She received an invitation from a family friend in abroad. It was an invitation to an 18th birthday. There was going to be a Debut party for a daughter and the celebration was going to be held in one of the cities in the Philippines. A hotel has been booked for the venue and for the guests. It was going to be a formal event – gowns, barong’s and fancy footwear.
Althea Gomez has been to numerous Debuts before. From Debut parties with Hawaiian themes and Under the Sea motifs to Princess in Gold… Princess in Pink… Princess in Purple… and many more, she has graced them all. She added life and flavor to such occasions through her voice; she was often tasked to sing.
Getting ready for a Debut used to be an easy task for Althea. She would always know what to wear, what to sing, and how to behave. Her personality and style never went wrong in these events; they were grand opportunities for her to showcase her talents and her flair for fashion and makeup. With the usually arduous task for girls to dress-up, she was never the one to chicken out on such “challenge”. Dressing up, looking beautiful and presentable was her thing. It was her cup of tea. Althea found this task amusing and entertaining – just a simple means to break the ice in the ordinariness of her existence.
But that was all in the past – years back, when she was in her prime – say, sixteen to twenty-four years old. Althea suddenly felt old and worn. She wondered if she was being pranked by cruel contemporaries. But she knew, deep down, that it was not the season for pranks or jokes. An invitation arrived and it was real. Someone remembered that she could sing and that she used to share her talent to many people.
Althea was obliged to reminisce on those times when she was a favorite among her social connections. She used to have fun singing and performing before a crowd. She felt empowered back then. It did not even occur to her to oblige people to renumerate her efforts or to give merit to her work. All those times she opened her mouth to let out her golden voice, she was not compensated… let alone, acknowledged.
She winced at her own memories. How could she have allowed that to happen? How did her younger self take all that without even complaining? Not even once?
Suddenly, Althea’s sweet remembrances turned to bitter yearnings. She regretted the thought of letting opportunities pass her. I could’ve made money back then. I should have made a name, too, she mused. Althea felt used and cheated upon by life… by people.
She read the invitation again. “It’s a month from now,” she thought. “I could still do it. There’s still time. I’ve read in Pinterest that you could lose ten in just two weeks. I did it before; I could do it again.”
Althea began searching for the weighing scale – the one bought from a grocery store at 50% off. She vowed never to use it until she could see drastic changes in her face. Perhaps when her face looked slimmer, her cheeks more hollow, her neck seemingly longer, and her collarbones protruding.
I could go drastic this time, she thought. I’ll go for the crash diet and then maintain it.
Althea stepped on the weighing scale. The tiny numbers whooshed pass the red marker. It took a second for all that activity to conclude. To Althea, those wasted nanoseconds were mocking reminders of how time made a laughingstock out of her. Father Time let her fall in a deadly deception where she was caught unaware of the pounds of flesh clinging to her formerly fit physique. She could only react with a sigh of resignation.
“I could not appear like this before them. Not after people commented on Facebook that I look good. No; not like this,” she said. “I have to be a little bit closer to how I used to look.”
Althea stepped off the weighing scale and then grabbed her wallet. She rummaged through its worn out and nearly empty compartments. She pulled out a dilapidated five-hundred peso bill.
“This will do,” she decided.
On she went – out into the streets, looking for that particular salon.
“What color do you want, ma’am,” the hairstylist asked.
“I want this, please,” Althea answered and pointed at the hair sample dyed in Ash Blonde. “Isn’t this like the hair color of Yeng Constantino?”
“Can’t say if that’s her current hair color, ma’am. Yeng keeps on changing her hair style and hair color.”
“Oh, you’re right,” laughed Althea. Already, she was beginning to feel more confident. Starting from her new hair color, she will work on her total physical appearance; from head to toe.
As the hairstylist chatted her way through each application of the hair color mixture, Althea’s mind floated to dreamland. Why haven’t I done this sooner? She thought. I used to have a vibrant hair color when I was in college and I felt sexy and empowered. I need to feel that again.
Althea thought of how lucky she was to have found this Salon that offers hair coloring services at only Php 200. It was a cheap deal and so, she figured that this must be a sign from heaven that she made the right decision to spend her last money on improving her appearance. In her mind, the risk was all worth it, for who could get her hair colored from jet black to ash blonde at only two-hundred pesos? Most Salons offer such services at much higher prices.
After four hours of waiting for the hair color to set, it was time to do the final rinse. Althea felt so excited. Her new look will soon be unravelled. It felt like she was the one making her debut into the world.
She decided to close her eyes for a really surprising experience. She wanted to make her last money worth the revelation.
Althea could hardly wait. A smile plastered on her face.
“Ma’am, okay na po. But I’m sorry. I thought I put in the Ash blonde mix. It was the Plum Red instead. I’m sorry for the mistake,” the hairstylist revealed.
Althea opened her eyes. Her pupils dilated with the look of shock. It was a surprise, indeed! She got up from her chair and made no comment. She paid for the hairstyling service she received, albeit sucky. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw a face blotchy and reddish. Her brassy hair color was not complementing her face at all. She looked sunburnt, not sunkissed.
Althea never said a word. She took leave of the salon and pondered on…
One could only guess what went on in Althea’s head. She could have regretted; she could have sworn. But one could only surmise that she thought it better to keep her silence since it was what she thought she deserved. Didn’t she pay cheaply for a cheap service? She got her money’s worth, that’s all… She could have complained and put up a fight, but no. Althea thought to herself, My hair will revert to its natural color anyway.