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50 SHADES OF GRAY


miss clairolToday when women go from brown to blond to red to black and back again without blinking we think of hair color products as we think of lipsticks. There are bottles and bottles of hair color product with names like Excellence and Preference and Loving Care and Nice and Easy and so on, each in dozens of different shades. There is even Chocolate/Cherry and Champagne Cocktail, colors that ask “Does She or Doesn’t She? but blithely assume “Yes, she does.” Slogans like these were instantly memorable and managed to take on meanings well outside their stated intentions.

My own history with the hair color industry is memorable, having been a victim of my own foolhardiness more than once. Pick a color, any color, and I have given it a short-term lease on my head. I became a Ginger Rogers blond at the age of 16, which then became a strange shade of green at the end of the summer swim season. On another occasion I dyed it black for a Hawaiian party, which had to be removed swiftly before I spoke before a rather dull women’s group. It became a mottled thatch emanating from my scalp, with varying spots of brown, red and a terrifying streak of purple somewhere above my eyebrows.

After my residence with the Pueblo and the bestowal of my honorary name, I colored it a lovely believable dark brown, suitable for my new adopted identity. It remained this color for many years until I nearly believed it was my own. I could wander among the various villages in New Mexico while painting, and not be exposed as “that Anglo blond woman”. Many years later, I let it grow out, at which time I cut it short and asked my good friend what color she would call my hair. She too-promptly replied “Mouse”! So it was back to the bottle. Along with Miss Clairol, I gave myself a home permanent which unfortunately fought with the color and became a bright red Brillo pad on perched on top of my head.

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It was bound to happen—the day arrives when you find your first gray hair, a reminder that Time is marching on. But silver or gray is trending now in clothing, fashion accessories and home décor. We have all heard that men with gray hair are distinguished looking, while it just makes women look 10 years older. However, a few lucky women can pull off a certain amount of elegance. It’s a dilemma for sure. Do you grab the old familiar bottle, or do you try a new color—gray? It’s the only one I had not tried so I decided to give it a go. A number of years ago, somewhat elderly women became blue, do you remember them? They were generally seen with locks the color of a drop-in toilet freshener, and no, it wasn’t a mistake. They did it on purpose—it took any vestiges of blond out.

Streaks of gray usually appear near the ears, giving the impression of “Frankenstein’s Bride”. I once worked for a man who used dark shoe polish to color his ‘side wings.’ I seem to have accomplished the ‘gray mission’ on my own, without the aid of dye or bleach. A grandson once asked me if it was blond or grey. I told him to take his pick.
It still looks blond to me when looking in a mirror, but for some reason, it photographs gray. It must be a trick of the camera.

The thing to remember is that age is just a number, and hair color does not dictate whether you lead a sedate lifestyle, or behave like a character in “50 Shades of Grey.” The choice is yours.

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14 comments on “50 SHADES OF GRAY

  1. “It remained this color for many years until I nearly believed it was my own” … you are a cack. xx

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  2. The shopping isles with hair products almost rival that of pet food. Even the dairy division is under threat now. I am lucky to still have hair at all unlike most men my age. Lots of TV ads on guaranteeing bouffant hair restoring products for men. The poor sods spending big money and afterwards must be counting their remaining strands. The march of time.

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  3. The only way to determine if or which color brings out the true “you”, is to buy, buy, buy! It gets expensive though. Remember that it’s the men who become distinguished in later life. You hold the winning hand Gerard.

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  4. Love the language and examples in this post, Kayti. I never knew you as a blond or black-haired woman, only as a lovely mocha brown and now, well? Sort of grey silver blondy?

    You know me. One of my hobbies IS my hair. The right highlights, the right low lights, the right color, cut and god, the bangs. You’ve been with me through lousy cuts and inattentive color-jobs but the worst, the very worst, was when _ _ _ _ _ wasn’t paying attention and cut my bangs at least 3/4 inch above my brows.

    I know that Ego is controlling this expensive hobby. One of these days, when I wrestle Madame Ego to the ground and put her in a half-nelson and the great Ref in the sky, says, “Pinned!”–maybe then I will end the color and highlights and go silver, but that day is far away, I think.

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    • It was only black overnight, and you wee too young to come to the party. One piece of family history you may not know: your mother was very young when she found her first gray hairs, so she dashed to the salon and went dark for many years afterward. Now her beautiful silver hair is her crowning glory. She is beautiful in any color.

      Everyone needs a few hobbies to be good at, and you are extremely good at all of yours. Some hobbies cost more money than others, that’s where Madame Ego has the upper hand.

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  5. ……….. So that’s why Glenys’s hair presents soft colours to the summer breeze, blends quietly with the moonlight and moves me to tears in its chromatic wonder under the sodium street lamps.

    I am flabbergasted.

    You learn a lot on this blog.

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  6. I did not know that hair could move anyone to tears, although I do remember Dr. Advice grieving over the loss of his flowing blond locks as they flew off in the breeze. Of course, I have shed more than a few of my own while on routine checks in a mirror. Life is a great teacher of facts.

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  7. I do remember blue hair! Honestly, I can’t be bothered with any of it anymore, so “natural” gray will have to do. Thanks for another entertaining post. 🙂

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    • Looking back, they were rather strange looking with their blue hair coiffed to the nines! I wonder if it washed out? I “played” so much with my own hair, with the idea it could always grow out, that there isn’t much to bother about now! Oh well, it was fun.

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  8. Shed tears over hair? I did it just once — the day I walked out of a salon after a haircut knowing I looked like Sinead O’Connor. That was 25 years ago, and I’ve done all my own hair-cutting since.

    But color? I’ve never tried it. There was a brief infatuation with peroxide in high school, but we mostly contented ourselves with lemon juice or beer rinses. I started to go gray just as my mother did — with a sleek little white streak in front. Now I’ve grayed sufficiently that grocery store sackers ask it I need help to my car. Not yet, thank goodness. But I have hopes, because Mom’s hair because the purest white you’ve ever seen, with not a bit of yellow or blue to it. I should be so lucky!

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    • I’m not shedding tears, but the woman who cuts my locks must have been upset with me the other day, because she got a bit carried away with her scissors. Not exactly Sinead O’Connor, but too close for comfort.
      My mom’s hair began turning in her 20’s and became a lovely color I will never achieve. My father, on the other hand, did not turn gray, his very dark hair just got a bit lighter. A local newscaster, Hispanic, began with a small streak in front which keeps getting wider. Most attractive.
      The strange thing is how much we care about hair, and how much time and money is devoted to it.

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  9. I call my gray “sparkle” and fully expect it will defeat my efforts to tame it at some point. Until then, I’m an aspiring brunette.
    Great blog post.

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