Rachel Johnson: Blonde ambition comes naturally to me
I like to think that I have, over the last 25 years, saved thousands upon thousands of pounds. If I had put in the bank, say, the money that I have saved on not doing something that a lot of other women (and men) do every month or so, I would have a very pretty nest egg by now.
It wouldn’t matter so much that I don’t have a pension. I would even be able to stay in Notting Hill after the coalition brings on the mansion tax. But I haven’t saved the money, of course: I’ve just spent it on something else.
So the fact that I don’t dye my hair doesn’t affect our family finances one way or another; or it didn’t, that is, until a fortnight ago. I looked in the mirror and a grey, anxious visage topped with what looked like straw turning into silage stared back. It was a mid-February look. It did not look sunshiny and happy at all. I lifted up the heavy hanks of brown and decided that something had to be done.
What anyone sensible and in funds would have done is go to the hairdresser and secretly ask for half a head of baby blonde highlights and never admit it, ever. But I am not that person.
One, I am mean. Two, I am more broke than you might think. And three, I DO NOT DYE MY HAIR! That’s my line, and I am sticking to it.
So I went to Superdrug on the Strand and scanned the shelves until I found what I was looking for. “John Frieda Sheer Blonde Go Blonder controlled lightening spray – gradually lightens your blonde hair for a natural looking blonder colour.” Bingo. I bought it (£4).
When I got home, I liberally sprayed my hair. I spritzed away over the next two weeks like a child playing with a soda siphon for the very first time. It seemed to be working. My hair went yellower, at any rate.
And then, very suddenly, it went a sort of coppery bronze. People started noticing that far from being – I REPEAT – a natural blonde (frankly the last natural blonde in London apart from our Mayor), I was a Hallowe’en pumpkin orange.
It was panic stations. I booked an appointment for that day with Michael Nyumba. Admittedly, this salon is in Mayfair so I knew it would be a major outlay, but this was a crisis. An emergency. “You look like a Polish, no a ROMANIAN au pair who has no money or time to go the salon and who has,” Charalambous said when I arrived in Mount Street, “Done It Herself.”
Then he went on: “Actually, you should really go to a TURKISH hairdresser. He will know what to do. That’s how all Turkish women look.”
Well, readers, three hours (THREE HOURS! How can people STAND THE BOREDOM?) later, and my hair had been painted with Aveda potions, then anointed and rinsed more times than I could count.
I had treatments and serums, conditioners, a herbal dye and something called a toner, to atone, I suppose, for the terrible fact I had self-Tangoed. I looked blonde and bouncy. “I like it,” I said to Michael. “HELLO!” he answered. “How could you not after what you LOOKED LIKE BEFORE?”
I cannot dare reveal how much this all cost me. The only consolation is that I have never (I SWEAR!) done it before, and will never have to do it again.
I suppose the take-away from this, the thought for the day, is this. I always get cross when my husband buys the cheapest version of the product available: be it a strimmer, a DVD player, a coffee machine, or a laptop. The item breaks, and as there is no one left seemingly anywhere who mends things, our house is littered with cheap, broken items that sit there until I throw them away. (Apart from shoes. The cobbler near Portobello Road, Mario’s, is doing a roaring trade in the recession).
So my message is this. If you do dye your hair, go to the experts, if you can possibly afford it. If you want to be roundly abused at the same time, go to Nyumba.
But whatever you do, don’t do anything on the cheap. You will pay expensively – as I did – for it in the long run. I’m afraid that this principle has universal application.
Rachel Johnson is editor-in-chief of The Lady. Follow her at @RachelSJohnson. She has donated her fee for this column to the Big Issue Foundation