Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dye Another Day

It's not uncommon, we all know, for people to dye their hair as the gray comes in. But I've been pondering the thorny question--once you start, how do you stop?

I mean, you live--day after day--with your dyed hair presenting a particular look to the world. True, there are some who change shades as readily as a chameleon on a tartan scarf. But these are typically people who are "dying" to make a statement--"I'm rebellious," or, "I'm unique," or "I lack any other gift for self expression."

I suppose I'm really thinking about those who dye to defy giving ground to the steady march of age. (Perhaps we could say they dye out of a fear of death.) Those who basically just aren't ready to show their gray.

It's perfectly understandable. A little gray at 32 says so much more that we'd rather leave unsaid than does, say, a full shock of white hair at 82 (which is apt to have all the cue ball octogenarians green with envy, which is a small comfort).

But where does the tipping point come? When do you reach the point where you say, "Enough's enough already--my hair is gray and not midnight as you all thought." Some might say that tipping point comes when you're simply not fooling anyone any longer. But that overlooks the simple fact we dye to fool ourselves more than others.

An example. When I was in grade school, I had a math teacher who was ancient. (There's really no other word to use--she was so ancient, she had taught other teachers at that same school that we thought were really old!) Now, I shall not name her here, in part out of fear she's still alive in some fashion, possibly climbing out of the crypt for a daily lesson in multiplicative inverses. But the point is, this truly ancient woman--I mean, she knew Archimedes personally--had a head of bright red hair. And probably had that same shade of red hair from the time she built the Parthenon until the day she . . . well . . . died.

Clearly, she never reached that moment of clarity that led her to say, "Nuts, who am I kidding?" and toss the bottle of dye out. Is it possible she found herself several years on the far side of that moment and thought, "Well, if I stop now I'll just be an old woman who's stopped trying." (Do we, in our feeble shell of ego, associate "dying" with "trying?")

So, I shall set this topic aside for my future article to be no doubt picked up by Vogue or More or some such periodical. I shall research--asking my friends, hairdressers, friends' hairdressers, and those who've already passed over to the gray side. When does the point come where one does say--where one should say--"Enough. I will not dye another day."

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