Bad Hair, Good Date

My hair is nothing special. I mean, I like it. It looks pretty, if the most basic of browns. Sometimes I worry that it’s getting too thin and my forehead seems really vast, but for the most part I can focus on more important things (like making a living).

For years, I had a “very advanced bowl cut,” as I called it. Part my hair in the center, plop a rather deep bowl over my head, and cut until it was even on the ends. Repeat every six months or so. To look presentable, pull a straight, simple hot iron down clumps for five minutes in the morning. Throw out every diffuser that seemed like a good idea at the time. Occasionally, add hair clip or elastic hair tie. For runs, pigtails worked and added an air of whimsy. Repeat.

When I got my first “big girl” job, I decided I needed to get something nicer than a very advanced bowl cut. I called a friend’s salon and was randomly assigned to Hannah, and we had a terrific relationship. She tolerated my resistance to anything that required any effort on my end when it came to my hair, and in return I brought her both stories and papayas. When I moved states away from her, I would schedule visits home with getting a haircut in mind. When she retired to go into computer programming, I drifted aimlessly through Groupon and LivingSocial cuts for several years.

Some forays into different hair styles left different results, some desired and some less so. The very short cut when my dominant hand was useless for a year? It was great, and I could iron it with one hand. The bright plume attachments in said hair? I LOVED them, and was sad when I was told that they had gone out of style. The purple bit underneath the back of my hair? It was good for a few months and a bother to grow out for another several.

Last May, however, I got a haircut that was so bad it blew my mind. It was so offensive that I wrapped my head in bandanas for the majority of the summer. It was so bad that I looked like I was an extra in a metal video from the late ‘90s. It was so bad I compared it to when Carrie, in Sex and the City, gets a bikini wax in LA and balks, “I was robbed — they took everything!”

It was so bad that when I picked up a friend at her own hair appointment (she came in from Asia, so you know it’s serious), her stylist, Ruby, demanded to peek under the shroud of the day to see my sad hair, and, with wide-eyed sympathy, said, “I will fix this.” She booked my appointment then and there.

It took several months of rehabilitation by Ruby, but not only did she make me look presentable again, she made me look gorgeous. She even convinced me it was okay to add a pop of color.

Most people looked at me and raised a (highly-manicured) eyebrow while asking, “Did you do something with your hair?” My brief Purple Period all but forgotten, people crowed over my “caramel pop” hairdo. It was around that time when a friend with a fashion Instagram posted a bunch of stories about a device that curls her hair. Her hair always looks perfect, and not just because she’s got this to-die-for thick, chestnut mane, but because she styles it quickly with a particular type of hair curler. It’s the curler for the zeitgeist!

I think you know where this is going.

I saw the Instagram story.

Prime Day happened.

I had to have the beach waves.

This iron, which should really only be operated by professional bloggers, sat staring at me in my bathroom for several months before I thought: “HEY! Maybe my date tonight will enjoy me with effortless, thickly curled beach-waved red hair!” Then I looked in the mirror and edited, thinking my delicate and fine brown hair with a caramel tint, in effortful loops, will have to suffice.

I fired up my new wand.

I did one side of my head.

I grinned.

I attempted the other.

A few minutes later, I texted the incredibly good sport: “Hey are you on your way? I did something stupid and we have to go to the drug store after dinner.”

He asked what happened, and if he should be alarmed. My forehead still smoking, I winced as I placed an icepack on the red mark. “So I need to get cream for my forehead. I accidentally seared it.” He cooed jocular concerns over the phone and promised to take me to the drugstore of my choice. The perfect man doesn’t exis….?

He gently squeezed my hand when he arrived at my door and saw the red welt, chuckling kindly as I explained the incident. He verbalized kindly his appreciation for the actually beautiful beach waves — on the unmarred side of my head. Perhaps I should have quit while I was a-head? My haircut was perfect, the highlights divine. Maybe the curls were greedy overkill. They certainly were overcooked.

At the end of the night, my date and I went to the drug store, and I got cream recommended by my favorite denizens of the revolution: Teen Vogue. We sat next to each other as he held the ice pack against my head, all the while chatting about our respective hometowns and sharing some ice cream.

I snapped a selfie and sent it to my friends:

“Be proud! I successfully curled my hair tonight! And successfully burned my forehead!”

“Oy vey!” they chorused back.

“But wait, who’s that cute guy?”

Check out her hairsavior Ruby at @flamingoloungenyc and Fashion Instagrammer Alyson at @themodernsavvy. It is not Alyson’s fault that Sara Beth should not be trusted with a curling iron. Further, SBB is not being paid to promote them, but she adores both and just needs you to know that.

Sara Beth Berman

Sara Beth Berman (she/her/hers) is a writer, educator, consultant, and advocate. Some of Sara Beth's great loves include her family, Brooklyn, good NY pizza (and honestly, bad NY pizza), summer camp, podcasts, music, books, gender equity, salary transparency, Jewish cultural literacy education, and golf carts.

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