The highlights of my mousey-brown life

I knew it was only a matter of time before I succumbed. As a recovering peroxide junkie, I had successfully kept off the stuff for the last five years and accepted, philosophically, my natural attributes: a head of mediocre, mousey brown.

It was a struggle holding out for so long; constantly bombarded with images of blonde babes in various states of radiant whiteness - Patricia Arquette, Kylie, Pamela. What finally convinced me was last year's supermodel look: heavily mascaraed eyes, dripping in lip gloss and drenched in bleach.

It's not that blondes have more fun or even that gentlemen prefer them (that's not the point, of course) but the alternative seems so dull. Friends warned me against it. "You'll look like a Sharon," they warned snobbishly. As long as my hair didn't resemble Peter Stringfellow's I'd feel happy. Courtney Love and Nadja Aurman wouldn't suffer the sheer mediocrity of brown hair - so why should I? It would be, I decided, the first of many changes for 1995. I booked an appointment with the hairdresser.

My salon of choice was upmarket, prime Chelsea, a slick affair full of impossibly trendy-looking stylists. Most of the clientele appeared to be sporting brown hair a la Elizabeth Hurley. Perhaps blonde hair was too vulgar for Chelsea?

Dressed in a black nylon robe, I was led downstairs to the "colour laboratory", where my spirits rose. Here were a handful of other brunettes who, like myself, were prepared to suffer for such a frivolous cause.

One woman, with a great swathe of platinum hair, kept flicking her mane from one shoulder to the other. She'dspent three hours roasting in bleach and still had the scars to show - angry red heatbumps around her forehead. It had been worth it, though.

"It's so white. It's so, so ..." Words failed her as she marvelled at her own reflection.

Down here, blondes didn't appear to have more fun, or if they did this is where they paid for their hedonism. The women look bored, flicking through Tatler and trying not to stare at one another ("God, I hope I don't turn that shade of marmalade"). They resembled a strange tribe from Star Trek: wearing polythene overalls, hair wrapped in Bacofoil and purple liquid oozing from their scalps.

Sabrina, the "colour director", advised me to choose a combination of peroxide and dark-golden colourant. "No, it's got to be bleach," I found myself insisting. "I want lots of it, - nothing subtle." Compliantly, she ladled on the purple powder mixed with ammonia and left me to simmer for three hours.

The result was shocking - wet strands of orange hair stuck to my face. Palms sweating, I dared not look in the mirror while it was drying. "I like the way they've given you all different colours," observed my neighbour cheerfully. But I only wanted blonde. Instead, my hair colour had become a medley of orange, silver and dark brown. This certainly wasn't the colour that launched Nadja's career.

I left the hairdresser with a nagging feeling that I'd spent £75 on a hairstyle akin to a nylon textured multi-coloured wig. The fact that I failed to turn heads or receive preferential treatment in the Italian sandwich shop wasn't so shocking. Catching my reflection in their window was. I looked less like Peter Stringfellow than Steve Coogan's Pauline Calf.

Reactions from friends were less than flattering. They looked at me with a mixture of amusement and pity. One of them informed me that I'd aged dramatically and resembled his mother. The truth is going blonde will never improve your life. What's sad is you genuinely believe going blonder can. "If only I could get my fringe white rather than yellow," moaned my flatmate, another bleach junkie who invests eternal hope in her hairdresser. She has already spent enough money on highlights to support a hefty c ocaine habit and a hair transplant.

And for what? To be perceived as bouncy, fun-loving and youthful? Or just to enjoy a sense of superiority when you stand next to a drab brunette? Not convincing reasons but nevertheless I've already booked my next hair appointment. And yes, I'm still convinced that my life will change when I achieve that perfect shade of white.

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