I come from a long line of brunettes - dark chocolately brunettes who, due to the nature of pigmentation, start to go gray anywhere from 16 (my mother) to 20 (me). In the beginning, I had a lone silver hair or two that I would viciously pluck. But as they multiplied, and vanity kicked in, I started to dye them.
The first time I dyed my hair, I was fourteen years old and about to enter my sophomore year in high school (yeah, I was a little young for my grade - that's what happens when you have a January birthday). I dyed it black to be like my then-idol, Winona Ryder. Coal black is not the most flattering color on a sallow-skinned teenager with too many zits; it didn't help that I avoided the sun at all costs that summer so as to try to cultivate a creamy, pale Winona-esque skin tone (but again: nature wasn't on my side there, as I have that Eastern European yellow-ness that often leaves people guessing that I'm Hispanic - ironic because I look more Hispanic than my half-Mexican fiance). I remember my classmates at the small private school I attended from fourth through tenth grades commenting on the black hair as a sign of "rebelliousness," which was of course what I was going for but in hindsight seems kind of childish of me.
Anyway, in college I played with various shades of red, running the gamut from a coppery brown to a dark, hennaed Lucille Ball kind of hue (this happened when I was in London, of all places, after I got a crazy short haircut - well, short for me, shorter than I'd ever had it before - and Lauren convinced me I needed to go BOLD). But, eventually I grew out of wanting to play with color and went back to my (literal) roots and started dyeing my hair to match the chocolately brown that surrounded an increasing number of stray grays.
The older I got, the more gray sprouted through - and when you have almost-black hair naturally, you can really see those grays. Plus, I have very fine, very thin hair, and the grays come through coarse and wiry. So about every three months, I would hit the bottle and wipe out my stubborn grays.
Then, this summer, I ended up landing the interview that got me my new job. The night before my first interview, I'd planned on dyeing my hair, but a series of events unfolded that kept me from doing so (including a wardrobe crisis, but that's another post for another day). So I didn't dye it, and it made me feel weird and self-conscious.
Color me surprised when every single woman I interviewed with that day had decided to go gray gracefully. And they all looked lovely and natural and like they had more important and/or fun things to do with their time than worry about pigmentation. I'd decided it was kind of fortuitous that I hadn't had the time to touch up my roots, and made a conscious decision not to dye my hair prior to the follow-up interview. And hey - I'm pretty sure that's not why I got the job, but I didn't want to mess with a good thing. So I stayed dye-free.
Only then I entered into this new "shortest-hair-of-my-life" phase (or, as my mom likes to call it, "practically bald"). It's more of an ultra-short pixie cut, actually, created in part to correct a botched haircut I got in September that left me with a mullet. Fun fact: most of my botched haircuts leave me with mullets, or at the very least, an uglier version of Mrs. Brady's shag. Anyway, Dorothy at the Hair Cuttery in College Square Shopping Center (who's fabulous, by the way - request her by name), helped me get rid of the mullet but the result was this ultra-short pixie. I liked the cut, because it's really easy to take care of, but best of all IT'S NOT A MULLET.
Ultra-short pixie cuts reveal just HOW many grays a girl like me has. I had to keep plucking one particularly wiry strand that was determined to stick straight up on my head. I cringed every time I saw silver in the mirror. I'm still a few months shy of my 35th birthday, and I'm already growing more and more conscious of the wrinkle between my brows, and small, faint crow's feet creeping out from the corner's of my eyes.
I debated the dye issue for weeks and weeks. Joe kept saying not to dye it, but there's always a part of me who's suspicious of his "beauty" advice because of his precarious position as my fiance (i.e., if he encourages the dye, he's telling me that I look old and haggard; if he encourages me not to dye, he could be doing it so that I don't accuse him of thinking I look old and haggard, and not because he actually likes it). Someone else close to me made a comment about how "distinguished" the grays looked, and that was pretty much the nail in the coffin. I'm 34. I still call myself a "girl." I am not yet ready to look "distinguished."
So yesterday I bit the bullet, and slathered on some Feria in a dark brown with reddish-gold undertones. I liked it for about all of five minutes before realizing that I kind of sort of missed my grays.
And thus is the paradoxical nature of being a woman, right?
Or maybe it's just me being me.