Ponce de Leon thought, upon arriving in St. Augustine, Florida, that he had discovered the “Fountain of Youth”. Senor de Leon would undoubtedly be shocked to discover that Florida has become NOT the place to maintain one’s youth but, instead and for many, the final destination before the grave. It’s a veritable “hot spot” for The Grim Reaper! Why should he haul that heavy scythe all over creation when he can knock off, in a manner of speaking, most of his “to-do” list with a short jaunt to sunny Florida? I have no personal experience with The GR myself, but one would think that, having made his career in the business of death throughout the whole history of humankind, he would appreciate the kind of one-stop shopping and increased productivity that a place like Florida could afford him.
I have been giving this whole idea of a more youthful appearance a great deal of thought lately. I have been toying with the idea of disposing of the boxes of hair dye that are currently taking up space in my closet. These boxes are my own version of “The Fountain of Youth”. You didn’t really think I was going to write about Ponce de Leon and The Grim Reaper, did you?
I’ve been graying since my twenties. It’s hereditary. My father had a full head of gray hair by the time he was forty. He likes to blame it on having four daughters, but we know better now. Studies have shown that gray hair, like baldness, hirsuteness, and most other physical (and mental) characteristics, are marked on our DNA. In other words, many of us are just plain doomed by our faulty genetics.
No one wants to be “marked” as old at the age of twenty-five. And, let’s be honest, gray hair is synonymous with old age. Nothing, and I mean nothing, screams “you’re aging!” quite like gray hair. Unlike losing one’s hair or having so much body hair that one could be mistaken in the dark for a Sasquatch, those of us who suffer from premature graying can just throw a box of hair dye into our shopping carts and painlessly (unless you get it in your eye!) and fairly quickly, solve the problem. Unlike our hairless or our excessively hairy friends, we don’t need daily doses of expensive prescription salves to halt our hair loss; we don’t need to subject our bodies to painful waxes or electrolysis treatments to rid ourselves of the extra coat of fur that our prehistoric ancestors needed for warmth but that is now, here in the 21st Century, just plain unsightly. I suppose, put in perspective, those of us whose afflictions can be solved with a six-dollar box of hair dye have it relatively easy.
At some point, usually by the time we reach our forties, graying ceases to be “premature” and gives way to just plain graying. Our friends and coworkers catch up to those of us who have suffered long and, usually, in silence. I knew this was the case when, beginning a few years ago, I could not run into one of my cohorts in the grocery store, the drug store, or, even the local Target, without spying the box of hair dye in their shopping cart. If I looked closely, (and I did!) I could almost always find it — usually hidden amongst other necessities like eggs, anti-perspirant, or that cute pair of trendy flats! (Why they thought they needed to engage in shopping cart subterfuge, I’ll never know.)
Sure, there are always a few women who don’t buy into covering up their graying locks. These women, generally speaking, tend to fall into two categories. They are either the bland and dowdy types who shop for the few cosmetics that they carelessly apply (only on special occasions!) at the dollar store (even I don’t buy make-up at the dollar store!) or they are the environmentally-conscious health food nuts who wouldn’t dream of putting chemicals on their heads (so close to their brains!). Either way, they’re not “my peeps”. These women are definitely NOT the ones with the leopard-print flats in their Target cart. More likely, they’re hiding things like support hose or flax seed oil in those bright red baskets. I’m no statistician, but I would, based on my own vast experience, go out on a limb and make the claim that these fortyish hair dye eschewing/support hose wearing/flax seed ingesting consumers are the exception, not the rule!
Lately, though, I have been thinking more and more about joining them. No. I haven’t taken up granola-crunching, but I did, just recently, begin a flax seed regimen (because of my dry eyes!). You won’t find me shopping for outdated Maybelline at the dollar store anytime soon and I think I’ll hold off on the support hose, at least for a few more years, but it may be time to throw in the towel where the hair dye is concerned. It’s become, quite frankly, a very time, energy, and money sucking battle with the bottle — one that I am, by the way, losing. (Already having lost one battle with the bottle, I simply may not have it in me to lose another!)
Part of the reason I haven’t, thus far, just done it already is because I am, and I’m not ashamed to admit this, vain. I don’t want to look older than I already am. I don’t consider forty-seven to be all that old, but it’s not all that young either. While I certainly understand that age is relative, I also work in a very youthful environment. At the end of a long shift I have a tendency to grow tired and lose my patience. On some level we all do, regardless of our ages, but my fear is that IF I stop dying my hair I will be perceived NOT just as fatigued and exasperated, but as old and cranky. I’m not saying that I’m NOT old and cranky. I’m saying that I don’t want OTHER people, YOUNGER people (who, by the way, I can still run circles around) to perceive me as such.
The other decision that I must make, IF I decide to stop dyeing my hair, is whether to dye my whole prodigious head of hair gray or to cut off the rather large and very long portion of my hair that is still brownish (as a result of various bottles of Miss Clairol, L’Oreal, or whatever brand was on sale). I know that the “ombre” look is “in”, but the gray on the top, brown on the bottom variation that I am currently sporting is more “two-tone” than it is “ombre”. I love Pepe LePew as much as the next gal. I do not, however, want to LOOK like him. (Nor would I want to smell like him, but that’s a whole other subject!) In order to avoid this — the looking like Pepe, NOT the smelling like Pepe — I must choose between two styles: The Jamie Leigh Curtis or The Emmylou Harris.
Jamie Leigh manages her style because she has such fine bone structure and because, let’s face it, she’s thin. Thin, successful actresses can wear almost any hairstyle. Emmylou pulls it off because she’s a musician. Those musicians can get away with almost anything. Also, she’s got the aging hippie thing going on. That doesn’t hurt. I am neither thin nor successful. I’m not Hollywood royalty, nor am I a world-renowned singer-songwriter. While I like to think of myself as a free spirit, it’s safe to say that no one would ever describe me as a hippie (or, come to think of it, hip).
So, it’s a dilemma. To dye or not to dye. To cut or not to cut. Maybe I should just move to Florida now. I could shave my head and invest in a couple of wigs. Because I don’t even want to get into with you what tropic-like humidity does to my hair. I know. I know. Florida is not “technically” the tropics, but still — two words spring to mind: Roseanne Roseannadanna.
This piece is also appearing on the NEW! GenFab website. There’s bound to be a great deal of incredible writing over there — grab another cup of coffee and read the day away. The laundry can wait. So can the dishes. Show these ladies some love!