I think it was perhaps that midlife crisis issue that I swore I wouldn’t have, that made me do it…
Sometime before my 40th birthday, I tried coloring my hair. I suddenly felt as though I needed to hang on to my fleeting youth; this was a new and alarming sensation to me. I had never before concerned myself with age much. When asked by complete strangers I had no problem divulging the digits, as it never really seemed to have much bearing on my happiness, career, or anything else that was important to me. Age was simply that, just a number.
Age still has very little bearing on what projects I choose to take on or what new adventures I seek to have. I feel younger than my age, I suppose. Not young, mind you, I guess I just don’t feel how society tells me I should feel at this age. Not just physically, but, though I’m a little ashamed to admit it, mentally. I think that may be why those little grey hairs suddenly blossoming into faint grey streaks began to alarm me a bit.
Not to say that I don’t find grey hair becoming. In fact, I distinctly remember myself and a few girlfriends gushing over the elegant beauty of our high school counselor’s long grey mane. It was thick, and shiny, and grey as storm clouds, and we all prayed that it would be the kind of hair that we would inherit as we matured beyond middle age.
Nonetheless, now I was currently in middle age, and baffled by this blend of brown and silver that had evolved at my crown over the previous few years. So, I colored it. I went to a professional as I did not trust my clumsy hands and asked her to color my hair, something as close to my natural color as possible. She mixed scads of liquids and gels together and made a dark, henna-like paste that was then slathered over my coiffure.
It stung, and it smelled. Although my colorist was a professional and there was no one I know who could have done a better job, or attempted to make it more pleasant, the whole process was time-consuming and unpalatable. By the time I exited the salon, my scalp burned and I had a vague sense of regret.
Everyone I knew “loved” the new color. I heard about how beautiful it was from all my friends and family. I fully admit that it was pretty. It was shiny and soft and uniform in color, the frosted streaks masked seamlessly by a masterful mixing of colors.
It was just that, now when I glimpsed myself in the mirror, I didn’t recognize me anymore. Perhaps an exaggeration, but it’s true that after seeing (but not) the slow progression of my hair color over several years, having it all erased came as a bit of a shock.
I have a handful of friends who color their hair regularly in order to maintain their look. My theory is that maybe they started years before I did, and therefore never experienced the drastic change that I did. I love their hair on them, and I can’t really picture them with grey hair…
For some strange reason, though, after I had colored my own hair, I felt like a fraud. Not in an “I’m going fool everyone else” kind of way, more like a “what have I done to myself” kind of way. It seemed as though the change I made was accepted so easily by every one around me, but never by myself.
Since then, I have let the color grow out and am dealing with ends than are a different color than my scalp. I cannot say that I will never color my hair again, as I can be slightly impulsive when it comes to things involving beauty. However, I am also learning to accept my limitations when it comes to my own vanity (cost, time, and comfort).
This is obviously not an argument for or against coloring one’s hair (or doing any other beauty procedure-people should do as they like). It is an observation at how such a small, seemingly insignificant change bothered me so much, and how surprising that, in and of itself, was. I am still quite envious of those with a single color in their hair, be it brown, blond, red, black, or grey, artificial or not. Even so, I am attempting to be patient and hoping that eventually my hair will settle into the beautiful thundercloud grey that my high school counselor had.
If patience fails me, I still have my colorist’s number…
What are your thoughts on the details of midlife?
Warmth to all, and stay cozy!