It was hot. It was really, really hot.
It was a heat wave, actually. The air was thick, the clothes were thin, and our upper lips were glistening like the well-oiled chest of an Old Spice model. Ah, the summer of ’69. Actually it was like, 2011. Either way, I was headed to Six Flags with a car load of my closest friends, dreams of funnel cakes and corn dogs running through our heads. I was, obviously, feeling myself in my brand new stretchy floral shorts, plain white t-shirt, and freshly colored auburn curls pulled into the same low-bun I wore at my part time job scooping popcorn at the movie theater. One of my Classic Summer Looks™.
This summer, however, was special. This summer was the genesis of my infamous commitment to the faux-red mane that I still obsessively MANE-tain to this very day. (Sorry)
The night before we began our journey, I had decided it was time to have some fun with my identity and become a true redhead. Nervous as I was to color my hair completely for the first time, I figured my strawberry blonde locks weren’t too far from the sultry deep reds I had idolized for so long, and decided the difference wouldn’t be too appalling. I took the perilous plunge and was ecstatic with my results. Little 9th grade me couldn’t wait to premiere my new fiery red locks. Little did I know, those freshly colored curls would soon be my downfall. The invincibility that comes with a fresh box-dye job should seriously require a disclaimer.
Unfortunately for my younger self, no such disclaimer existed at the time, and my false invincibility grew stronger with every mile we traveled.
A monotonous voice droned out of the car speakers in between songs: “A heat advisory has been issued for the remainder of the weekend for the following counties:” Blah, blah, blah, whatever, dude. Can you please stop destroying my Carly Rae Jepsen experience? This is why everyone has Spotify nowadays.
Hours passed and we finally pulled in to the parking lot. Finally, time to begin our day of caloric debauchery and motion sickness. We were young, then. So full of hope.
Our day began and everything seemed to be going swimmingly. A leisurely ride on the mine train to kick things off. A quick voyage on the log flume. We even hopped on the Scrambler, knowing full well the glittery acrylic bench seats would make fried eggs out of our thighs. “There’s only three people in line!” I screeched. I was invincible.
Cut to our crew at least 30 minutes deep in the line for The Boss. You know the one. Huge, wooden demon coaster that jostles every vertebra out of your spine and grinds your tailbone into a fine powder. I love that shit.
We had been roasting in the direct sunlight for far too long and morale was low. Conversation had ceased in an attempt to conserve what little energy remained from the shameful amount of funnel cake we had consumed upon arrival. I could feel the all-too-familiar sensation of my paper white skin tingling with the early signs of a sunburn. Sweat was pouring out of us like a waterbed in Edward Scissorhands’ house. Things were looking bleak. And this was only the beginning.
The silence of the last 20 minutes was shattered by the unforgettable, often reiterated, exclamation:
“What the hell is that, Emily?!”
My friend Amber was standing behind me. “Your neck!” She cried. I slapped the back of my neck with my hand, assuming there was like, totally going to be a super gross bug on me. Call it my… Spidey senses. (I am so sorry.)
However, when I looked at my hand, I did not see the small, squished body of a dead bug. I saw a bright red liquid running down the length of my palm. Of course, I proceeded to mentally flip out, illogically jumping to the conclusion that I was leaking blood out of the back of my head for no reason. Which definitely happens. All the time. I know. I watch House.
As I stared at my palm, eyes full of sheer terror, I realized that this liquid was, in fact, not blood, but hair dye. From my freshly done box-dye job. Garnier Fructisse seriously needs to reconsider its formula because this shit was dripping off me like seven dollar lava.
The fear in my face rapidly dissolved into embarrassment. My friends realized I was bleeding out my hair color and, as friends do, lost their collective shit with laughter. I tried to see the humor, but my well of jokes had, with cruel irony, dried up. Dripping cheap marinara from the top of my head, trapped in a mob of bored, judgmental teenagers, I thought this had to be the end for me. Especially considering I had, of course, chosen today to sport my brand new, pure white v-neck tee from Forever 21. It was beginning to take on a beautiful pink stain all around the neckline and down the shoulders. Dip dye. So chic.
I quickly realized the futility of trying to solve the problem, since I had only packed hand sanitizer, coupons, and my flip phone in my fanny pack, and we were far too deep into the line to go back and get something to wipe my eerily dripping-red neck. I accepted the fact that I was just going to have to look like a shitty plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the next, at least, hour. I managed to endure the line with minimal teasing from my peers, albeit an enormous amount of terrified glances and concerned whispers. I got to end, rode The Boss, wind in my spaghetti, living my life to its fullest.
After we left our long-awaited coaster ride, I finally got a chance to wipe the grim looking liquid from the nape of my neck, but the damage had been done. The top of my shirt was completely soaked in a gradient of bright red. If only I had waited a few years to do this, I could’ve called it a DIY t-shirt ombre and been done with it.
I decided to soldier on, not wanting to waste a perfectly good day just because I looked like a Walking Dead extra who had wandered too far from the snack table. Other than lots of bewildered stares and several small children asking their mothers what was wrong with me at an awkwardly loud volume, it was a great day. When we got back to our hotel, I threw out the shirt and showered off both my shame and the residual red sweat covering my body. It was in that shower, that very moment of solace, I decided my experience had taught me to embrace myself. Sure, I walked around all day looking like Marshall Mathers’ vomit. But I had fun. Made memories. And now I’m stronger for it, knowing that just because you look like some sort of horrible snow cone cosplay, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. Bad hair days are not the end. Unless you’re referring to the life of your pristine white v-neck, because that thing had to go.