On Going Gray
© Copyright 2006 by Cody Short
“Obviously more than a fashion statement!” was the remark of a lady in our tour group about my black derby hat the third day I’d worn a hat while D Short, and I were traveling in Europe.
Before our European trip, I asked my hairdresser to recommend something water-soluble that would gradually allow my hair to go natural - whatever natural might be. I could no longer keep putting brown coloring on hair that was white and growing. I envisioned something that would wash out at the hands of a color specialist who would then virtually reinvent me.
I soon discovered there are water-soluble hair products that are capable of permanently dyeing your kitchen counter tops or the bricks on your house. From that product line, my hairdresser selected a color at least four shades darker than my hair. She mixed the tiny vial of permanency with water, took a wide flat brush, brushed it close to my scalp and then lathered it in shampoo-style. She gave me an extra package so I could administer my next treatment and shop for a supply.
When I needed a touchup, I asked Nancy to help me with that wide-brush treatment. “Well, I’ve never done it, but I’ve seen it done enough, I guess,” she told me as she proceeded to use the entire product on my crown. “We need more,” she said. Since I had no more, the result was two and one-half inches of the darkest shade of brunette nearest my scalp and four to five inches of light brown throughout the rest of my hair.
As my white hair sprouted like snowy sticks of ice from rotted leaves in the winter forest, I took action. I found a wig that would work and made an appointment with a color specialist. I dragged off the wig only to get the hopeless prognosis. “Now what was that product?” the color specialist asked. “I could deal with dyed hair, but this… this… just keep wearing that wig until the color grows off. Come back in a few months and let’s take a look.”
Well, that’s how I happened to wear hats on the European trip. All my hats were black, a beachcomber for sleeping on the plane and, in addition to the derby, a cotton twill stovepipe that happened to be “in” that year. I carried my wig for evenings. My “cover” worked until we were visiting Blarney Castle in Southern Ireland.
“Are we really going to kiss that Blarney Stone?” D Short asked, thinking of all the years that thousands of lips have touched it. “Well, of course,” I replied. “I have heard of the Blarney Stone all my life and never expected to be here. Now that I am here, I’m going to kiss it.”
In order to kiss the stone you must lie down and bend your back almost perpendicular to your legs while someone holds them steady. Although a professional photographer is there to take your picture, travel companions can also take one. Just before my flexibility was taxed as described, D Short happened to realize that the hat might be hopelessly lost leaning in this fashion. He snatched off my hat and captured the once in a lifetime event on film. The picture of me readying to kiss the Blarney Stone was, until now, the only record of my skunk-in-the-round effect.
Finally white, I again consulted color specialists who all declined to alter my new “color”. There was nothing to do but adjust.
Since 1986, the year my dentist installed some of his first-ever veneers for me, he always called his newest hygienist over to see how they were holding up, marveling at eight years, nine years, etc. During my wig-wearing phase, I went for a check-up. “Within the next few months,” he told me, “we need to discuss your long-term dental care.”
By the next check-up, I was sporting my white hair. His newest hygienist, having marveled at the now fourteen years I had been a patient there and looking like she was but little more than fourteen herself, asked whether I wanted to book another appointment. I told her of the dentist’s earlier suggestion that we meet to discuss my restoration, and she asked him to step into the room. “Smile…. they look fine;” he said, “….if one breaks, we’ll fix it.”
Explaining to my friend, Caroline, that I had noticed a difference in others’ perception of me, I told her that I used to wear something that was seven years old and get a compliment. Now I can get a whole new outfit and nobody notices. I can get a new hairstyle on my lunch hour and nobody notices. She said, “Oh, no, it’s just that everybody is accustomed to the way you look.” She told me of her childhood girlfriend who married a wealthy gentleman. They lived in a huge two-story house decorated with breathtaking detail. She said that when she visited, she dared not exclaim about how nice it looked because that sort of house is supposed to look that way. Later, when the childhood friend got a divorce and was able to take some of those treasures to her small apartment, Caroline and others would rave about the unexpectedly elegant décor.
Every season brought surprises. For my fall trip, I dragged out my standby autumn sweater, tan with appliquéd leather leaves, always becoming to a brunette. Luckily, I also had a navy turtleneck, always becoming with white hair.
I’ve always covered my hair when painting, because even if a few frizzy hairs happened to touch the newly painted surface, I could look like I had lice for days. Usually I’d wear one of those plastic shower caps you get in hotels as a paint bonnet. I needed to repaint a small area of the white bathroom wall, and I inadvertently omitted the bonnet. Whoops, I felt those frizzies touch. I quickly carried a towel to D Short and asked him to rub off the paint. “I can’t see any paint,” he said. I walked away thinking to myself, How dumb can he be? I have white paint in my hair and I need him to get it out before it dries.
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