When it comes to my hair color, I've done it all. I've been a blond and a brunette. I've been as red as a Crayola crayon and as black as night.
Myself and my youngest sister
I came into the world with hair a shade of blonde that my mother called, "dishwater". Hair color companies call it "ash blonde". It can be a dreary color and although it got beautifully highlighted by the California sunshine and surf, in the winter months it would grow out like dishwater again. Once I moved away from the ocean and beaches to the east coast it only got drearier.
When I was a kid my mom always kept our hair short. I'm sure it had something to do with trying to maintain the heads of six children and no time or patience for tangled wiggle worms. She kept hers long for most of her life and she would tell me I was lucky not to have to spend night after night at bedtime having long tresses wound onto rags to make the fat sausage curls that were popular when she was young. As soon as I got my way I grew it long, very long. Before I cut it in 1973, it was long enough to sit on. I have never had it quite that long since.
Summer of 1970
I took the first hair coloring plunge in 1984 as an anniversary surprise for my husband. I had always wondered what I'd look like as a brunette and so I dyed my hair dark. Really dark. It was fun and exciting, I liked it and he loved it. But, after a while the rush wore off and I missed being blonde. Since "dishwater" wasn't a very cool shade of blonde I tried something lighter. Then darker again, then eventually red. Every time I poured on hair color it was a thrilling experience. Sometimes it was beautiful and other times a catastrophe, like the time I bleached it all out and it came up the color of a yellow Easter peep. Now and again it would ruin my hair and I would opt for cutting it all off and try to convince myself it looked cool and perky. It never worked.
But, after a while, it wasn't fun anymore.Over time I needed to color my hair constantly. I really liked the shades of red, but they were even harder to maintain than my natural blonde. What started out as something fun like a pretty new outfit, became a necessity. I went from coloring for kicks to coloring for maintenance. At first it had to be done every six weeks, then every four. Eventually it seemed like it looked good for about seven days and turned drab again. It also began turning very flat. So I went more vivid. That was fine when it was freshly colored.
Right after coloring
The following week
Then the real damage started. I knew it was happening but I didn't want to face the facts. I was pouring chemicals on my head far too often. Little nagging thoughts began creeping into my mind. What if I was turning grey underneath? Oh no! That would mean I would have to color even more. I began to wonder what color my hair really was. Then it happened. Someone took my picture at a baseball game one night and it was plain to me. My hair looked very unnatural and dyed. I couldn't help but ask myself, who was I fooling? The more color I added the more artificial it looked. It was fake. I wasn't twenty-one anymore, or even fifty. Did I think I looked young? I'm not that young so why should I expect to look that way?
The picture that changed my mind
I began to look at the women around me in a new light. I have many friends my own age that I love and admire. Several of them were going grey. I looked at strangers. Here and there I saw women caught in the conundrum of dying or not dying their hair. Some had put their toe in the water and were letting their color grow out. Now they had to face the dreaded "skunk stripe" until their hair was long enough to cut away the dyed part. I knew I wasn't excited about doing that. Since I'm a hands-on kind of gal, I made the choice to take a stand. I chopped it all off.
Gasp! I had done it. There was no turning back! I'd gone hair dye cold turkey and I threw out my stash of hair color. I vowed to never look back. Then I waited for it to grow.
My husband and I while I was growing out my hair and outgrowing my coloring addiction.
It wasn't always easy. Sometimes it was really depressing. When I felt like I was losing my resolve I looked back at old photographs and looked at the women around me that I admired. I saw beautiful, silver-haired ladies every day that inspired me. They were genuine and all learning how to grow their hair out gracefully. That's what I wanted to do.
My husband was the best. He encouraged me by saying that he admired how I was always a woman who had a handle on the world and that I was not afraid to be myself. That helped immensely, whether or not it is entirely true. Then it began to grow out and my virgin hair was thick and beautifully healthy. Had I kept covering it up any trying to fool myself I would have never known.
Do I think that everyone should toss out their hair color? Certainly not. This was a very personal choice and the right one for me and it was not easy. All hail to every women who looks in the mirror and tries to find their best self. I just realized that my best self was not in a bottle of dye. I'm not entirely grey, in fact, as my hair grew out I realized it wasn't all that grey at all. Sometimes I wish it was. It will be one day and I hope I'm around to enjoy every silvery strand. For right now it is what it is. A little dishwater, a little silver, incredibly healthy and me. It is a part of growing old and growing up and I'm very glad I didn't wait to know what I looked like under all of that dye until it was too late.
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