When I was 24 I remember walking home late one night from Manhattan to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I had just taken the L train back to Williamsburg and I was walking by a dive bar when a guy stumbled out of it.
He said, “You’re not pretty, but…..that’s ok.”
I remember walking home really annoyed that I had just been emotionally bombed. I didn’t even realize I was in a minefield. I was upset he had planted something so hurtful in my head that I would have a hell of a time getting rid of.
It was a blatant reminder to me that living in New York, even in Brooklyn I felt there was no way to escape the pressure to be thin, well-dressed and pretty.
You can feel it when you walk into a room. And I walked into many rooms where I was heavier than most of the women without designer clothes, with the wrong make-up, the wrong hair, and the wrong confidence. Or so I felt at the time.
I remember being in the Hamptons one summer. I was very out of my element.
It was a group of mostly athletic frat guys from Long Island. These Italian guys were generally attractive, muscular and loud. When and if they were interested in conversing with me I always felt loved–which is an odd thing, as who could even see clearly with the amount of booze inhaled at these summer parties.
So many times in my life I would put on a mask and become someone else. This summer was one of those times.
Growing up I always felt like an outsider–and when I moved to New York I decided to reinvent myself. There was no better place than New City to put the past behind. I was like Madonna out with a new album–it was the early 20-somethings album and I had made a big leap.
Becoming the Blonde California Blake that Never Was
When I actually grew up in Orange County there were no glamorous TV shows about Orange County. But somehow when I left people knew about “the OC.” And being from California in New York was exotic. Everyone wanted to know why I left California. When I lived in California in actuality I was an artsy recluse hanging out with mostly academic type people who were interested in women’s lib. But when I moved to NYC I decided to become glamorous. I remember that was the time I became aware of the fact that I should carry a purse that was pretty. Because before that it never occurred to me.
I can remember walking to get my hair done one day in Brooklyn and thinking “that’s it! I want to be pretty. I’m going blonde.”
And it worked for a while. I felt I was treated differently when I was blonde. I felt sexier. I got special attention for my bleached locks.
I remember the first time I got it done my hair looked frightening, like someone had poured bleach all over my head. I cried and got it redone. I continued to get my hair done every six weeks. The cost was around $175 plus tip–and I did this consistently for five years. That’s more than $10,000 dollars–not including hair cuts.
Too bad changing your hair color doesn’t make you feel at home in your own skin. It doesn’t make you love yourself. That money could have been put to much better use, but you live and you learn.
About one week ago I changed my hair to a darker color. I did this partially so it wouldn’t be high maintenance and as a way to bring back my authentic self.
When I got my hair done I cried. My boyfriend (“life partner”) Jacob asked me “Blake why are you crying?” I told him that I had dyed my hair blonde to be special. I cried for the death of my blonde personae. I cried because it was officially the end of an era for me. I’ve officially grown up.
And sometimes it’s not just hair.
I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish people like Lena Dunham were on TV when I was 24 to show that you can be sexy and be more than a size 0, and you can have brown hair and be appealing.
This girl ran and ran and ran. Literally. When actually the answers were all inside and to really see them you can’t run. You need to sit quiet and still. I don’t look like this picture anymore, and I’m fine with that.
Hair is used as a shield. We hide in our hair. We wear our hair in our face when we don’t want to be heard. We hide our fat in our hair. We can be overweight but if our hair looks perfect we at least feel secure in that.
But when you finally change the channel and decide to love yourself no matter your hair–you can feel amazing about yourself when you walk into a room, no matter who is standing in it.
Drunk dive bar goers, long island frat boys or the girl in the mirror–no matter who is looking back at you, you feel whole.