I decided it was high time I became a redhead.

God disagreed.

I remembered my friend Kita's wisdom from the last time I kicked around the idea of coloring my hair: "Promise me that if you do it, you'll go to a professional. Don't do it yourself."

Tragically, those words came back to me about 30 minutes too late.

I blame print media. In a magazine, I'd seen a list of "best products"-best toothpaste, best face wash etc. I don't know whether it was an impending birthday or if magazines exert undo power, but I bought the promoted hair color.

I'd never colored my hair before. In fact, I only get it cut about twice a year, don't use product beyond shampoo and conditioner and have blown my hair dry four times in the past year. Three of those came the night I dyed my hair and tried to determine what color it had become.

All I can say about my natural color (bland brown) is that there isn't much gray yet. On this night, though, I'm not sure of the exact color. It's not brown or red. My box of Crayolas doesn't include this shade. I don't think God's box of crayons includes this shade. It's probably in the purple family.

Problem No. 1: My Lord, I have a lot of hair.

Problem No. 2: The box said nothing about combing anything through anything. It just said to "massage the product through." That, by the way, doesn't work.

Problem No. 3: Two of my fingernails poked holes in the protective rubber gloves. I quickly recalled the label's stern warnings not to let the product touch my hand as I liberally was slathering this nastiness all over my hair. I began to freak about my hands because the red goop was pooling around my nails.

I'm afraid I began to rush the job. I lathered, rinsed and blew dry to determine the true color. I looked awful.

And then my brother Mick called.

He is the funniest, dearest guy in the world, and he's a little hard to get ahold of. Mick doesn't own a computer or know how to access his voice mail, and he routinely wonders aloud whether he's holding his cellphone upside down. I hadn't spoken to him in more than a year, and he'd called to tell me he'd booked his flight to Columbus for my birthday party.

Preoccupied on the phone, I just kept glaring at the idiot in the mirror with hair of purple and brown. I dug the remainder of the solution out of the bathroom trash can and, still chatting with my oblivious brother, started to squirt the stuff haphazardly all over my head.

Then I realized that my hands were now entirely uncovered.

I glanced again at my two dyed nails and ran to the living room to motion to my husband, George, to locate some rubber gloves, all the while listening to Mick's troubles in finding a flight from Oregon that didn't lay over in Denver.

George dug up a pair and I tried to keep track of the time that had elapsed since I'd recklessly squeezed permanent hair color onto my once perfectly tolerable hair while Mick asked whether that beer store on Grandview Avenue would really carry his preferred brand of malty beverage.

About 25 minutes later I said, quite abruptly, "Hey, talk to George a sec," threw the phone to my husband and dashed toward the bathroom faucet.

The results were negligible. Immediately, I applied what was left-in effect, dying my hair for the third time that night. It was just point and squirt wherever I saw solid chunks of brown.


During my hair-color hangover the next remorseful morning, I made panicked phone calls to some of my chemically altered beloveds. They recommended washing my hair 40 times or seeing a professional (psychologist or cosmetologist). The one consensus was not to do it again at home.

I'm nothing if not a bad listener.

So, George combed more product meticulously through every strand, which means that all my hair turned purple. Sigh.

But I ended up with two really lovely auburn fingernails.

Hope Madden is a film critic for The Other Paper and a freelance writer.