’S JUST CHANGE THIS WHOLE THING UP. Blonde, baby, blonde. I hear they have more fun.

We came to an agreement and even did a mini high-five to celebrate the New Me who would be walking out of the salon with, like, Betty Draper hair (but not the whoah-black-Betty, bam-ba-lam version in season 6), and for a very very very long time she did her thing: foils, foils, more foils, a thousand and one foils applied in meticulously painted crinkly folds as I thumbed through a stack of women’s magazines and did the embarrassed fast-flip past the articles titled 10 Surprising Sex Moves That’ll Leave Him Begging for More (appropriately enough, surprise #2 is always stick your finger in his ass).

Eventually she rinsed everything clean and led me back to the chair and before I had a chance to look she said, “Soooo. Um. The color didn’t really turn out like I’d hoped.” The mirror confirmed it: the roots were lighter, but everything looked mostly the same as it had before. Sort of brownish. But with a new unattractive yellowy-gold tone that added a deeply sallow note to my complexion.

She apologized, said she’d made a mistake with the bleach or dye or whatever it was and that I wouldn’t be charged. I stared at my reflection and worked to suppress the horrifying watery sniffle that I could feel aching in the back of my throat. I mean, who cries over an imperfect highlighting job? Sometimes a salon error is just a cigar, I lectured myself. Stop thinking about tigers and their stripes.

I left feeling vain and stupid and disappointed. A week into it, my new hair — somehow darker than before, glinting with a cheap brassy hue — seems more and more like a metaphor for bad decisions. Not exactly the glamorous fresh-start New Me I’d been hoping for.

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