Hair and Nails

I had my hair highlighted/streaked, and it came out more dramatic than I’d anticipated: my hair is light brown, and I got the bleachy highlights instead of the recommended caramel/honey type; on one hand I knew exactly what I was doing and on the other hand there was some resulting self-consciousness and uncertainty, especially when I pulled it back:

Here’s a more flattering picture of it down:

I thought Paul might tease. We have a long-running difference of opinion on the color of my hair, and this could be seen as a fresh start to that discussion. Long, long ago when we met (I was YOUNGER THAN ROB IS NOW), I called my hair dark blonde, and it WAS IN FACT dark blonde. It has continued to darken over the years, and I have gone through several stages of acceptance to call it light brown. Paul, though, has called it “brown” all along. And it is NOT brown! HIS hair is the kind of dark brown that children use a black crayon to represent, and he calls THAT brown TOO. There is a huge difference between BROWN-brown hair and the used-to-be-blonde shade of light-to-medium brown so many of us ended up with.

THIS is brown:

(image from

THIS is brown:

(image from

THIS is brown:

(image from

And I didn’t even choose the DARK browns for those pictures, I chose the MEDIUM browns! Paul’s hair is MUCH darker than those, and he just calls it “brown”! Mine is lighter than those, and he just calls it “brown”! Brown is a very pretty color, but it is not the color of my hair! I’m not being unreasonable here!

Anyway. When he came home he didn’t say anything about the highlights/streaks. We’d been talking for maybe ten minutes when I said, “It’s a good sign that you didn’t come in and say ‘Yo, stripes!’ about my hair; I was a little worried that…” and he looked at my hair and said “Whoa!” So apparently his eyes had just not yet rested upon it.

In other cosmetic news, Elizabeth did my nails. One hand is assorted daisies; the other is galaxy nails:

37 thoughts on “Hair and Nails

  1. StephLove

    J recently asked me if I’d ever wanted a different hair color. I said I was blonde growing up and when my hair changed to light brown in my teens I wanted to stay blonde, so I’d look like I always had. I think it’s hard to change your self-image like that. Sometimes I STILL feel as if I should be blond, but I’ve never dyed my hair.

    I don’t think J’s (natural) hair color will change much, though, as she’s fairer than I was (freckles, blue eyes, blonde eyebrows, etc.) Right now her hair is bleached from a faded out dye job so she looks like she has white blonde hair and it doesn’t look that unnatural on her (other than the traces of blue, purple, and pink left in her hair). Chlorine and summer sun faded this one out in record time.

  2. Becky

    I had red hair growing up, but it mellowed to auburn and then to “brown with maybe some red in the right lighting” now that I’m in my mid thirties. It’s hard to self-identify as anything other than a redhead – so many people commented on it during my formative years.

    My husband has the sort of brown hair that seems to suck all light from the room. It is definitely NOT like any of the browns you pictured, and certainly not light brown.

    1. Shelly

      SO much yes to this! I was a redhead until my daughter was born when I was 25 (the pediatrician even said, “oh, mom’s a redhead” to explain why she was so pale), and then my hair gradually faded to brown, to the point that now people ask where my daughter got her red hair. But I still think of myself as a redhead. I toy around with the idea of getting red highlights or lowlights, especially as the gray is slowly creeping in, but haven’t done anything yet.

  3. Slim

    I used to have the sort of dark brown hair that Paul has, and it used to bug me when people called it “black,” because I had a brother with hair that was definitely black, and mine was just dark brown.

    Now I’m waiting impatiently for it all to be white, or as I think of it, “full-on Christine Lagarde.”

    But to repeat, it used to be brown.

    1. Jessemy

      Ha! Yes, Christine has fantastic hair. I bet she throws a little tint on it. It’s just too perfect! :)

  4. Saly

    My hair is naturally dark brown, and growing up everyone would say it was black and it would make me INSANE. My father had hair so black it was almost blue. There is a distinct difference.

    I also got highlights recently, golden caramel against the brown, to help to disguise the grey as it keeps growing in. I like it, but it’s taken me awhile to get used to.

  5. Rachel

    I was born with strawberry blonde hair, which then turned white blonde, which then turned a darker, uglier shade of blonde (IMO). Now, I am not even sure what color it is. I haven’t seen my natural hair since 7th grade, which was 1997, lol.

