Yesterday at the hair salon I was twirling in the swivel chair…smiling at the buzz of gossip blending in the air with the swirling ceiling fans, catching blurry glimpses of myself in the mirror on each rotation, and quietly entertaining myself while Pam set up all of my supplies. She’s frugal you know; she doesn’t mix up my hair color until my butt is physically in her chair and not still stuck on I-75.
Blow dryer, flat iron, hair dye mix, conditioner, cotton strips, plastic bags, combs, brushes, clips, strong coffee, donuts pre-cut in half, and hair color remover. That last one is the most important because I’m sure to wipe some strands of dyed hair out of my eyes and smear Ms. Clairol all over my cheeks, ears, fingers and of course the People magazine I have strategically disguised inside the latest issue of Architectural Digest. Pam doesn’t skimp on that color remover liquid chemical substance; she uses that stuff on me like I use green olives on an all you can eat salad bar because neither she nor I can distinguish the hair dye stains from my age spots. So she just wipes me down from forehead to flip flop to make sure we got it all.
Then I hear Pam yell out “it sure takes a lot of s**t to keep you looking low maintenance”. I heard most of the quote the first time but it was a bit noisy in the salon, what with everyone talking loudly from under the hair dryers about their hot flashes, the air conditioner motor whirring on high to accommodate them and the 70’s music channel playing some Sonny and Cher song; or was it just Cher? So when I said: “it sure takes a lot of what? “, she changed “s**t” to “accouterments”.
But she’s right. It does take a lot to maintain my locks, a lot of cash that is. Since I turned 40, Mrs. T. and I have been regularly adding up the projected cost of our lifetime cuts and colors. And for the last ten years, every time I hear the dollar amount – in the thousands – I have vowed that when I turn 50, I’m going to let vanity swirl down the tub drain along with a bottle of expensive shampoo for color treated hair, and go gray. And every time I make this declaration, Mrs. T. rolls her eyes as if to say “I’ll believe it when I see it”. And then I remind her how young it will make her look when people see us chit chatting at work. I think that perks her up momentarily. But then I watch her face change as she’s reminded that people have seen us hanging out together for almost 20 years now and all it will really do is make people realize how old we both really are.
So I was all set to go for it. Pam and I had been talking about it for at least nine years, and during every monthly appointment for the past year. The plan: at the end of June, as in this month, we’d start gradually working toward un-coloring my hair and letting my now natural color, gray, take over. That would give me a good three months to start getting used to it before I turned 50.
But then Natalie Merchant had to go and release her first album in 13 years.
I was thrilled to hear about new Natalie music because it had been so many years – so many in fact that the last time we bought a new release by her was around our 2001 commitment ceremony. And now, here we are, about to go get married for real, and Natalie has new music for us!
So I scrolled to iTunes as fast as I could on the magic mouse that came with my new Mac, where everything is backwards by the way. I clicked on a video from the new album and did a GOL (Gasp Out Loud!) when I saw that her hair was gray. I thought, okay, this is just for one of the music videos to make it look eerie and old-fashioned or something. But nope, she did it; she got the guts and went gray. I then Googled duck duck go, the new search engine that doesn’t track your searches like Google does (and I wanted Google to know I was searching for another search engine), and typed in Natalie Merchant Gray Hair. There were hundreds of hits – apparently this struck a hair as thick as a cord with the internet world.
Here’s a quote from Natalie, who is just a few months older than I am and has had pretty much the exact same hair cut and color as I’ve had since both of our 10,000 Maniacs days:
The decision to go gray. Was it hard?
“No. It was humbling, because it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a three-year process. I wore a hat for six months. I was prematurely gray; I started going gray in my mid-20s. So, I had been dyeing my hair since I was 27. I had to do it every three weeks. I did it myself. It was just a mess — every three weeks I had to make a mess. Every time the roots would show I would say, ‘That’s the real me. When am I going to let that happen?’ And I said 50.” (From an interview with Leigh Flayton, in her 5/16/14 post at refinery29.com).
Power to you Natalie – I’m impressed with your gumption, but you helped me realize I’m just not there yet.
Pam, I guess we need a new plan – go gray at 55? 60?
p.s. don’t tell Pam that after she did my hair up all nice, I promptly went home to work in the yard and then go to yoga this morning. It’s back in the pony tail…