Expert Advice

How Do I Love My Wife...Let Me Count the Ways I Have Messed Up Her Hair

Patrick McIvor | August 25, 2011 | 2:05 PM

As many of you probably know, I have been with my wife for a long time - 20 years together, 15 years married this month, and that is a great thing. We met when she was 18 and I was 24. Leah (my wife) was getting ready to head off to college (F.I.T), I had been living on my own for 5 years and at this point had even started teaching internationally on my own.  So, for the first five years we were together, Leah was under the watchful eye of her mom and certain things were off limits, like going blonde or anything too wild.  This was kind of fun though because when I met Leah she had a purple "henna" color in her naturally light brown hair.  

How Do I Love My Wife...Let Me Count the Ways I Have Messed Up Her Hair

An Unexpected Style

While we dated for 5 years, Leah attended and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, first with a 2 year A.A.S. degree and was then reaccepted to complete 2 more years for her 4 year B.F.A. During the summer leading into her final 2 years at F.I.T., she contracted a bad case of Lyme Disease and was recommended to take a

year off due to the competitiveness and chemicals she would be working with for her focus in Art Restoration. So, an almost 20 year old girlfriend and I headed off to Dusseldorf, Germany and visited Paris, France together because I was teaching for almost 2 weeks and she had no school.  After barely escaping a mother, who now wanted to kill me for taking her daughter to Europe, my friend who I was teaching with, the amazing Pierre Villageville, asked if he could cut my girlfriend's hair. After he spoke with Leah she agreed - not really needing or wanting a haircut just kind of one those ‘would you like a glass of water type of things,’ but she said yes, because she was asked.  Pierre did a very cool disconnected, British haircut with his German hairdressing slant, cutting off a lot of hair.  A very cool progressive cut, and not what a 19-year-old American girl, who had never been out of the country would have expected.  It was so funny, because though she liked the cut, the severity of the disconnection, the shortness in the fringe and the progressiveness of the shape were overwhelming even to an F.I.T. student who lived in NYC. Every night she would ask me to soften it, but I couldn't because my buddy wanted to do a photo shoot with her right before we left.

She "lived" with it for 2 weeks and when we returned I texturized it to soften it for her American eye.  Ironically, Leah's photo ended up running in the top German hairdressing publication and Leah's now progressive eye has worn and loved many progressive hairstyles.  And Leah's mom, she just spent the weekend at our lake house with the kids.

What A Way to Mark Our First Year

After we were married for a year, we went up to my uncle’s lake house for a weekend and Leah, whose hair had been basically a long dark bob for and since our wedding wanted a change. She wanted to go short.  "Cool," I said, "On one condition, I want to make you blonde."  Here's the step up. She was a natural level light brown, deepened with a dark brown alkaline demi-permanent, had black low-lights running through and now I was going to make her silver blonde, at a lake house.  Good news was, we were going shorter, bad news repeated, dark brown and black low-lights. After a rough haircut to remove unneeded length, I started first with an all-over application of a oil based lightener with 3 catalysts and 20 volume until the new growth was pale yellow and rinsed,(shampooing and conditioning too, but I am just writing rinsed, cool?), leaving an awkward, weird mahogany brown through the middle and ends.  I remixed, reapplied and processed another hour (or so) off the scalp through the mids and ends only.  

How Do I Love My Wife...Let Me Count the Ways I Have Messed Up Her Hair

Then, I rinsed to reveal a freakish looking bl-orande-ish color that resembled quite closely a flame on top of my wife's head.  I can remember going out to Alice’s Cow Palace for ice cream with Leah and the odd looks she got from people who were wearing unwashed undershirts.  The next day when we got home her hair required 2 more off the scalp applications, this time a powdered lightener with 40 vol for 1 hour or more in order to achieve the decolorization needed (remember this is 1996 - thank goodness for all the new technology we have now).  After rinsing the final off the scalp placed lightener off, we toned to the prettiest silver blonde. It was hot.  Three weeks later when Leah needed her double process blonde hair retouched she came to our studio.  I applied the on the scalp oil lightener carefully with an applicator bottle, processed for 45 minutes and one of our very cool associates brought her to the black shampoo sinks to be rinsed while I continued my work on a new guest. After a few minutes he interrupted me while I was working with my guest and asked me to look at Leah's hair for a moment, I replied that I would be there in a moment.  As he turned to walk back towards the sink a second associate proclaimed loudly, "Look you can just pull it and it comes right off," referring to my wife's hair.  I excused myself from my guest and walked quickly back to my wife whose head now resembled a G.I. Joe doll with lemon colored hair.  Leah looked up and said, "What does it look like?" to which I replied "Your bald."  "Bald?" she asked. "Not like Telly Savalace (Kojak),” I replied, "More like Susan Powder."  Then she looked up and asked, "What are you going to do?" to which I replied, "I don't know because you look like a lemon and I still have to tone it."

I never again broke any of her hair.  Ironically, when I worked in NYC I had a lot of guests because I was able to help people grow their hair long because of what I learned helping to grow Leah's hair back while maintaining the silver blonde.  Leah stayed blonde for the next 4 years and only returned to brown when we decided to start our family, a choice she made only because we knew a mom’s life would often have different time priorities.  There are a few more times, like the time I turned her new growth purple and gave her lilac highlights because I tried a new color without ever looking at a color chart.  That is one of the reasons I love Leah so much, because I know in good times and in bad, she loves me.

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