Few things are more terrifying than a trip to the hair salon. I can say with absolute honesty that I’ve never walked out of an appointment satisfied. I’m always convinced I could have done it better myself. (Overly confident? Narcissist? Confirmed do-it-yourselfer! Yes!) So for the past several years I’ve applied Nice-n-Easy #108 Natural Reddish Blond every couple of months with deeply satisfying results.
I’ve been here for two years. When friends or family ask, “Can I bring you anything from the States?” I’ve begged them to load up on as much #108 as they can comfortably stow in their already overcommitted luggage. In exchange I play tour guide, help them find drivers and navigate the unwieldy currency exchanges. To date, my sassy hair has gotten by on the good graces of visitors. Then that thoughtless company discontinued #108. Trying creatively to meet my needs the last shipment via Jan’s suitcase held various alternatives. Bless her for trying.
Those events propelled me into panic. I’m not about to give up my vivacious strawberry blond-ness without a fight.
I began my search locally and realized in short order that a natural red-blond hair color could not be found in this village. Ubud is a thriving tourist center that caters to Asian women who all have dark hair. The products I found were in shades of mahogany, burgundy, pinky-purple, and brass.
I was three months into my last color job. Desperate, I got a lift with a friend to the upscale Mal Galeria in Denpasar, an hour’s drive from Ubud, and began the inquiry. Matahari had hair dye but nothing permissible. The apologetic clerk suggested Hypermart. The name, at least, sounded promising. Reality was a bit something else. Picture Walmart times ten and you’re close. The battalion of check-out counters with lines stretching to oblivion made me re-think going natural. As I did a No way! about-face my eyes caught sight of a small pharmacy tucked into a niche on the left. It’s worth a try, my ever optimistic self said.
I asked in pidgin Indonesian if they had hair color while pointing to my head. After a quick stop at shampoo and a few more meager attempts to communicate, I was led to the back of the shop. There, in a cluster of the usual sultry mahoganies and sables, I saw an incongruous label sporting a cartoonish red-head with enormous eyes. Her hair, Sweet Apricot, was the right color.
I blinked several times and she was still there. May I look? I said. The name on the box was in English but everything else was undecipherable. Is it for children? I asked. The question seemed reasonable enough to me. The imp on the box was a cartoon after all! What guru of marketing would put a video game type character on a box targeting…Asian teens and young adults? Didn’t they invent the gaming phenomenon? Of course! Brilliant!
The clerks were discussing me, looking at the box, then pointing to my head. This good for you, the older one said.
Now there was no way out. The 95,000 rph price tag translated to about $9 U.S. Shelling out a fist full of 10,000 rph notes I thanked the smiling clerks, tucked my tail, and left.
The box lay hidden in a drawer until last night. A glance in the mirror at my two-tone hairline, dishwater meets redhead, sent me digging under a bag of cotton balls, bandaids, and miscellaneous other supplies. I pulled out Sweet Apricot and was appalled anew by the image. It’ll be okay, I said, Relax! You can do this!
I opened the package and organized the contents in an array before me. The design of the applicator bottle seemed to have significantly superior engineering to the single aperture squeeze thing I was accustomed to. The hermetically sealed packet of plastic gloves weren’t the whisper thin, wrist length throw-aways that Miss Clairol sees fit to supply. They stretched all the way to my elbow and were textured for a non-slip-grip. Sweet Apricot was dead serious about protecting the delicate hands of it’s users.
A quick Google Translate provided instructions that sounded familiar. It’s just hair. As I thought it, I wondered how many times I had breathed out those same three words prior to a disaster of epic proportions.
I’d stalled long enough. With the picture directions spread out on the countertop, I noticed a punch-out circle in the box just the size of the applicator bottle. I was instructed to remove the circle, secure the bottle in the opening for stability, then pour in the color cream, cover securely, and scramble. (Google translate isn’t perfect.) I did as I was told.
You don’t need a blow-by-blow, but the experience was shocking. Once again my sub-grade expectations put me to shame. The solution didn’t singe the nostrils like the Nice-n-Easy brand. It smelled good. The comb-like applicator was 100 times better than the Clairol product and delivered the color cream in an even, perfect flow through its teeth. The goo stayed in my hair and didn’t dribble down the back of my neck or under my chin. Of course all that would be moot depending upon the final outcome.
When I finished, Ubud was experiencing one of its humid, evening rain showers so I knew my hair wouldn’t dry until morning. Final judgment would have to wait.
As the sound of roosters and a chorus of frogs heralded sunrise I stumbled to the bathroom mirror. Spikes of shiny plastic Barbie-doll-ish hair sprouted in all directions. But the color wasn’t a normal Barbie color. It was more like Roller Blade Barbie or Mud Wrestler Barbie. I found myself once again squinting and rubbing my eyes. Maybe after a cup of coffee…?
When I skyped with daughter, Joy, this morning she thought for a minute then christened me, Travel Guide Barbie and I’m okay with that. I’ll still do the tours, arrange drivers, and help with currency exchanges. And I’ll do it with gratitude for my friends who are planning future trips to Bali, because I’ve yet to find a workable alternative to CoverGirl #210 Perfect Point Plus Espresso eyeliner pencil!