    Usually I get a super light balayage all over, but I’ve also had it dyed purple multiple times and did a fun dark purple to light pink color melt most recently. My husband doesn’t care what I do to it. He doesn’t have a preference when it comes to length, color, style, etc. He will tell me it looks nice regardless, and I think he actually means it.

  6. Kirsty

    My hair has always been red, though it’s slightly less strawberry blond than it used to be. My elder daughter has very blond hair, and I think she’ll keep it because she’s almost 16 and it’s still as blond as when she was tiny. Her younger sister (13) used to be the same blond, but it’s getting progressively darker and is now already a dark blond. However, we live in the south of France, where the Mediterranean colouring is predominant, so everyone still describes her as blond, which she likes. When we visit my dad in Scotland, however, she realises that she really isn’t blond any more (her hair looks red when it’s wet…).

  7. Anna

    Thinking about hair color (natural or otherwise) reminds me of this genetics calculator:

    It’s pretty fun. Although, when I put in the combination of my in-laws hair colors and my husbands’ (black+blond= blond), it said the result was not possible. I guess I don’t actually know my FIL’s hair color (it was gray when I knew him), but genetically there is certainly a distinction between black and darkest dark brown. I am still surprised that my daughter is AT ALL blond (mine is medium brown), but according to this thing it was a 34% possibility.

    1. Slim

      I am having a great time with this, especially with my changeling child. It turns out that a parent with green eyes and a parent with brown eyes are more likely to produce a kid with blue eyes (which we did) than with green eyes.

  8. Debbie in Kansas

    I had red hair when I was born that, alas, did not stick around. My hair is now on the light end of medium brown, and a pleasant color, but, despite the fact that it’s been at least 15 years since I stopped damaging my hair with perms, it still catches me by surprise by how much darker it is in reality than in my mind. Sometimes I flirt with the idea of adding some reddish highlights, but the cost and the need to maintain it are daunting. Recently cut it far shorter than I’ve ever worn it, and after the initial shock, I’ve grown to love it. Hope you grow to enjoy your new look!

    Your nails are fabulous! How does one do galaxy nails?!!

    1. Swistle Post author

      First she did a coat of black polish. Then she used a little sponge to dab on some colors in a cloudy way—three or so colors per nail (at this point I thought she was ruining them: they looked terrible!). Then she used a dotting tool to add white dots of various sizes, and a couple of white plus-signs. Then she did a coat of holographic sparkle polish. They took forever but I really like them!

      1. Shawna

        I know my daughter would go crazy for these! I’m going to show her your picture and instructions!

  9. Jessemy

    I like your blonde highlights! I had my hair done a little more dramatically than usual for summer. And I kind of love it! Blonde hair at the bottom fading up to my (brown-brown) roots. It’s pretty easy to dye back to all brown when I get tired of it. :)

  10. Shawna

    I know a few people who think of themselves as redheads, and whose friends they’ve had since childhood or maybe high school think of them as redheads, but I just can’t see any red in their hair. I’ve wondered if I’m just bad at seeing “red hair” red, but I pass all the tests for seeing colours. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that these people used to be redheads and they and their long-time friends still hang onto that notion.

  11. Nicole MacPherson

    From the photo I would say your hair looks blonde. I was a brunette growing up, very dark brown hair. It is now grey but I’ve coloured it red for years. But still I say that I’m brunette, which is kind of weird. I have “brown” on my driver’s license but technically it is NOT brown. It’s red.

  12. Tina

    I have always had dark brown hair am very fair/pale. As I’ve gotten older my hair has darkened and I seem to have lost the natural auburn/reddish cast used to have. At 51 I only have a very small amount of gray which is nice, but the darkness of the brown makes me look washed out. The few times I had highlights done they ended up either too stripy or looked brassy and it completely changed what colors I could wear without clashing (and I’m not even a stylish/fashion kind of person). I also never got used to it and was glad when it grew out/ got cut out. I think my hair is just too dark to highlight successfully for the average colorist. I am very wary of doing it again because of that.

  13. MomQueenBee

    I was a towhead growing up and still quite blonde as a 20-something but pregnancy and birth x 4 not only ruined my waistline and my bank account, it turned my hair a nondescript brown. I resisted my hairdresser’s suggestions of highlights for years (see also: bank account) but finally gave in and felt like I had my own head back for the first time in a decade. It’s now been 15 years and I still love them and get lots of compliments, and I think you will, too.

