How Looking like a Bruised Lemon Made Me Feel Beautiful


I, for my entire life, have had bland brown hair and brown eyes, and have for years to change my appearance. I’ve always held the notion from movies and tv shows that blondes have more fun and girls with blue eyes are instantly more attractive than those without. My eye color was not something I could easily change, so I opted to change my hair. My sophomore year of highschool I bought my first box of hair bleach from Walmart, and after watching hours of Youtube, I attempted to ombre my hair. It turned out exactly how you would expect from a beginner. With some purple shampoo and time, I was content with how my hair looked, so I proudly entered the world as a (half) blonde.  

For the next couple of years, I highlighted or balayaged my hair whenever it strayed from my idealistic blonde fantasy. Despite the constant reminders from my dad that my natural hair was beautiful, it didn’t stop me from spending hours of time using bleach, toner, and purple shampoo (which cost quite a bit). When quarantine rolled around, I bid my time by trying the TikTok whipped coffee trend and watching endless videos of girls dying, bleaching, or cutting their hair. I was left to stare at myself in the mirror for more hours a day, so I drew inspiration from these girls: I had no other option than to bleach my entire Lemonade Jocelyn Hsu / Spoon head. Ignoring the thousands of videos of girls with orange locks or chunks of hair falling out, I went back to the same Walmart and bought three -- yes THREE -- boxes of bleach. After my bleach extravaganza, I was left with hair the color of a lemon and a huge patch of brown on the back of my head. Needless to say I spent three hours crying, another hour FaceTiming my boyfriend (with the camera), and a final hour of debating whether I should shave my entire head off. 

My entire conception of beauty was tied to my hair, so looking in the mirror left me with a gut-wrenching feeling of despair. I was ugly. I couldn’t even recognize myself. Quarantine meant hair salons were going to be closed for at least another month; I had to either go an entire month (or more) being disgusted with my appearance, or try using more bleach and run the risk of losing half my hair. I spent the next week weighing my options, wearing nothing but baseball hats and sunglasses whenever I went out in public. I avoided seeing anyone I knew besides family and cried at least once a day. When I decided I was brave enough to go see one of my college friends, I braced for anything she could possibly say when she saw me. To my complete and utter surprise the only thing she said was “Hey nice hair!” I stared at her dumbfounded, she must have been talking to someone else. But she wasn’t. 

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels I suddenly realized I saw myself in a harsher lens than everyone around me. If my friend thought it wasn’t that bad, then why was I spending so much time crying at myself in a mirror? Why was I letting something as simple as hair follicles define how beautiful I am? For the next month I threw away my baseball cap and embraced my yellow, patchy hair wherever I went. Once it had been long enough to safely bleach again, I did end up letting my friend fix the patches and the yellow tone, but it didn’t matter. Sure my hair looked “better” now that it didn’t resemble a bruised lemon, but it was still me underneath all those locks. While I can’t deny that having my short run as a platinum blonde was a little exhilarating, it didn’t leave me with that idyllic blonde fantasy I was always dreaming of. I guess that’s because it was just a fantasy based upon a few fibers of hair on top of my head. As of this past week, I am now back to my dark brown locks and loving every second of it. Now that’s not to say I won’t decide I want to dye my hair pink in a month because I very well might. And that’s fine too. Changing your hair, nails, or clothes should never be taken too seriously. They’re all just temporary changes that never define who you are. I am beautiful as a blonde, I am beautiful as a brunette, and I am just as beautiful looking like a bruised lemon in my kitchen pantry.