Summer Love

Sun In — The Bane of every Brunette

by Melissa Lion

I grew up in condos in San Diego, California. This experience taught me a few things.

1) All conflict boils down to the final battle between the Crips and the Bloods. Or, rather, my idea of the Crips and the Bloods — Ice Cube and LL Cool J acting really sexy and girls shaking their gold-lame clad rumps to the music. The conflict is settled by whose car has the higher hydraulics and shinier candy-coat paint. In other words, I learned about other cultures from MTV.

2) The most important thing about a guy is what kind of car he drives.

3) There are people who have natural blond hair and who tan easily. And then there are the rest of us. And the rest of us are pathetic earthworms smooshed on the soles of the shoes of these godesses.

I’m a dark-haired girl of eastern European descent. That’s like seventy five strikes against me. My skin is fair and my hair is thick and unapologetically black. I understand now that my hair will never, ever give up its pigment, but when I was thirteen, I had hope. Sure my parents might have been getting a divorce and I might have moved junior high schools and I had no friends because no one likes the new girl and Z Cavariccci was in fashion, but dammit, I had hope.

I knew that Longs Drug Store held the answers to my prayers. I knew that the little white bottle of Sun-In hair bleach would make me blond. And the Ban de Soleil would make me tan.

So I sprayed the stuff on my hair and I slathered the orange goo on my legs and I went out in the sun. For hours. I don’t know what I did there. Maybe read a Sweet Valley High. I returned home, dehydrated and hot. I showered. I washed my hair. I looked in the mirror. I was red. Burned. I had no tan lines, but rather splotches of red over red over pink. My nose was nearly purple.

And, oddly, my hair looked a lot like my skin. There were blasts of orange among the black. Places where the spray of hydrogen peroxide was most concentrated. I stared at myself a long time. I breathed in and put some Cutting Crew in my tape player. I took out some Wet n Wild frosted pink lipstick and rubbed it on. That was a little better. The pink lipstick offset the red, getting me closer to tan. But the hair. The hair was something else. It was lighter. In spots. And what I needed to do was connect the spots. I needed to try it again and again and eventually my hair would be all orange, and later, blond. White blond. And I’d drive a VW Cabriolet.

I went to bed and the next day I put more Sun In in my hair. And I added lemon juice and straight hydrogen peroxide and I mixed it all up and brushed it through my hair. And then I blow dried it and then sat out in the sun. And I came home even redder. I showered, certain my hair would now be a flowing mass of gold-spun locks.

To my chagrin, nay shock, my hair was still black in places and orange in places and it was in no way blond. It was a little horrifying and saddening. And, truthfully, more disenchanting than my parents’ divorce.

I continued my quest for blondness long into my college years when it was punk to be blond. Platinum blond. And I found someone who could bleach my hair that color, complete with blisters on my scalp. I finally gave it all up when I found my first gray hair and traded my bleach bottle for a smeary, messy bottle of black hair dye. It hasn’t let me down once.



Filed under Summer Love: Lying out at Burning Up

6 responses to “Summer Love

  1. heynonnynonny

    Good god almighty! I knew it was dangerous to live anywhere the sun shines 99% of the time — it fries your brain and melts you intelligence. It turns smart, clever, funny, wonderful girls into insipid barby dolls and the good-hearted boys into ken dolls. I’m extremely grateful that you escaped.

    You might want to rethink that black hair dye. I have it on very good authority that grey is the new black. (Also, it’s full of really, truly, absolutely vile petro-chemicals that will rot some important organ.)
    I’m just saying.

  2. very nice! good job recapturing the timeframe, i’m totally there.

    this is my favorite line: I knew that Longs Drug Store held the answers to my prayers.

    nice work. btw came from goodreads!

  3. ride5000

    embrace the darkness!

  4. Bocboc

    Is this theh Oregonian’s Back Fence column? The one where people complain about stuff and has been in the paper forever? I have a funny commuting story. Are you still doing those commuting stories?

  5. Oh we natural blondes suffered. I had tanorexia and I always wanted to be blonder. Playmate blonde. And then I wanted the drapes to match the carpet… so I spent a summer dabbing hydrogen peroxide on my little muff so that it would be blonde too…

    and the orange jelly…… you really brought it back with that one. Lord have mercy on my 13 year old soul. I thought that was the goo of the gods. The answer to all of my problems.

    I love your writing. LOVE. Awesome site. Good work.

  6. You so are talking my language here. Love the story. SoCal represent! I’ve spent many of long hours in Longs. (sigh of nostalgia).

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