Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fumbling Toward Forty: To Grey, or (Not) Too Grey

My plunge into school administration coincided closely with the birth of Little Sis almost five years ago.  So closely that I spent the first year of my vice-principalship attempting to block the three doors to my office while I pumped breastmilk.  So closely that I struggled to determine the greater source of my stress and sleeplessness:  new job or new baby?  So closely that I suspect hormones played a role in the crazy nightmares I experienced shortly after assuming my new role, most of which featured me drunk driving and subsequently ruining my career.  Forever. 

So I had my irrational moments that first year of being Mom of Two and Vice Principal.  These days I am clearer thinking but grey haired.  I suppose I will never know if my greyness is purely a function of my age, or if the foggy haze of Little Sis's infancy combined with wondering what the heck I was doing in my new office burned additional brunette-producing follicles at the root. 

I swear my mother was not this grey at my age.  In fact, at my age, she sported few enough greys to name each hair as she plucked it, thereby preserving her visage of youth:  This one is for that "boyfriend" you had in tenth grade; this one is for when you burned up the engine in the diesel Rabbit...

To achieve the same objective I would have to shave a stripe at each temple, and attribute them to Things I Shouldn't Have Worried About

Mind you, I don't think I am prematurely grey; you should see my husband, Silver Fox.  I long, in fact, to grey as early and gracefully as the members of his family.  Or just go grey later.  Instead, I am almost 40, I think I am 32, and this issue is black and white to me:  I don't feel grey. 

The first time I dyed my hair (excepting some timid experiments with peroxide and sprays of lemon juice at the beach in high school), I was studying in Italy during my junior year of college.  An Italian friend suggested strisce di sole would suit me, and with Superga sneakers and more navy blue and lime geen in my wardrobe, I could pass for Italian.  Still obviously American, I came home to California the following summer blonder than I've ever been. 

I didn't color my hair again until I was 26 and living in Africa.  A Kenyan friend suggested that henna (all natural!) would perk up my brown locks.  I grew fond of the musty-smelling mud and the orangey-auburn tint it left in my hair and brought several packets of henna powder home with me.

Then a former student's mother became my hairdresser and she'd occasionally highlight, or "lowlight," my hair when I had the patience for the almost-two-hour appointments. 

Since having kids, though, I've practically given up on getting my hair cut.  I confess that after needing to cancel a salon appointment before the holidays, I went ahead and trimmed my own hair (don't look too closely...).  The upside is the money I am saving and also the time.  No to mention the possibly horrific outcomes.  The downside is new day, old 'do.  Nothing doing. 

A couple years ago I started dyeing my own hair to mask the emergence of those wiry tell-tales.  The truth about grey hair and wrinkles (all those creams and serums notwithstanding) is that they don't stop coming.  I'll never be less grey or wrinkly.  But I can hide the greys.  At about $6.99 for "Root Touch-Up," I'm not breaking the bank, and I have found a hue that doesn't inspire too much commentary.  I'll admit that drugstore hair dye does seem to make my scalp "crust" or "scab" (a wee bit) and my ears burn (a tad). 

Honestly, I should embrace my grey.  It's just that it's not...huggable yet.  My every-other greys mouse up my browns, making my hair look tired.  And my hair has no excuse to be tired, seeing as how it never gets a workout at the beauty shop, and I only wash it every other day (or two) and blow it dry maybe once a week. 

I want the grey hair of the women I admire, women with all-white or silvery tresses.  Women who suddenly look great in jewel tones and robin's-egg blue.  Women who dress and wear their naturally gorgeous hair confidently.

On the cruise, we played a game called "Things," and one of the categories was "things you would ask a fortune teller."  I wrote, "Should I go grey naturally?" and eventually a family member guessed the question was mine.  My mother, my personal clairvoyant, shook her head.  "Nope.  You're too young." 

I tend to agree.  I'm turning forty in a few weeks, but I plan on remaining virtually 32 for a while longer.  I can always reassess in a few years, as my virtual age creeps closer to 40 and my actual age becomes less and less relevant to me, along with my looks.

In the meantime, I think I'll make an appointment and keep it.  I think I'll treat myself to a cut and color. 


Heather PC said...

I forked over big cash a month or two ago to do the same to my hair. Though I don't have early gray, I do have early blah, and wanted to spice things up a bit. I saw an image of Kate Blanchett, circa Benjamin Button, with lovely auburn tresses hanging beautifully off her head, and wanted THAT. Somewhat against my hairdresser's advice, I suggested a straight cut--no layers--so I could maximize that glossy reddish-brown straightness. Um. yeah. I don't have straight hair anymore. The lack of layers just makes my hair look unkempt. And the auburn? It turned out more aubrown, and no one--not my mom, my husband, one of my best friends--noticed a difference in the color of my hair. Phooey. This is in no way meant to scare you away from the cut-and-dye, no no. My advice: GO BOLD! Next time, I'm layering and adding more RED!

Ms. Bice said...

When you start to think too much about your grey, just remember that I have more grey than you and probably had more than you do now when I was 23.

Two hairdressers were once consulting on my hair when one said, "You have a lot of natural platinum high-lights." The other quickly chimed in, 'Um, that's grey." The first replied, "Yes, I know. I was trying to be sensitive because she's so young." We had a good laugh about it.

Your hair looks great. I really liked it when you had it dark.

Denis said...

I am 17 and I have a few patches of grey. Grey hair is not a sign of age but of wisdom. At least, that is how I like to think of it.. because lat time I checked teenaged wasn't old and neither is 40.