I used to dye my hair constantly. Whenever I was bored with anything, I would change my hair, and I would do it myself, and I would do it poorly. There wasn’t a shade of burgundy drugstore hair dye that didn’t get slathered onto my hair in the 90s, and this was when I was trying to be normal- otherwise I’d go for one of the superbright Manic Panic colors- the ones that would stain your hands for days after dyeing. My parents, if you were wondering, found this whole hair dyeing thing to be a tad upsetting.
At some point, I got the stupidly entitled idea in my head that I shouldn’t have to pay for hair dye since it was such a constant, transient thing for me, so I decided to steal it. This was not generally in my character, but for some reason, I thought it was just. I went to the drug store in the local mall, which had a mall exit as well as an exit directly to the parking lot, and I plotted like an idiot.
I roamed the store with a studied casualness that could not have looked more suspicious, and it did not help that I was surely wearing something ridiculous, maybe striped stockings or jeans held together by safety pins or a t-shirt that said “Spaghetti Power!”. I hovered in aisles, I picked up products and put them down, and I looked for security guards. Since I had no idea what anti-theft stuff looked like, once I finally fake-meandered my way over to the hair dye section I decided to take the dye out of the box and shove it into my other shopping bag.
Mind you, I had at least $20 on my person, more than enough money to pay for this hair dye. I just felt like hair dye should not be a thing I should have to pay for. I was an idiot, and still am sometimes.
I finally made my move, and after meticulously taking the two dye bottles and conditioner (can’t forget that!) from the box, I shoved it in my bag nonchalantly and slowly made my way to the exit that faced the parking lot. I was terrified but believed I was in the clear. I got out the door and breathed a huge sigh of guilty relief, still kinda unsure why I decided to do such a thing, when a woman behind me said “Excuse me?”. My brain said “I’m sure she just wants to know the time”.
She was a plainclothes security guard, and she wanted to know if I had anything in my bag that belonged to the store.
I said no, my voice shaking.
She asked me to come back inside.
She sat me down in an enclosed cubicle near the pharmacy, so like the pharmacy, its floor was about a foot higher than the rest of the store. The top of the cubicle was open, and as I waited, heart pounding, I concentrated on the high ceiling above me, wishing I was up there, perched like a bird, just observing this scene rather than being inside of it. How sad, bird-me would think, that girl doesn’t deserve this.
The guard explained that she had seen me stealing and rifled through my shopping bag until she found the dye. She asked if I had stolen the dye, and I nodded, willing myself not to cry. She said that she was going to call my parents. I told her that she didn’t need to do that, and she gave me the options of calling my parents or calling the police.
The guard spoke to my parents on the phone, so I don’t know how they sounded, but what I do know is that they seemed to arrive immediately, and that my Mom, convinced that her daughter was a hoodlum, told everyone in ear shot that she might faint. Ahh, the reactions of a fine Southern woman.
I’ve blocked out the discussion in that horrid raised-up cubicle, but I was crying, my mom was crying, and my dad was most likely just shaking his head in bewildered disappointment. After about 30 minutes, I was told that I was banned from the store forever, and I was free to go.
I kept dyeing my hair after that, but from then on I always gladly paid for the products. Some experiences, like hair dyes, are permanent.