After more than two decades of listening to his begging, pleading and chiding, I finally let my hairdresser take my hair’s virginity.
On a dreary winter day two weeks ago, I not only gave him the go ahead, I let him pick the color. Pretty risky considering one friend I referred to him came out of the salon looking like, in her words, “Tony the Tiger.”
But I emerged from the salon with a dye job so close to my hair’s natural color that it took my own husband a couple of hours to notice. I still can’t decide if I want people to notice or not. I’ve always said that when I dyed my hair for the first time it would be obvious. I would choose a shade of orange or red so shocking, that everyone would know what I was up to. Instead of hiding my age behind the color, I would be boldly announcing it.
And then the time came to actually pick a color. I sat there with an array of color swatches (do you still call them “swatches” when they’re hair?) in front of me and froze.
“Chef’s choice?” my hairdresser asked sensing my lack of direction. Sure, why not? (Then I heard a voice in the back of head remind me, “You could look grrrrrreat!)
So he mixed up three of four colors, made sure I was aware that the color wouldn’t cover all of my gray, and the dyeing began. Two hours later I thought I looked so dramatically different that I’d have to head straight to the DMV for a new driver’s license photo.
Tickled with my transformation, I went to the gym and announced to even the most casual of acquaintances, “I just got my hair colored!” Judging by the efforts they made to do anything but look at my hair I realized I had entered sacred ground. Apparently the first rule of dye club is: “Don’t talk about dye club.”
Since that first day I’ve spent some time since wondering why coloring your hair is such a secret. Surely everybody doesn’t think that the women they know have somehow miraculously escaped the aging process–that they don’t have a single gray hair despite being in their say, 70s? How about the women who haven’t had the time to get their roots done and look like an easter egg only half dipped in dye?
For better or for worse I’ve always had a minimal beauty routine. It’s probably because my mom never wore make-up or spent much time fixing her hair. I was left to experiment on my own, often to the detriment of my actual looks. I marched off to high school one day with such bright pink triangles on my cheeks I looked to have a severe case of Scarlet Fever.
Now I have daughters of my own and I realize they are always watching what I do. “Don’t you think you’re pretty?” my 7 year-old asked when she caught me putting concealer under my eyes one day.
“Yes, but I also think I’m tired.”
Should I wear make-up when I’m older? she asked.
After a few minutes of contemplating an answer, I said, “It’s up to you–it’s about what makes you feel pretty.”
And in the end it does come down not to what others think, but what you think when you look in the mirror. Judging by the number of times I’ve snuck a pleased peek at myself in the past two weeks, it was time to let my hairdresser have his way with me.