Trend-wise, I should have been born into an earlier era. Unbearable chauvinism notwithstanding, I would have been a star in the Roaring Twenties. I really like sequins. I have always wanted to tie knots in strings of pearls. Liquid liner becomes me.
More modern developments are less suitable. I lack both the dexterity and complexion to contour. Platinum washes me out. My nail beds are too small to be creative canvases. And my eyebrows—sparse, blonde—will never be “on fleek.” For five minutes, I wanted ombré highlights. I never got them. For a few months, I threatened to paint my hair with neon streaks.
Eventually, I did. It could have gone better.
We did it together—my friends and I—when our parents were not home. We had purchased several bottles of Manic Panic at Ricky’s, a black-lit emporium of expensive cosmetics and slutty Halloween costumes.
We stood there in front of the hair-dye section for at least an hour, willing ourselves to act. For a dozen minutes, we debated which paint color would suit all of us and decided that hot pink most flattered our skin tones.
(“Of course you would want blue,” a friend cried accusingly. “You have blue eyes! It would look so good in pictures.”)
Dividing the cost, we pawned our parents’ money for the neon tint and set off to henna our best friendship onto our heads. To get in the mood, we blasted Justin Timberlake and congratulated ourselves on our extreme coolness. Pink hair! Watch out, 10th graders!
Braver girls, Talia and Davida went before me. But when the time came, I did not hesitate. I gathered a chunk of strands from under my right ear and presented it for treatment. When we washed the goo out, the deed was done: A stripe of dusky pink had sprouted and spread—root to tip. It looked like Pepto-Bismol.
It was 2008, and there was no Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast our adventures for us. But that was good. Our antacid-hued locks were best marveled at IRL. Even now, it makes me blush to I think of how much we craved a reaction. Truly, I understand shameless celebrity better for it.
We marched into school aglow. Beneath fluorescent lights, our streaks shone brighter. A girl I’d known since kindergarten said, “Wow! Your hair is pink.” A boy I liked said, “What the hell did you do?” For the rest of the day, it went on like this. Teachers wanted to know what my parents had said. I told them that my father, the artist, had rejoiced. A freshman wanted to know how long it would last.
I had no answer for him, because we had not bothered to read the box. It took three full months to disappear completely, passing from vibrant pink to brittle rust. During the last weeks of its existence, it took on shades of dirty dishwater. I hated it. When it was gone, I had only hazy recollections of what motivated me to do it at all. Memories of Amber Tamblyn may have been involved.
No matter what my father declares at the dinner table and to strangers in Manhattan, I know that I am not a trendsetter.
I am too neurotic for vintage shops. I have no tattoos and own zero midi skirts. It took me four seasons to buy a pair of boyfriend jeans and three months to conclude that yes, I did want French-girl Timberlands. I am not sure that I understand what “on fleek” even means.
I do know this: It is nice to be on trend, but it is nicer to be immune from fleeting fashions. Here is the cold truth: No sooner does Instagram anoint a new craze than it moves on from it. That is, bleached eyebrows are not forever. My Little Pony tresses can dull over time.
By the time you snap your pastel hair, your followers have found new trends to track. They have contorted themselves in Acroyoga poses and obsessed over Korean sheet masks. For all the determination, you are no more than a sweet throwback.
“Big on Instagram” is the ultimate cultural indictment. It means ubiquitous. It means obvious. As when the paper of record trumpets lunchtime chopped salads or SoulCycle classes, it is a strange kind of proof that the real tastemakers have moved on to edgier haircuts and better avocado toasts.
Instagram came to praise these crazes, but it buried them instead. Reduced to a hashtag, even the most avant-garde are absorbed into the zeitgeist and neutralized. They are destined to become the pink streaks of 10th grade—impressive and unexpected and then passé.
I met a girl in college with peroxide blond hair. She looked like a goddess.
“Platinum is very cool right now,” I told her.
“Oh? Really?” she said, wondering. “I just really like it.”
Photos courtesy of Bleach London, Ali Michael, Charlotte Free, Soo Joo Park, and Lara Stone's Instagrams. Also big on Instagram? Kelly McPherson's intricate, multi-dimensional, ultra-glossy nails. Read how she made it big on Instagram here.