Splitting Hairs is our monthlong exploration of hair based on a survey of women across America. It’s like you brought a photo to the salon — we’re giving you exactly what you want.

By Laura Goode
Aug 30, 2018 @ 3:30 pm
Courtesy

Every eight to 12 weeks, I pay an extremely hot woman to cut and color my hair, and I pay another professional to bring me weed to smoke while bleach singes my scalp. Look, I’ve got two kids under the age of five, and a busy mom’s got to multitask.

I’m vain about my hair, and have grown only more so as a mother. Ever since I graduated from Sun-In to drugstore highlighting kits around the time of my Jewel phase, I’ve loved bleaching my naturally mousy-brown hair blonde. I wasn’t bad at the cap-and-hook method, but somewhere in my later twenties, I decided it was worth it to shell out for a professionally executed platinum, often — why not? — with a tinge of pink or purple. This glam act is a little out of character for me these days: Most of my clothes have ill-concealed holes and excrement stains, I rarely bother with makeup anymore, and I haven’t worn heels since around the time I discovered Frost & Glow. My look is less Blondie-era Debbie Harry at CBGB’s and more ‘Til Tuesday Aimee Mann on her second day without a shower.

But, as previously mentioned, I’ve had two babies in the last five years, meaning my already troubled body image has been under pre- and postpartum siege for half a decade. Put simply, getting my hair done makes me feel pretty when there’s so little else I can control about my appearance; I can’t alter the stretch marks and sagging parts, but a pop of purple can really brighten the mood. Even if my clothes are sad, and my day started at 5:56 a.m., every few months I can reliably sign a credit card charge with my eyes closed that will make me look and feel not like a regular mom, but like a Cool Mom.

The special occasion goes something like this: I sit down in the salon chair, inform my stylist about what kind of hair adventure I’m envisioning for the day, then as she sets to work slathering bleach on my head, I pull out my phone and order some buds from Eaze (the fastest weed-delivery service in the West), paying anywhere between $15 and $50 (before a tip for the courier) for an eighth of an ounce. Usually within about half an hour, the delivery arrives and I roll up a joint, taking care not to incinerate myself as I light it. I exhale, play some Netflix on my phone, and relax.

This particular intemperance is made available to me, in part, by the recreational legalization of cannabis in California. My salon doesn’t sell weed, but its co-owners are generally 420-friendly, and untroubled by my casual consumption. They're also avid herbalists with a special interest in how cannabis can enrich hair care; their upcoming events include a full moon meetup and a cannabis herbalism class. (Did I mention I live in San Francisco?)

RELATED: Is Weed the Secret to Your Best Eyebrows Yet?

My mode of herbal indulgence may be regionally unique, but I’m far from alone in my commitment to hair care indulgence. According to "Splitting Hairs," InStyle’s recent survey about women's hair habits, women across the country spend on average between $600 and $800 at the salon every year, depending on factors of age and race — which is comparable to the $200 or so I’ll spend on a quarterly cut-and-color (buds not included). Even more tellingly, 82% of mothers reported that they feel most confident when their hair looks great, 78% reported feeling empowered when they feel good about their hair, and 76% reported that taking care of their hair was important to their overall well-being. In all three of those categories, moms agreed with the statements more frequently than non-moms.

Perhaps these mothers experience salon visits much the same way I do: as a three-to-four-hour mini-vacation, unique in my stressed-out maternal life as a calendar window when I can sit comfortably for a stretch blissfully untroubled by work or children. In the salon chair, I can (and do) paint my nails, I can smoke a joint (which really helps me endure the pain of bleaching, incidentally), and I can gossip with my stylist. Just having both of my hands free for more than an hour is a luxury.

RELATED: I Once Got Paid $900 to Let Someone Highlight My Hair

While this brings to mind buzzwords like “self-care” and “wellness,” which are thick in our contemporary zeitgeist, I don’t seriously entertain the illusion that they apply to the transaction of firing up a fatty while I assault my follicles and credit score in beauty’s name. This is wild capitalist indulgence — like retail therapy has been to many women, or like dining alone at McDonald’s has also been to me — (im)pure and (hardly) simple.

Case in point: I stan a white feminist stoner collective as hard as the next blonde, but I’m also aware of how often the mainstreaming of cannabis excludes the people of color on whose backs the industry was built. Black and white people use marijuana at comparable rates, but black people have been almost four times likelier to be arrested for it. Only about 1% of U.S. dispensaries are currently black-owned, partially because every state that has legalized cannabis has also banned people with drug felonies from working in the industry. In having weed delivered to my beauty salon, I am experiencing at least a double dose of white privilege — I have historically been safe from legal persecution for my casual drug use, and I also benefit from the racist cultural construction of having “good hair,” which no one will ever touch without my permission. All this before we even examine my privilege of having enough childcare support, both paid and maritally mandated, to allow me the freedom to be high with impunity — and away from my kids — for a few hours from time to time.

So, yes, I recognize that the acts of getting stoned (enjoying a substance that has been disproportionately criminalized by race) and getting my roots retouched (paying someone to “solve” the “problem” of my appearance) comprise a bougie and ultimately corrupt engagement with capitalism, as unnatural as the idea of human hair being purple. Complex as that reality is, I still look forward to this indulgence for weeks. And when I exit the salon, I feel blazed and refreshed, as I check out my reflection in windows I walk past, and discreetly Instagram selfies between bites of a purse snack.

After a salon visit, my hair spends many days in a dirty, messy bun while I work and parent from home; the high and salon-fresh feeling having long since worn off. But I enjoy knowing that when I actually do blow out my hair, I can still do a fairly credible impersonation of a hot blonde (or pink). For better or worse, that is worth real money to me.