It was Sunday morning, and I was dyeing my hair.

I was fifteen the first time that I dyed my hair, and it was completely by accident. My pseudo-somewhat-believable-facsimile best friend and I were going out with some friends later, and there were going to be guys there that we had never met. She decided that this meant we were automatically prowling for dates with said guys.

I had no interest whatsoever, but I watched her play dress-up with everything in her closet and apply metallic blue eyeliner to the insides of her lower lids and do her hair with one of those hot-air-curling-iron brushes that were big in the eighties. I was happy that we were different sizes, because if she tried to dress me up in her clothes I knew that she would stick me in that short jean skirt with the zipper that ran up the front. It was basically a really wide belt held together with a zipper.

My sense of safety was premature, though. Other girls my age were always trying to press this idealized femininity on me through makeup, skirts, and curling irons. If they couldn't do it one way, they would find another.

I was feeling safe until she turned to me and said you would look really good with a bit of red in your hair. Fucking hell. She was pushy when it came to me, and within a couple of minutes she had located some styling mousse that promised to give my hair a hint of red. She turned me away from the mirror and started working on my hair. I couldn't see what she was doing, but she kept putting more mousse on more parts of my head until my whole head had been thoroughly coated in it.

What's it look like? I asked. I was nervous, because she kept frowning whenever she applied mousse in a new place. It'll be fine, she said. The colour's just a bit darker than it says on the can. Then she frowned again. I demanded to see what it looked like, and she blurted it will look better after we style it before she turned me around toward the mirror.

My hair was not just a touch red. It was the colour of those red cardboard french fries boxes from fast food joints. It was the colour of fire engines. It was the colour of the construction paper we used on Valentine's Day in elementary school.

Chicken blood, she said. What? I asked. Chicken blood. It's the colour of chicken blood.

When we went out later that night and we were introduced to the new guys, one of them looked at me with a twisted grin and said who're you supposed to be? Ronald McDonald? I laughed, because that made me feel incredible. I could just have fun now. I did not have to be pretty or sexy or flirty or feminine, all of which made me feel loathsomely uncomfortable. I sat in the back of a truck as we zoomed around the city and felt fan-fucking-tastic. The guys called me Ronald all night and bought me french fries as though I were one of their buddies while my friend was left to deperate giggling and teasing to maintain anyone's attention.

The hair that I was sure would mortify me in front people that it was tacitly implied I should impress actually relieved any pressure I felt to perform to a standard that was not my own.

That red mousse stained my hair, which was naturally quite light at the time. Over the next few months, the colour faded a lot, thankfully, but the only way to truly get rid of it was to grow it out or dye over it. I dyed over it and have been dyeing my hair different shades of red and brown off and on ever since.

My point, though, from the start, was to share today's hair dyeing experience, because even though I have seventeen years of it under my belt, you wouldn't know it by this morning's attempt.

Because I am keeping my hair so short these days, the last time I dyed it I only used half of the two bottles of dye and conditioner, so I saved what was left for the next time. What I didn't think about was that I had already used up the one set of plastic gloves that came in the package, and those aren't things I keep around the house. I had to be creative if I didn't want to dye my hands a deep plum.

The only thing I could think of was our stash of plastic grocery bags in the kitchen. It was easy enough to get one over my right hand and tie it up around my wrist with my left hand and my teeth, but covering the second hand was much more difficult.

I was absolutely not going to wake the Fiery One up to help me, though, because I was naked in preparation for the dyeing and struggling with tying plastic grocery bags to my hands. Hi, hon! I'm buck naked! Except for these grocery bags with smiley faces tied to my hands! Wanna help? It took me a while, and I ended up with plastic wedged in between my teeth, but I managed to fashion my own stylin' grocery bag mittens.

Things went much more smoothly after that, except for the purple spot on the bathroom linoleum and the other one on the wall by the garbage can. The cat got some of it, too, because he insisted on being in the sink while he watched me with great interest. I had about half of my head covered in dye when a large glop of it fell onto his side, which started a whole battle between his flying kitty limbs, a washcloth, and my non-dye-covered grocery-bag-mittened left hand.

Luckily, I managed to get the dye off the cat and dye both sides of my head evenly (which I did by leaving the stuff on for about an hour for maximum darkness) and my left hand only ended up with small purple spots where Oskar's claws had punctured the grocery bag.

After seventeen years of at-home dye jobs, though, you would think that I would know how not to dye the floor, walls, and the cat and then have a hell of a time flossing grocery bag plastic out of my teeth.

Morals of the story: Looking like a freak has its upside, and always keep plastic gloves on hand, because you never know when they will come in handy. Also, lock the cat out of any rooms where you are using toxic chemicals, and dump stupid pseudo best friends who constantly insult you with trying to improve your looks to their own standards. Oh, yes, and if you do find yourself standing naked with bags tied to your hands and you need some assistance, it is okay to ask your significant other for help, especially if it will help you to avoid cutting your gums with dental floss later on.

Hair is heaven's water flowing eerily over us
Often a woman drifts off down her long hair and is lost
- "Hair Poem" by Bill Knott

September Trees