I found my first gray hair the year I went to grad school. I was 21, and I was horrified. I liked my chestnut locks, and I was in no way ready to color my hair, so I just pulled out the coarse gray interlopers as they showed themselves.
Fast forward a few years to the band days. As one, all of the Poptarts except Susan fell under the spell of henna. Henna seemed to have many things going for it. It—supposedly—was not permanent. The woman in the salon who sold us our first fix told us that if we didn’t like it, it would wash away in a few weeks, no problem. (I soon discovered this to be completely untrue.) It was also available in many bright shades of red. A nice statement for New Wave superstars at that time.
So we all went home and slathered on the mud pack, except for Susan. Some of us went redder than others. Gael went vivid red. Meegan used burgundy henna, which was deep and striking. Margie, with her nearly black hair, went for the eggplant color, which gave her spiky ‘do a purple cast. I went with plain old red at first, which gave me subtly auburn hair, except for the gray strands, which ended up glinting bright ginger, like tendrils of sunlight. I loved it! I loved that the henna was translucent, so that lighter hair really shone through.
And over the years, I’ve kept using henna, although as my streaks of gray beneath the henna got wider and more defined, I shifted from red to a mixture of red and burgundy, to straight burgundy, to a mixture of burgundy and brown—the brown to tone down the red in the burgundy so that I don’t look TOO much like mutton trying to dress as lamb, if you know what I mean…
And I’ve always gotten compliments on my hair color, because the highlights of henna on gray look so organic, even as the color itself does not… if that makes any sense. Heh.
But over the years, it’s gotten harder to cover the gray. I have to henna more and more often, and I have to leave the henna on my hair for longer and longer for it to “stick.” Sometimes it does fade, although not completely. And if I DO get it to stick really well, I end up looking kind of skunky in no time. Well, if skunks had red fur.
And the process itself is simply ponderous. Messy. Time-consuming.
So I’ve decided to see what my hair REALLY looks like.
Now…this isn’t the first time I’ve toyed with idea of going gray just to see. In fact, the first time I broached the subject with anyone other than myself was on a walk home from Marnee Thai to the flat in the Haight more than 16 years ago. I asked Tom what he thought of the idea, and he said it was fine with him. Of course, unbeknownst to me, he was planning on dumping me the next day, so, yeah. It wasn’t as if he was planning on sticking around to witness the results of that experiment, was he? Hmmm? And I didn’t follow through… just kept henna-ing and henna-ing.
And it’s not all that easy to go from years of henna-ing to natural locks, believe me. It’s not as if I can go to a salon and ask them to strip the color because henna, as it turns out, bonds with hair rather than coating it. It is MORE permanent than commercial hair color from a box. Sigh. And I don’t want to shave my head and let it grow in as it will. I fear my skull is way too bumpy and lumpy for that to work! But if I’m going to do this, I need to take the plunge sometime, right?
But, why now?
Well, I really do NOT want to end up one of those old dames with the flaming red hair who isn’t fooling anyone. And I’ve seen many women with chic haircuts and gray hair and it looks lovely. From what I can tell as I start to go skunky, the gray I have (and I’m sure I’m at more than 50% at this point) is nice and silvery—not drab and mousey. I do want to see if I can pull off the gray look and not look way old. And the last time I hennaed was one of those times when it started to fade rather than skunk. So it looks as if I’m going gray (very quickly!) rather than letting my dye-job grow out. Jeff is cool with the idea, although he likes me as a redhead. Matches my fiery personality. Heh.
So I’m giving this gray hair thing a whirl.
If I don’t like it, there’s always Lady Clairol… Right?