A walk down Alyssa’s memory lane: From blonde hair to… darker blonde hair.

People often ask me if I’m a natural blonde. I reply yes, because I am. However, do they need to know that my actual, natural blonde is probably the darkest blonde you can be without being brunette? Naaaah. I was a towhead from birth (and always thought that was actually spelled TOEhead, for the longest time), and my wispy white blonde Children of the Corn hair lasted me until I was about 10.

That's me on the left, with our brother in the middle, and April on the right. Look at me rockin my double chin!

That’s me on the left, with our brother in the middle, and April on the right. Look at me rockin my double chin!

Then, my hair became more golden and grew interesting cowlicks and stubborn waves, until it burst into mermaid-esque ringlets. In high school I messed around with all kinds of hair dyes, I was fond of pink, and at one point had a yucky purple that turned gray. Me and my friend Lisa (Hi Lisa!) would spend hours in her bathroom working out the perfect punk rock highlights. Then, one year, I went auburn. I quite enjoyed that color, and thanks to the powers of Facebook, a friend recently found this picture documenting my redhead hue.

Me on the far left. I was so skinny!

Me on the far left. I was so skinny!

For about the past ten years I’ve been a home dyer, and stuck to a golden blonde shade that needed touch ups about every five weeks. I had the best luck with the $2.99 box of Revlon ColorSilk Dye, and did it by myself on random weeknights, being careful not to touch my head as I putzed around the house for 30 minutes smelling awful.

Golden Blonde by Revlon

Golden Blonde by Revlon

For the past year, I’ve been an “ultra light” blonde, which is pretty much platinum. I had a  lot of fun with this color, but it had some significant drawbacks. The first being that I needed to do my roots about every 3.5 weeks, and I’m lazy. The second drawback was that it really washed out my face, and if I didn’t put on blush, I looked like a walking q-tip. Given that I work from home I wear very little makeup, but when I do go out, I’d rather kids not point to me and ask their parents how a cotton ball learned how to walk. The third drawback was that since it’s basically bleach, the color was killing my curly texture and making it a limp wave. It was time for a change.

Photo by Lynnette Joy Photography from three weeks ago at my best friend's wedding

Photo by Lynnette Joy Photography from three weeks ago at my best friend’s wedding

I’d been hemming and hawing about going back to my natural color for a few years, but was always too chicken. The closest I ever came on my own was during this era, which was a “Dark blonde” box dye that I felt was too red. I lasted like this for about two weeks before running for my blonde safety net.

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Reddish blonde.

Over the past year, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a wonderful hair stylist who really “gets” my hair. Curly hair is a pain in the butt, because it changes day to day depending on the weather, the water texture, your shampoo, your stress level. George at Floyd’s Barber Shop in Encino is awesome (and so is Mikki!), and he’s been cutting my hair the past year. At our last visit, I asked him what he would do to my hair in terms of color. He won me over with a description of a multi-tonal mix of highlights and low lights, that would allow me to grow my roots out and have a very low maintenance of about every 3-4 months. I was in, and this Friday, we went for it!

Why yes, I do post terrible before photos of myself on the internet. In the name of science! Photo collage by George.

Why yes, I do post terrible before photos of myself on the internet. In the name of science! Photo collage by George.

I really love the new look! It was a little bit shocking at first to see the newer, darker me, but I knew I liked it. I’m still not 100% used to it, but I’m already loving the fact that I feel like my face looks slimmer and I don’t need as much makeup to look “alive”. I’m also looking forward to my low-maintenance new hair routine. So, ‘fess up – is your hair your natural color? Do you dye? If you do, would you ever go back to your roots?

The after of my new 'do

The after of my pretty new ‘do

Embracing my awkwardness: shaking my booty in Zumba

Fraggle Rock!!!!!

When I was a teenager, it took me awhile to realize that I wouldn’t ever be cool in a conventional way. I would never be the girl who had a sheath of straight, blonde hair that fell in a perfect waterfall down my back, nor would I collect phone numbers en masse. My first two years of high school I remember trying desperately to fit in, to have the same L.E.I. jeans as everyone else, even though mine were a juniors size 14. With my brace face, cowlick curls and curvy hips, I never quite fit the mold. I muddled along feeling awkward until something magical happened in my junior year. With the help of my best friend Katelyn, I learned to let my awkward out. I embraced the dorky music lover inside of me, and started to realize that I didn’t CARE if playing the flute was nerdy or if liking Lenore comic books wasn’t cool.

Rockin’ out with My Ruin at the merch table (I was SO SKINNY!!! Why on Earth did I think I was fat?!)

My parents let me go to heavy metal shows in the city, and I became a little band-aid to a bunch of girl rock metal bands. It was the best thing ever. I bought a BC Rich Warlock Guitar and I had pink streaks in my hair. I drew creepy little monsters in my text books, started to make my own lunches and dated a boy in a band. (I married him. Aww.) My life got much, much cooler but only because I learned to let myself be awkward. The day I embraced myself was the day I realized how liberating it was to just be yourself — to say, I don’t give a crap if you don’t like my cow-print socks or my fondness of Phantom of the Opera – because I do, and I am awesome. Embracing your awkwardness is incredible – and I’ve recently had a mini-renaissance of this feeling from Zumba.

You see, I’m not a dancer. I would never call myself graceful. I bruise easier than a ripe peach on a hot summer day, and I’m constantly tripping over my own shadow. I took my first Zumba class several years ago and was horrified by the shimmying, the shaking, the legs crossing over each other and the sheer amount of dance patterns you had to perform. I went once and never again – because I felt too awkward. Nobody wants to see a fat white girl gyrating to latin music, right? At FitBloggin’, I participated in a group Zumba class. The old familiar feeling crept in – the embarrassment, the awkwardness. The negative thoughts started coming. “I look fat. Everybody’s looking at me. I can’t dance. I’ll never get these steps right. I’m so offbeat… I should just give up.” But, by the grace of Buddha, I shushed those thoughts and kept going. And I had fun. Eventually the little voice waned into a quiet whisper, and I shook and shimmied and tried to dance — and it was fun, and I burned calories.

Awkward and Awesome!

I did Zumba tonight and some of the old familiar thoughts came back as I caught sight of my pasty white arms in the mirror. My tummy clung to my hot pink tank top and I thought “Ugh, I look gross.” But I kept going – and I reminded myself that I’m never thinking about what other people look like when I’m working out – I’m thinking about how tired I am or how I’m going to sneak a handful of chocolate chips out of the cupboard when I get home. And BAM – the negative voices stopped. I danced, I shimmied, and I shook — and I burned calories —  smiling and laughing while doing it. On the way out, the teacher even told me how she loved my smile. That’s right. You don’t smile at the gym if you’re not having fun! Tonight I realized I may never feel 100% confident in my skin, but as long as I can embrace my awkward rather than fight it, I remember that it’s not so bad being me. I can’t dance but it’s not about whether or not I can dance. It’s about working up a sweat, churning up some endorphins, and burning fat. It’s about saying, “I don’t need to be the Zumba Queen. It doesn’t matter if I do the Salsa! Eff the standards of perfection – I’m gonna shake my booty!” So thank you, Zumba — for reminding me how to embrace my awkwardness.