Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

The old gray mare ain’t … gray anymore.

After spending three years letting the universe be my colorist, the colorist who chose white, gray and nearly black for my head – sort of like morning-after campfire hair.  Kingsford Charcoal, I could’ve been a great spokeswoman, but that’s all changed.  On Saturday, my real stylist waved a magic wand (a goo application brush, at any rate) and turned my mane into the glossy coppery-brown of a sorrel (aka chestnut horse).  These descriptions all sounds very outdoorsy for a woman who lives in the suburbs.  But, don’t let that fool you.  A hotel room without a coffee maker is still my idea of camping.


My son is the most overjoyed that the gray has gone away.  He should be.  It was his idea.


Normally, I’m not the kind of woman who lets her children make sartorial or tonsorial decisions for her.  The one time I did involved hair accessories from Claire’s Boutique in the mall when my daughter was seven and it didn’t end well for either of us (I’ll spare you the details, but in my heart-of-hearts I always knew that Britney was nothin’ but trouble).


Around my 25th birthday my hair developed a streak of white at the left temple and my parental units encouraged me to hide it at all costs and the ball and chain of the six week dye came to be.  Of course, the idea of putting color in my hair wasn’t new to me, as lemon juice, Sun-In, pool chlorine, California surf and sun left my brown hair with a dozen other tints to it from the time I was 16.  So, Miss Clairol became my roommate for next 20 years.


You know how some men grow a mustache in their youth and by middle age they have no idea what their face looks like without it?  By the time middle-age rang my doorbell, my head was having an identity crisis (mostly on the outside, the inside has remained pretty stable, I must say).  The decision was made, by a committee of one, to stop coloring, continue watering and see what grew.  For a year all sorts of shades showed up on my head.  It’s a good thing I married a guy named Katz, because I started to resemble a Calico one.


As far as social experiments go, having my hair return to its roots which, due to age, stress and heredity, in no way resembled their original roots, was a mixed bag of nuts.  Some people loved it and a handful reallllly didn’t like it.  Mostly, it seems those old enough to purchase alcohol by the end of WWII voted nay on the gray.  But, younger folk raised on a steady diet of Marvel Comics were in the hooray (Rogue!) and yay (Storm!) column.  As far as superhero moms go, my hair apparently rocked most young people, but not my son, who recently formed an opinion and threw it in the ring at me.  Climbing into my lap at the beginning last week and apropos of nothing my son said, “Mom.  I don’t like your gray hair.” 


Being the strong, opinionated woman that I am I replied, “Too bad, get over it.  My head — My hair.  Move along, nothing to see here.”


He persisted.  “No, I really don’t like your gray hair and I want it to go away.”


Irritated, chip on shoulder firmly in place, I said, “Me?  You want ME to go away?  Because we’re connected, my gray hair and I.”


“No.  I just want the gray gone.”


Irritated and extremely under-caffeinated, I attempted to use the conversation as a life lesson.  “But mommy likes her hair the way it is.  You can’t just say you don’t like something, out of nowhere, ‘just because’.  If you’re going to tell someone that you don’t like something, it would be so much better if you gave a reason.  Be specific.” [Large highlighted Post-it Note to self: Be careful what you ask for.]


“I don’t like it because old people have gray hair and sometimes they die and I don’t want you to die.”


< Insert sound of tears, knife removal from heart and dialing of the above-mentioned stylist’s cell phone here. >


Having my son voice his opinion, having only truly developed his expressive language skills (the hardest part of communication for autistic kids) over the last two years (he is 13 now) was HUGE.  I am not so easily manipulated, but I know how difficult it was for him to share what was in his heart.  If getting rid of the gray would put his mind at ease about abstract life and death issues, then I was going to have to do it.  I considered this to be a show now, tell later teaching tool, as eventually he will have to learn to deal with changes (another incredibly difficult task for the autistic mind).


Sitting in the salon chair Saturday morning, I informed the woman who wrangles my unruly hair that she had free rein (sorry, the horse analogy refuses to die) and to do whatever she wanted.  Eight women within earshot gasped and whooped, evenly divided into two camps (apparently that theme won’t go away either) – four stylists were thrilled at the prospect and four clients in chairs, in alternate states of hair-do & done, shuddered in fear for me.


The salon buzzed a bit about what color should be used and the stylist mumbled something about wanting something to match my brown eyes.  It was SUCH a Dorothy in Oz moment: “Can you really dye my eyes to match my gown?”) – and all I could think was really?  The oldest part of my face and you want to call attention to it?  What about my hands?  They still look pretty good!  What do you have in that cabinet to draw attention to those?!


For two days now, I walk past mirrors like a stranger in a strange land, asking, “Who’s that?” every time I catch my reflection.  It’s a bit ghostlike, to see a head of hair that once belonged to a younger me.  It’s also a bit Dorian Gray, too – except my face is the crumbling portrait and my follicles are Dorian … just not gray anymore.


Bill Cosby’s opinion on gray hair is that it is “God’s graffiti.”  I like that.  Eventually, my gray hair will return and I will warmly welcome it back and walk (and talk) my son through the process, sharing Mr. Cosby’s thoughts and the opinions of others along the way.   I will tell him that Hunter S. Thompson once said, “The person who doesn't scatter the morning dew will not comb gray hairs” and that I plan on a long life of brushing and combing gray hairs.


Personally, I think gray hair is just nature’s way of recording how much information we’ve taken in over the years and our willingness to continue to learn as we get older.  You know, sort of a gray hair/gray matter thing?  The nursery rhyme could be right, I ain’t what I used to be many long years ago, but it is my sincere desire to be better and hopefully smarter, me and my head full of optimistic silver linings.

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