“Dyeing for a Change,” column for March 11, 2014

Someday, I swear, I am going to quit. Next month, maybe. Or next year. I’ve done it most of my life and it’s getting old.
Not that it’s hard. I’ve been doing it so long it’s like taking a shower or brushing my teeth or reminding my husband to tie his shoes. I could do it in my sleep.
Every time I do it, I think, “You don’t have to do this. You are just too chicken to quit.”
That’s the truth. It’s become such a part of my life, not to mention, my identity, that I can’t picture me without it.
Who would I be?
What would people think?
Who would care?
I’ve been asking those same questions for as long as I can remember about all sorts of things, really, and the answers are always the same:
1. I’d still be the same person.
2. It doesn’t matter what people think.
3. Nobody would care anyhow.
As much as I’d like to believe those answers, clearly, I do not. What I really think is this:
1. I would not be the same person. I’d be somebody else. Somebody I might not like.
2. It matters very much to me what people think. Possibly too much. Always has. Always will.
3. Maybe nobody else would care a lick, but I would.
That last answer is the bottom line, the one reason I keep doing something I should’ve quit long ago: I care.
So today, again, for the forty-eleven-millionth time in my life, I pulled on a pair of rubber gloves and dyed my roots.
I wish you could see them.
My roots, not the gloves. They aren’t gray any more. For now.
I started going gray in my 20s, after the birth of my third child. Some might call that premature. I just call it motherhood.
At first, it was only a random gray hair here or there, nothing anybody else would notice. But I did. I noticed it the way you might notice an armored tank rolling through your bedroom.
I’d check my hair daily for any stray gray and yank it right out. Finally, when I began to fear I might be yanking myself bald, I started coloring my roots.
Call me simple, but it didn’t occur to me when I started that I’d have to keep doing it forever. Or at least until a point at which I would get so fed up I’d give up and just go gray.
I am at that point now. Well, nearly. I have friends who’ve gone gray and they look totally fabulous. But they would look totally fabulous totally bald.
I don’t kid myself. I know I’m not hiding my age.
Once, long ago, while driving my oldest and his buddy Eric to preschool, we passed a parked car covered with a tarp.
“Look!” Eric said. “Grownups are so dumb. Everybody knows there’s a car under there!”
I cover my roots, but I’m no fool. Everybody knows there’s a lot of gray under there.
So why do I keep doing it?
It’s not so much about how others see me. It’s about how I see myself and the way it makes me feel. Isn’t that what counts?
I live in Las Vegas. Every day I see people sporting all sorts of interesting looks _ tattoos and nose rings and goatees and comb-overs and mind-boggling clothing (or the lack of it.) It often begs the question: Why?
But why not? Everybody knows there’s a person under there. Shouldn’t that person get to pick how they want to look?
That’s called freedom. No matter how goofy-looking it may seem, it’s still a beautiful thing.
Especially if it makes you feel better about yourself. If we’re lucky, the people who matter most to us will let us be who we are and look the way we want to look, and like us anyway.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll even do the same for them.
Imagine that.
Everybody wants to hide something. Mistakes. Scars. Roots. Whatever.
But everybody knows, God help us, we’re all under there somewhere. Together.


  1. Louise Mikkelsen says

    Good Evening,
    I too had gray hair at an early age but after years coloring it seemed futile.So I let go and let God.It eventually turned into a beautiful white.I have received many compliments on it.The funny part of my comment is we have a 55 year old daughter who is mentally challenged and deaf.
    I color her hair all the time as I have told my many friends that I refuse to run around with and old gray haired woman.Thank you for your column, they make my Sunday..God bless.

  2. Linda Hill says

    I feel your pain! Just this week when I went in for my every-six-weeks cut and color, I asked my hairdresser if she could just go ahead and dye my hair “salt and pepper”. She told me that she didn’t do salt and pepper. Damn.
    I bellied up to the bar or swivel chair as it were and got the full treatment, including highlights. Cha-Ching $$$
    Oh, well, what’s another six weeks of serums on my face and golden streaks in my hair? The alternative is drier wrinkles on my face and a three inch yarmulke smack dab on the crown of my head. Hand me my checkbook, please.

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