Blond Ambition

Author Ann Hood shares her quest to achieve the shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen hair of her dreams—and what happened in her life along the way.

Photo by  Elinor Carucci

I blame Kathy Connor for over 30 years of hair disasters. When I met her, back in 1975, I was a hair virgin. I had very long, dirty blond locks that had remained exactly that long for my entire 19 years. Kathy took one look, lifted a hank of hair in her hands, and examined it. “Your hair,” she said, “is a mess. Dry. Damaged. Split.” Kathy was one of those people who seem infinitely wiser and older than everyone else. She did not wear jeans or Izod shirts. She liked Frank Sinatra music. She knew how to prepare flank steak and cherries jubilee. So when she delivered my hair diagnosis, I listened.

“You need to cut it,” she said. I began to sweat. My hair, thick and highlighted with gold streaks that I carefully painted on every six weeks, was my best feature.

“Like a trim?” I managed to ask. Once a year, I went to the hair salon at the Jordan Marsh department store and let a hairdresser cut an inch or two. This, I believed, kept my tresses looking good. Apparently, I was wrong.

Kathy leaned in for a closer examination. Her face filled with disgust. “At least six inches,” she announced.

If only I had been the kind of 19-year-old who did not listen to someone simply because she knew the words to “My Kind of Town,” this story would have ended right there in the living room of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority. Instead, I followed Kathy to the telephone and let her make an appointment for me with a man named Tony at a salon in nearby Providence. A week later, I walked onto South Main Street a different person. My long, beautiful hair had been cut into a Dorothy Hamill wedge. Even worse, as the blond locks fell to the floor, I was left with what lay beneath them: mousy brown roots.

“You look so much better,” Kathy said, swinging her own still long hair. She had gotten a one-inch trim. I had been scalped.

“Uh-huh,” I said, peering at my reflection in various store windows as we walked by them. I was skinny back then, and with my hair so short and wearing my standard uniform of khaki pants and a polo shirt, I no longer looked like a pretty girl. To be honest, I didn’t look much like a girl at all.