  14. Tracey

    If for some reason, you decide that your highlights are too light, you can go back and they will put a toner on them. My hair is in between yours and what I imagine Paul’s is, and my highlights were like yours. I waited a week to see if they would grow on me and they did not. The toner worked great! My stylist said that if I had put a box color on (my original plan, thinking it wouldn’t impact my hair hair, and would darken my highlights) it would green, so don’t do that.

    Since I have been going to her forever, she didn’t charge me, but I gave her a $20 tip, since I also said I wanted beachy highlights.

  15. Ruby

    I think the streaks look great! I am not very brave when it comes to hair-related risks, so I applaud you for doing it.

    My hair also used to be blonde and has gradually darkened over the years, but now it’s brown. It’s not a particularly dark brown, and it’s actually a shade I really like, but it is also decidedly Not Blonde.

    I want Elizabeth to do MY nails! She did a great job!

  16. Maggie

    I was blond as a kid and lightened my hair to blond in my teens and twenties as my hair gradually darkened to what I’d call light brown/dark blond. I kept on coloring/lightening my hair with virtually the same product for years to what I’d consider to be dark blond with highlights. In the middle of this saga a co-worker told me I hve red hair (?) this seems to have stuck as now a few people have referred to my hair as red. My hair is . . . not red. Or maybe I’m going colorblind? It’s bizarre.

  17. Portia

    Your hair looks beautiful! I love the highlights. And, at least with the highlights, it is definitely dark blonde, not brown. MY hair is brown. Boring brown. You’re inspiring me to do something more interesting with it.

    Also, Elizabeth has a true talent for nail art!

  18. Surely

    I like the highlights! And if it’s helpful at all, I still think of you as blonde! :)

    Kevin’s hair is listed as brown but it was actually black before it began turning white. He’s literally salt & pepper. I don’t understand how that’s “brown” Paul’s hair is not brown, that’s it. We win! hahahha.

  19. M.Amanda

    My husband was a very blond child, darkening to dark blond as a teen. Now at 40, I find myself debating whether to break it to him that his hair is light brown. Even when he’s been in the sun a lot, it’s definitely not blond anymore. He’s not vain about it, but he’s just spent his whole life thinking of his hair as blond and didn’t notice it kept getting darker. Like the frog sitting in a pot of water slowly being heated, he just never noticed the change. I feel like it’s a very common thing.

    His receding hairline, though… I get a kick out of ribbing him about that. I’m waiting for the day I can call him my slightly younger, less sexy and non-British Jason Statham. We already have an on-going joke about his (non)resemblance to George Clooney.

  20. D in Texas

    I was certain your nails were decals. Can’t believe that Elizabeth created them! Brava!

  21. Ernie

    I’m too wimpy to color my hair despite the increasing gray. I have a son who was REALLY blond as a kid. He’s 16 now and it’s light brown, but it’s hard not to think of him as a blond.

    I don’t think you’re hair looks too stripey. Looks good.

    I just got my haircut and my daughter mini was like, I like it. Coach said nothing. I told him I could tell he didn’t like it. I wear my hair in a bob. I’d love to have long hair, but it’s too thin so I get to a point and I end up going back to the bob. Anyway, coach claimed he did like it. So transparent though. We’ve been married almost 21 years. Funny that he thinks I don’t know exactly what he’s thinking by now. Men.

  22. Jesabes

    Oh yes. I am well familiar with the hair color identity crisis. Mine (the whitest of blondes as a child) continued darkening beyond the color of yours. Eventually I decided to go crazy and dye it dark brown. It was a major identity shift – I thought. The sylist was like “oh, that’s going to be so close to your color already, are you sure the dye is worth it?”

    Anyway. I still dye my hair dark brown and it blows my mind that people who’ve known me for 3 years or less think this is just the way my hair is, while I still think of it as an out-there dye as if I had bright red hair.

    1. Jesabes

      (And when I say dark brown, I actually mean the color of the boxes you have up there! So maybe medium brown? But the last time I went in for a dye I asked if we could go one shade darker and the stylist said that would be black. I don’t even know.)

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