BLOND AMBITION Sarah Bayliss
One evening as I was brushing my hair, I discovered a dark brown strand. I laid down my brush and, holding the hair taught, ran the fingers of my left hand down its shaft until I touched my scalp. Then I gently separated it from my head.
I stared at the hair, at its black root, soft and rounded like a tiny, burned-out light bulb. I couldn't believe how dark it was. I was eleven years old. How had my hair, which was blond when I was younger, become so brown? I chewed on the end, feeling its squishiness between my front teeth, and tossed the rest away.
I wanted to be a blonde, as I had been when I was a baby. I was still blonde at eleven, but not very—just "honey-colored," as my mom said. I had been looking at a black-and-white photograph of me and my two older sisters when we were small—I was two; my sisters five and seven. They both had brown hair, cut like boys'. Alicia looked like an urchin from Oliver Twist; my oldest sister Mattie had given her an experimental hair-cut that had gone awry.
My shoulder-length hair glowed white in the picture. Both my sisters sat slouched on a garden bench, gritting their teeth in self-conscious grins. I stood on the right, arms outstretched, a crumpled, confused expression on my round face, waiting to be picked up by someone who stood just outside the picture's frame.
For six months after I discovered the brown strand, I'd search for the darkest hairs I could find, generally from the central crown of my head. When I was alone, I savored the process of slowly pulling them out, inspecting them, crushing the minuscule ends in my teeth, and throwing them away.