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Slave to (Plastic g)Love: Color My Hair Until I Die?

So I’ve been coloring my hair forever. When I was in college and it was naturally thick and auburn and pretty, I used to dye it blonde. Well, I used totry to dye it blonde in the dorm bathroom, but because it was darkish and reddish and I was incompetent, it usually came out a kind of brassy apricot. It was, however, the 80s, so it seemed kind of cool and punky. I kept coloring it for the next thirty years, having it colored at the salon when I was flush, and using a box of Cheap & Lovely when I wasn’t. I went darker and redder, I went lighter and gold-er, I had Soccer Mom Beige with Highlights, and it was all kind of fun. Honestly, I enjoyed the drama of trying something new, uncertain about whether the “reveal” would make me suicidal or ecstatic.

Recently, I’ve been pretty “natural” about everything from food to the products I use in my house and on my body. I do not require anyone else to give up their Febreze; it’s my choice, for my life. I make my own household cleaning products out of things like vinegar and baking soda, I feed my dogs garlic and Brewer’s Yeast to repel fleas, and I make my own body cream out of beeswax and olive oil (which doubles as excellent furniture polish). I still wear makeup, I still like hair schtuff, I just avoid chemicals. I save money, and I do not break out periodically in hives after using a new soap or bowl cleaner.

It came to my attention, as part of this naturama, that I was still coloring my hair with chemicals every month or so. It wasn’t really fun anymore. I wrestled with the color v. no color issue for ages, worried that a head of grey or white hair meant invisibility, desexualization and a headlong slide into frump territory. On the plus side I have a young-ish and unwrinkled face. On the other hand, I do not have the cheekbones of a Meryl or the presence of an Anna Wintour.

 I started looking at beautiful heads of grey, platinum and snowy white hair and thinking that it was really okay to have hair that was its actual color. First, being a chicken shit by nature, I just switched to the kind of color that washes out in a month or so. Three months ago, I just stopped coloring at all. These days I have a kind of salt and pepper thing going on at the top, white at the temples, and more salt and pepper with an overlayment of (dyed) reddish brown in the back. Obviously, I’d like the reddish brown part to go away so that I can get busy making my grey all sparkly.

On Saturday I’m having my hair cut, so I looked online for suggestions about cuts that might  improve the transition from Dyed to Grey; I had in mind some sort of layering dealio that would cut out some of the dyed hair and expose more of the grey. I don’t love the look of a wide, grey or white stripe at the top of the head like a snowy roof on a cedar shingled house, and I thought there might be a way to avoid that with scissors rather than chemicals. So I read a bunch of posts and articles and learned these things:

-Grey or white hair doesn’t necessarily suit your coloring even if it’s natural; it’s best suited to blue eyed people who were originally blonde.

-The best solutions are either to have all of your hair cut off and grow it out grey, or to hire a colorist to do highlights, lowlights and toning in conjunction with a series of trims so that in a year or two (!) your hair will have made the transition and you can stop coloring.

-And my favorite, from a hairstyling blog: “Most of you know you shouldn’t just let your grey hair grow out – way to [sic] scary! If you see someone using this strategy, please help them out with what you learn here. (The easiest solution you can give them is to go on a mission to find a hair colorist.) Some women have been left without answers to this question and therefore think they have no alternative but to look hideous in the growing grey hair out process.”


I was not blonde, and I do not have blue eyes. My big, Ben Franklin face would look so terribly bizarre with really short hair that I would be unable to leave the house for a year. The endless “professional” tinkering with color is a) beyond my budget, and b) defeats the whole “natural” thing. I would just be paying someone else to put chemicals on my head in order to avoid being “hideous.”

This is making me crazy. I am sitting here thinking that my only viable alternative is to go, right now, to Walgreen’s and buy a box of color. But if you give a mouse a cookie…well, we all know how that ends.

I hope that I can be strong enough to let this be, to withstand pressure from the stylist to “do just a little highlighting so it’s pretty while it grows out,” and to look at myself in the mirror and say “you are doing the right thing, you are still a living, breathing, vital woman no matter what color your hair is, and anyone who judges you because you are grey, or white, or reddish-brownish-greyish-whitish. If you are invisible to certain men, if you are judged as frumpy and unglamorous, you have to find it within yourself to know your actual worth.”

It was, however, easier to feel worthy when my hair was thick and shiny and auburn.

And that, my friends, is kind of sick.


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

3 responses »

  1. Pingback: » Slave to (Plastic g)Love: Color My Hair Until I Die? « Forest Street … » Hair Styles For Hair ! Hairstyles for hair

  2. Holy perfect timing…..I’ve got a box of color on my bathroom counter RIGHT NOW. I’ve also run the gamut in style, color, (and heaven forbid, texture). The last thing I messed with was Manic Panic in Vampire Red (yes, punk rock hair at 40…go figure). Hated how much it ran (for days, literally) and am left now, weeks out, with my “regular” auburn, but my greys are actually metallic silver are the only spots that have retained the color which is now “pink”. The box on the counter is ammonia-free “natural” auburn, and I’ve gotta do it — just to get back to baseline! Ha ha

  3. “If you are invisible to certain men”. You, dear girl, cannot possibly have missed the fact that some other men lose control over the ” a kind of salt and pepper thing going on…… white at the temples” look. The place you are going is worth all of the effort traveling to get there. It was again a youthfull yet uniformed decision made long ago that sooner or later you would suffer the withdrawls. Better by choice then when the hair falls out from too many years of chemicals. This post would do to have a few photographs attached………..


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