Lone woman who doesn’t use hair color

Sitting through a large, boring, work-related meeting the other day, I started looking around for something to do other than the usual counting of ceiling and floor tiles to keep myself from fidgeting.

That’s what I used to do in church when I was a kid. I would also count all the windows, light fixtures and candles, then cross my eyes and count them again to make sure there were twice as many. Other times, I would leaf through the hymnal, counting how often a word such as “Savior” appeared or look for typos in the bulletin.

I’ve never been much of a doodler, so I have to create other ways to occupy my mind. Ideally, I would darn socks and mend underwear to keep myself busy when I have to sit for too long. But I’m guessing that wouldn’t be as socially acceptable as my past practice of crocheting afghans to pass the time at baseball games.

So instead, I do mental surveys of how many people I think are wearing contact lenses and note whose ears are pierced, followed by higher level math activities calculating how many pounds by which the room, collectively, is overweight compared to the national average.

Those curiosities satiated that day, I began noting how many women had obviously colored or highlighted hair: Everyone but me. I realized I was onto something far more entertaining than determining the ratio of brown versus black shoes or laced versus slip-on footwear. What can I say? My time and mind are terrible things to waste with drawn-out meetings.

Hair color observation presented as many possibilities as the representative hair colors. It appealed to my obsessive-compulsive need to detect patterns, form theories and categorize results. In no time, I identified three distinct reasons why women color their hair: To cover up the gray or white, to add spice to natural color palates, and to make bored someones like me wonder what the heck they were thinking.

For every four good color jobs, a fifth is noticeably bad. One in 12 is incredibly bad. Reading this, you may wonder if you could be counted among the hair color casualties. Mercifully, you can’t know for certain, for unless a color job is outright awful, the mirror never conveys an accurate picture. So it’s okay to continue leaving the house.

It’s not like anyone is going to tell you, certainly not the hairdresser you paid all that money to for unnaturally horrifying results. But we all know bad color when we see it perched atop someone else’s head. Reading this, your mind raced to several women you know with “interesting” hair color. Admit it.

As a wordsmith who delights in naming things, I couldn’t help but generate titles for the hair colors I saw. It might have said “Light Ash Blonde” on the box, but the finished product looked more like “Don’t Take Me Seriously Bimbo Blonde.” Other colors I classified that day ranged from “Why Bother Brown” to “Unrealistic Red” to an oddity I termed “Uncivil War Against Aging” which is a drab gray cover-up strategy that ends up blue-tinted. You know that of which I speak.

I’m sure someone during that same meeting was checking out my nondescript hair, wondering why I don’t do something to it, probably thinking, “Her mop could sure use some highlights.” It’s human nature to want to groom the other monkeys around you.

So why don’t I color my hair? I used to. When hair frosting was big in the late 1970s, my mother frosted my eighth grade head. It turned out so badly, she went out and bought a box of color to return it to its natural blonde state. I soon found myself a passenger (more like a hostage) on the perpetually southbound hair coloring train. As with leg shaving, once you start hair coloring, you just can’t stop.

Fortunately, my grandma Kate, who had helped me color my hair, eventually refused to continue as my accomplice in this crime against nature. “It’s not your hair, it’s your self-image that’s off track,” she said. With locomotive speed, I tore up my ticket for the Neutral Golden Blonde passenger section. Ride over!

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