I’m a brunette by nature. I was born that way, and have remained so for most of my life. Well, except for that one dreadful summer, circa 1980, when I accidentally hit the Sun-in spray pump a few too many times in my quest for blonde highlights. I spun so fast around the color wheel that I flew right past Natural Blonde, Honey Gold and Yellow Sunshine and landed somewhere between Pumpkin Orange and Ronald McDonald Red.
The only saving grace was that on the other side of town my friend and fellow cheerleader, Denise, also spent her summer misunderstanding the proper use of this product. When she showed up for our first practice of the season also looking like a lit match, we were assigned to stand under the bleachers when we cheered so that our heads, which glowed like ambulance beacons under the Friday Night Lights, would not distract the team.
I always wished I was blonde. Everyone loves blondes.
“Oh, what a cute little blondie!” People say excitedly when they see a little girl with yellow hair.
You never hear people saying “Oh, what a cute little brownie!” unless they are eyeing up a dessert. In which case the word “little” should be replaced with “big honking”, followed by “with chocolate chips on top”. Then, the excitement would be palpable.
Nonetheless, when random blonde hairs started sprouting from my head in my mid-forties, I’ll admit it – I was excited. Finally, my lifelong quest for natural, sun-streaked highlights was coming to fruition. Sure, it may seem crazy to think that hair would just naturally color itself without a gay man named Bruno foiling you up. But not to me – by now, I was used to radical, unpredicted physical mutations. You see, pregnancy, in addition to reconfiguring me to roughly the size of a zeppelin, had caused my feet to grow from size 8 to 10, and my hair to go from pin-straight to thick and curly. In short, child-rearing turned me into a clown. Sadly, I have yet to return to my pre-natal, non-jester status.
In the 1980s, I spent thousands of dollars spiral-perming my pin-straight hair to keep up with the era’s big, bodacious styles. Then, just as my hair began post-prego spiraling on its own, big curly hair went out and flat irons came in. (Thanks, Rachel from Friends).
It wasn’t just my hair that had poor timing – my body couldn’t get it right, either. I was thin when Grunge was in, forcing me to cover up what then was a nice-ish figure with bolts of khaki and burlap. Then, when I started compulsively inflating in my mid-thirties, Grunge gave way to tight-fitting half shirts and low-rise jeans. I had to politely decline that fashion trend, unless I wanted to risk being poached. That’s when I decided velour tracksuits would make me look hip, like J-Lo. Instead, they made my hips like Jell-o.
I couldn’t win.
My trans-hair-mation was gradual at first – here a hair, there a hair, everywhere a blonde hair. They say that blondes have more fun – and boy, was I ready! I hadn’t been having much fun since I turned forty, when heads stopped turning in my direction and started spinning in the opposite direction, accompanied by disturbing sound effects. I was definitely ready for some good times – and what better way than by becoming a midlife blonde bombshell?
But then, my 10-year old daughter dropped a bomb of her own.
“Mom, those aren’t blonde hairs. They’re gray!”
My brain, which usually spends its time lounging at the edge of a virtual-fountain-of-youth, teetered and fell in the opposite direction. Right into a vat of Geritol and Preparation H.
My problem with gray hair is not that I fear I’ll be less attractive. Plenty of people with gray hair are attractive. Think about all the famous actors we know who are gray yet still considered “distinguished”: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Daniel Day Lewis. Now think about the famous actresses who are gray and still ravishingly beautiful: Jamie Lee Curtis, and…um…ok, Jamie Lee Curtis. Yep, the rest of her fifty-something peers are still as colorful as they were in their twenties. Which begs the question, “Was she born with it? Or is it Clairol?”
My hat’s off to you, Jamie – for now, that is. I’ll need it to stay on my head if this keeps up.
The real reason I was perturbed is that these new hairs were nothing like my silky brown ones. They were like horse hairs. They stuck out everywhere and made me look like Albert Einstein in a wind tunnel. I couldn’t pluck them without drawing blood, and they came in fifty different shades ranging from stainless steel to snow white. In fact, as the result of one pure white hair that insisted on growing straight out of my right eyebrow, I considered renting myself out for unicorn-themed birthday parties.
I tried to go with it, but people kept stopping me to ask about the theory of relativity.
So now I color it. In fact, I’ve spent so much money on coloring that I could have owned the salon by now. The older I get, the faster my hair goes gray – I used to go 8 weeks between sessions, but now it grays so fast that by the time I get to my car, it’s time to go back.
Someday I may just give up and live with it. Think of all the time I’ll save not processing in a salon! I’ll finally be free to do more important things, like finish reading the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy as I sport the same look upon my head. Or taking Bruno on a well-deserved vacation. Either way, I’ll be happy to be that big honking brownie walking down the street, begging the question: “Was she born with it? Or is it Duncan Hines?”
Editor’s Note: After this went to print, gray hair became the rage. Psych!