Like many women I have a long history of dying my hair. For me it started in the 10th grade when for Christmas I got a box of bleach and a pot of Manic Panic’s Purple Haze.
It went horribly.
So I fixed it like any total noob would by dyeing it allll black.. which also went horribly. I am both saddened and incredibly grateful that I don’t have any pictures of this time. They exist. This was at Christmas, remember, so there are photos somewhere in my parents basement of me under the Christmas tree looking like a singed Fraggle. But they will never see the light of day. Not as long as I’m breathing. This consideration for my appearance and what others would think of it was not something I possessed while I was in high school. Or I did, but my idea of style was.. lets say.. unique.
Another thing that happened is I shaved my head. I don’t remember if this was because of the hair dye debacle or an unrelated-though-comparably-misguided whim (I’m a big fan of those.) With short hair it is much easier to commit to a non-traditional colour because if it really doesn’t work you’ve only ruined two inches of tress and you can just chop it off again! So this lead to a rather impressive cycle of dyeing and chopping that continued for the better part of the next decade. I cycled through the Manic Panic rainbow usually landing back on some form of purple (I think it brings out my eyes). For my junior prom my hair was bright violet. For senior it was fire engine red. In college it was bubble gum pink. And in between I would try “regular” hair colours as well, the most successful being ginger and the least being blonde. I do not a pretty blonde make.
I’d like to say it was out of consideration for my appearance and health that I came to my senses and finally broke this cycle. The dry frizziness from home bleaching, the endless battle of trimming the completely baked ends while trying to maintain the roots, or not trying and looking like a radioactive skunk. Not to mention the mess of chemicals I’d been wearing like a toque and the noxious fumes breathed in during the process.
But really it was just too expensive and time consuming and I was (am) lazy and broke.
So for the last few years I have been dye free. I still cut it myself (I recommend this method) but as happens in any crisis, I’ve been feeling the need to remake myself in an attempt to better myself and therefore my situation. I can’t cut it now because I am really serious this time about growing it out (really! I mean it!) And so I’ve been strolling down the dye aisle with long wistful looks at those little boxed promises of a better, more beautiful me imagining what could be. I wouldn’t do anything extreme either, I’m looking for a job and most employers frown on electric blue bangs. Just maybe something a little lighter and gingerier than my natural dark chestnut.
But I’ve discovered a new reason to not dye my hair.
I’ve found some grays.
What the fuck, you say? Isn’t that usually the time women want to start dyeing their hair? You have to hide those! Someone might think you’re not 22 anymore! Well, guess what internets? I’m not. And I am so ok with that. I have slogged through the trends and sexist media and the litany of magazine how-to-look-like-someone-you-aren’t-because-they’re-better-than-the-real-you tutorials. I’m exhausted and it hasn’t gotten me anything.
I love my little gray hairs. They are so shiny and pretty. They reflect light like tiny prisms.
And they aren’t really gray, but completely devoid of colour; empty. It’s a hopeful thing, like they have the potential to be any colour they wanted.
I’m not superstitious, not in any real way*, but I am convinced that I need to treat my little silver strands with love and respect. They worked hard to get here. I worked hard to get here.
I’m fascinated by this idea that signs of age are somehow signs of weakness and should be hidden, destroyed or manipulated by any means. You may have seen this hair colour commercial. The husband is talking about his wife of 15 years and how he’s slowly turning into the crypt keeper and somehow she magically stays looking like his wife.
Because she dyes her hair.
Because if she didn’t he would see those gray hairs probably brought on by living with this dude whose priorities are so skewed he thinks looking your age is some horrifying sin and not recognize the woman he married. How is looking your age not looking like yourself? Poor Kate. Her husband only goes for 20 year olds. This worked great for her when she was 20, but now that she’s 35 she’s doomed to watch him stray from her ever-sagging bosom into the pert, cushiony fun-bags of a woman almost half her age. Unless she hides all signs of the presumably happy and meaningful decade and a half they’ve devoted to each other. The end kills me: “I don’t know all her secrets, but I do know Kate’s more beautiful now than the day I married her.” BECAUSE SHE DYES HER HAIR. The message is clear; unless you want your guy to lose interest in your old lady self you’d better stop aging. Or do a really good job of pretending to.
I’m not saying no one should dye their hair. It’s a way to express yourself like any part of your appearance and I develop fierce if fleeting crushes on people I pass with wildly awesome hair, natural or engineered. I just hope people do it for the right reason: because it helps to express your true self, not what others expect you to be.
And while my true self may always be a bit of a Fraggle, she’s a Fraggle with grays.
*When walking down stairs I always, always slap the ceiling as I pass under it. A holdover from when I was little and monsters hid in the dark living room doorway at the bottom of the stairs and doing this would scare and confuse them. Also works on basement monsters.