A Word About My Hair

In general, I’m not one to write about “chick” topics. I may have mentioned weight/fitness goals a time or two, but that’s about as far as it goes.

In part, this is out of respect for my long-suffering husband, who once asked me to remove the word “Tampax” from a post in which he was also featured. It’s weird enough having a wife with a public attitude problem toward the Foreign Service without my embarrassing him with lady stuff.

In part it’s because, despite having a public blog, I’m actually a fairly private person. If I were having some kind of major medical or personal crisis (which I’m not), I wouldn’t share it with the world. Respect to anyone who does, but that’s just not who I am.

But I am a woman of a certain age. And something strange is going on with my hair.

Not where it’s growing. That’s no one’s business! (And anyway, totally normal, OK?)

I’ve never been one to complain about my hair. It’s not too straight, not too curly, not too thin, not greasy, and not frizzy. On a good day, it’s thick and wavy. As my Polish hairdresser recently told me, I have “many hair.” I have been guilty on many, many occasions of not getting haircuts promptly and looking like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards for weeks on end, but that’s entirely my own fault. If I had the patience to deal with such things, and to stay out of the wind, my hair would look pretty good.

Circa 1968.
Me and my hair, circa 1968.

I have also always been a blonde. A strawberry, or “dishwater” blonde, but nevertheless, blonde. It says so on my driver’s license. For 48+ years, with the exception of the Unfortunate Czech Clown-Red Dye Job of 2002, I looked in the mirror and saw varying amounts of blonde hair.

I have never gone gray. I’d like to attribute that to clean living, but in fact, I’m just a genetic freak. My brother hasn’t gone gray, either, and my parents didn’t until well into their 50s. To this day, Mom and Dad both have salt and pepper black hair. Since the average white person starts going gray in their mid-30s, this has meant hairdressers over last decade or so have gone from asking me if it is my natural color, to congratulating me on not having gray hair, to saying my hair is a “miracle.” Hmph. (I’m tempted to tell them that it’s due to the goats I sacrifice at the full moon.)

Truthfully, while I’m glad I didn’t go completely gray by 35 like my husband did (oops, did I just write that? It’s sexy honey, really!) gray hair anytime after about age 40 would not have been a big deal to me. I just expected it would show up eventually. Doesn’t it always?

But I was not expecting this: over the last year or so my hair has gotten progressively and rapidly darker. A minor annoyance that I addressed with a couple of rounds of expensive highlights. I figured it was due to lack of sun in the European winters. Or vitamin D deficiency. Or something else more or less temporary.

Last week, I got one of those short, spiky haircuts that are not always the best plan, but that women sometimes go for just because it’s that kind of day. I’d had a horrible cold all week, and by Friday I just really needed something, you know?

The last of the highlights fell to the floor, and….hey, who the hell is that in the mirror?!?

My “new” hair is really, really dark. Not a bad color at all (kind of a dark chestnut brown) but to me, it doesn’t look natural! I ended up getting a new look, thanks to Mother Nature. Which I am sure everyone will think is a dye job. At least it finally matches my eyebrows?

I am on the fence about this. I don’t especially enjoy getting my hair colored, and I don’t like all the nasty chemicals involved, So, for now, I’ve decided to stick with the “dye job” that most people have to pay for at age 49—even if it’s not the color I would have chosen. With an option to change my mind later.

I just had to Google this weirdness, and apparently, darkening hair is a genetic thing, just like gray hair. My hair, which has a bunch of recessive brown-hair genes inherited from my dark-haired parents, is “coded” to go dark at a certain age. ( I notice that my brother’s has, too.) Like gray hair, darkening hair gets coarser, which is why when I roll out of bed these days, I look like a middle-aged bottle brush.

However! I do have one really gray (white, actually) hair. Nice and springy. Right smack in front. I am pretty sure there are a couple of littler ones hiding around the temples. My daughter says I might get a white streak in my hair. That would be cool. Millennials pay good money for that look, you know.

So, I have finally started down that road. I think I’m ready. I’m almost at the half-century mark. I’ve earned that gray hair, and no, I’m not pulling it out. I consider it to be a medal of sorts.

I might even give it a name. I could name it after one of my kids, for example. Not saying which one.

Your hair looks really nice today, Nanny.

Well, thank you. I’m glad to have hair!

My grandmother.

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