It’s 6 p.m. on a Tuesday, and while I’m not one to brag, I am by far the hottest bitch at this Old Navy. This has nothing to do with my lovely fellow shoppers, who are dutifully browsing the racks of denim jackets, and everything to do with my hair, which looks so incredibly sexy, it’s as if Beyoncé herself cast a magical spell on it.
I did not wake up like this, but I did just emerge from an extension bar called RPZL that somehow accomplished the impossible: transforming me from a girl wearing a Target T-shirt-dress to a babe wearing a Target T-shirt-dress in less than an hour.
About a year ago, in an “If Taylor Swift did it I should too” frenzy, I chopped my long locks into a cool-girl bob, and it’s been a whirlwind of salt spray and mussed texture ever since. But lately I’ve been missing the va-va-voom feeling long hair gave me, not to mention the endless updo options. While my scraggly short hair grows back, I begrudgingly decided to try extensions, hoping I wouldn’t end up resembling a 2009-era Britney Spears.
RPZL claims to be the first extension salon of its kind, offering three different options for adding more hair to your head: clip-ins, which attach to your hair like barrettes; tape extensions; and their own in-house version, which are attached using some sort of “ultrasound technology” that sounded so Star Trek, my eyes kind of glazed over while discussing it. Usually, to get extensions, you have to “know a guy” (or in most cases, a girl). Other salons that often offer extensions often require that you set up a consultation for them to color-match your hair, then wait for the hair to arrive via a third party. RPZL gets its own 100 percent virgin hair straight from the manufacturer, so you can have the extensions attached to your head within minutes of picking them out.
Having never gotten extensions before, I opted for the clip-ins, which are the cheapest option and the only ones you can remove yourself. If I looked more first-season Real Housewife than Kardashian, I figured, I could always steal away to a nearby Starbucks bathroom and unclip the evidence.
After a quick shampoo and blow-dry of my natural hair, my RPZL stylist Tiffany and I color-matched before she started clipping in the long extensions. Since I’m currently sporting an asymmetrical shoulder-length cut that’s in desperate need of a trim, I was worried it’d look vaguely mullet-y, like I’d popped over to the local Claire’s and attached the nearest hair-like product I could find to my scalp. Lucky for me, my fears were unfounded: when Tiffany spun me around in my chair, I nearly choked. It looked good, but I just didn’t look like…me? Weird. Upon further inspection, I realized the clip-ins were nearly undetectable as long as I didn’t put my hair up in a high ponytail–great for celebrities with the accompanying lifestyle, not so great for someone who would likely wake up to two cats sleeping nestled in my fake hair. But still, I thought, as I fingered a piece of a stranger’s hair now attached to my head, I looked…kind of amazing.
And so, finally resembling the goddess I always knew I was deep down, I immediately hit the street in search of the perfect hot-spot to debut my new ‘do. Old Navy it was. In the dressing room, I was alone with a mirror for the first time since I got the hair put in, and I breathed a deep sigh of relief: I could finally admire my own beauty in peace. I immediately whipped out my cell phone and started taking selfies. Is this what it’s like to feel yourself? I wondered before tweeting one. The faves were counted, and the consensus was in: I looked hot as fuck.
Strutting down the street among the Chelsea throngs in their sensible workwear and normal hair, I felt self-conscious. I’m, like, too hot to be out on the street right now, was a thought that my brain actually formed. Guys are totally going to hit on me!
Nobody hit on me. Nobody even did a double-take. Clearly, the hair was starting to go to my head.
My boyfriend’s reaction didn’t exactly rein in my budding megalomania. He entered a location equally as glamorous as Old Navy (a Just Salad a few blocks up) and spotted a delicate creature with flowing mermaid-hair hoovering a turkey health Cobb. Surprise! It was me.
This was tricky territory, and he knew it: If he didn’t like the hair enough, he’d hurt my feelings. If he liked it too much, I’d (jokingly, but not) give him a hard time about preferring me when I look like a different person.
“You don’t look like yourself?” he kept repeating over and over again, as if the extensions would fall out and he’d get his regular girlfriend back if he said it enough times. He stared at me with awe in his eyes, clearly fascinated by my transformation.
“You look like a …”
“A high-school mean girl?” I offered.
“Yeah, I guess,” he responded.
Not-so-secretly, this thrilled me. I had spent high school ducking from girls with the mane I was currently sporting, but now I was finally their equal, the hair apparent to their legacy. Unlike them, I would have to use my new power for good, and not for cyberbullying.
That night I barely slept, excited and nervous to wear my extensions into work, where my co-workers would surely take notice. I had thought about basically nothing else besides my hair, obsessively texting friends pictures and tossing my locks casually on the subway platform and manipulating my 5-year-old sister into confirming that yes, I do look like a Disney princess now. I was greedy for the compliments my co-workers would feel obligated to bestow.
“It looks so natural!” they told me the next morning, assuaging my fears that I looked like I was wearing a wig.
“Wow, you look HOT,” another added.
My boss passed by me in the hallway, when I was on my way to admire myself in the bathroom mirror. “Did you get extensions? You look like a bombshell!” she exclaimed. Then, later: “You look like a Barbie!”
By this point, I was so drunk on my own beauty and power that I could’ve walked the Yeezus runway solo and earned a standing ovation from Cathy. I spent the day talking and tweeting incessantly about my hair. I Instagrammed another selfie. When I sent one to my family group chat and my dad responded, “Weird,” I pretended he hit send too soon and meant to say “Weird how great it looks!” I had officially reached Kanye levels of self-delusion.
My closest work friend’s nerves quickly began to fray. I sensed her back stiffen every time I mentioned my coif or twisted a shiny ringlet around my index finger. I felt hotter than I ever had, but the potent knowledge of my hotness was making me into an unbearable monster. I had canceled drinks with a friend because I wanted to go home and fix the way one of the curls fell; all my conversations in the last 24 hours had basically started with, “How cute does my hair look?” I loved my extensions — really loved them — but I didn’t love me with my extensions. Or maybe I loved me too much. Either way, they had to go — and not just because I desperately needed to wash my hair.
That night, I sat cross-legged on my bed and sadly removed them one at a time. I lovingly brushed each extension and put it into the RPZL-branded storage bag before gently placing them in an empty cabinet. “Good night,” I whispered as I shut the doors.
I would never forget the joy my extensions had brought me; no one else would ever forget how goddamn insufferable I’d been.