Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Keep Calm and Gray On

When I was born, I had a tiny sprout of dark auburn hair at both the base of my neck and on the top of my head. This was a footprint of my father, a boisterous Irishman whose thick and dark auburn hair had long since faded to gray - and mostly fallen out - and its impression was imbedded on my personality in the most stereotypical ways. As a child, I was always reminded by my father that I was a typical fiery redhead, even after those auburn locks faded to a ruddy brown, then to a bleached out blond, and back to a mottled reddish brownish shade through my childhood: I was temperamental, I was loud, I had that hair-trigger temper. These characteristics have both served me well and gotten me into some trouble through the course of my life.

At 17, I began dying my hair back to what I liked to believe was my "real" color. And from that day forward, I dyed and dyed and dyed my hair all sorts of shades of red, from medium reddish brown (my go-to shade) to light amber brown to dark auburn to an unfortunate experiment with burgundy (they should call it what it really is: purple). In case you are wondering, that is 24 years of dying hair, mostly from the box in my own bathroom, on average 4-5 times per year. I shudder to think of how many vacations I could have gone on in lieu of vanity.

Currently, on my bathroom counter, a box of hair dye has been sitting for at least a month. Every time I look in the mirror, my silvery gray roots are mocking me, shouting for protection from other human eyes. Normally, I would cover those puppies as soon as I notice them growing out from their medium reddish brown umbrella, but for some reason, I have been resistant to open that box of dye. It could be laziness, but I don't think so.

I think it is time for me to stop hiding under the red.

I found my first real gray hair in high school. My father began to go gray in his late 20s, and by the time I was born, like I said before, what little hair he had left was a snowy shade of white. It aged him, along with many previous years of hard living, and I always kind of felt bad that at the age of 48 he had a daughter in Kindergarten whose teachers thought he was her grandpa.

Looking older than I am is a scary prospect, especially at 41. I certainly don't want to be called grandma by my kids' teachers. But I think I am different from my father. I don't wear the wrinkles of all the bad decisions I have made in the corners of my eyes like he did. I feel younger than my real age, and I hope I at least look as young as I feel. But I am tired of wearing a mask on my head to cover up the years that I have lived.

I am going to go gray naturally. It almost hurts to type it, to admit that I am acknowledging the years behind me, that I am going to show the world that I am not really a redhead. Anymore, anyway.

We'll see how this goes. I might wake up one morning and decide that I just can't do it and cover it all up. I hope, though, that I can let go of the time, the expense, the hassle, and the facade, and just be ME. I still hope to be a fiery redhead, just with a little bit of silver fox thrown in to the mix.

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