Just do it, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Not! Well, actually, that’s not what they said. What they said is this: Touchable Hold. (Not!) Temporary hair color. (Umm, how long is temporary??) Air Brush Tint. (Not exactly the look I got.) WASHES OUT WITH SHAMPOO. So not true. All of it, lies. Lies, lies, lies. It’s a darn good thing we are pandemically housebound and I can’t go anywhere and no one will see me. (Except you, if I decide to include that photo.) I was born a blonde and stayed that way until I was around 4 years old. Once on a road trip, for entertainment, my pre-teen kids tried to pluck the stray grays out of my head while I was driving. The first time I colored my hair, I called my sister, the hairdresser one, in tears. “It’s so dark,” I cried. “What do I do?” “Wash it with Dawn soap,” she said. “Three or four times. It’ll be fine,” she said. It wasn’t. My hair absorbed that color and held on for dear life. My head hurt from the half bottle of Dawn I had scrubbed with, resulting in a Brillo texture. I should have remembered that. When I later complained to my other siblings, I was rewarded with a bottle of Roux Fanci-full Silver Fox hair tint from the Easter Bunny. I remember it very well. I wanted to cover the gray, but not too darkly, and they thought this was funny. I vowed to never color my hair again. And I didn’t,. Until the next time. Forget Miss Clairol; I went to a professional. Oh, the joys of multi-dimensional hair color. Streaks, frosts, low lights, and highlights. The cost went up incrementally, but pretty soon I couldn’t wait six or seven weeks for a touch-up. Then I couldn’t wait four weeks. I was using a stupid wand thing to hide the skunk stripes on the sides of my head. If I tried to save money and use a store product myself, I looked like Morticia Adams. If I waited too long to get to the salon, I looked like Lily Munster. I gave up pedicures first; then manicures, until I finally went cold turkey and transitioned to a natural look. Amazingly, it only took two months and a good haircut for me to become completely silver. A couple of years ago, though, my sister was visiting. I told her I was ready for a change. We went and bought some shade of brunette hair color so I could get low lights again. The result, though, was orange instead of brown. Not fiery redhead or soft ginger. Orange. Yes. So we tried it again, thinking it would darken. Nope. More orange. So we washed and scrubbed. Then we went back to Sally Beauty Supply and got something to strip the color, and more product to return me to silver. Still not the desired result. Still light orange, sort of a strawberry blonde. I did not like it, but there was nothing to do except waiting. Days, weeks. It took nearly a month for that tint to fade out. Why I didn’t remember that experience, I don’t know. My next foray was color, as in purple. Just highlights here and there. I tried a comb-on gel that was supposed to be semi-permanent. And it washed right out. It was a lot of work – clean hair, poke tiny strands through the plastic scarf thing, comb on, let it sit for 40 minutes, rinse. Except rinsing was really erasing. At least it didn’t turn me orange. Then I discovered purple hair spray, like the kind the kids use at Halloween. That worked great once I got the hang of controlling the nozzle and getting the color where I wanted. Only once did I have a purple ear; after that, I learned how to use tissue and Vaseline to protect the skin where I didn’t want color. From purple, I went to pink. I could decide from time to time if I wanted color or not, and it lasted only until my next shower in a day or two. That product was discontinued at Sally. I bought 3 small cans on the clearance rack, and still have two of them two years later. I only use it very occasionally but it’s fun once in a while. But I found a brown one also on that clearance table, and it was for root touch-ups. Brunette, it read. So I thought maybe I could give myself some depth or dimension from time to time by only spraying the root line a little. Somehow, I didn’t have the nerve to use it, until two days ago. I used it very sparsely. I kinda liked the deeper root line. I was ready to take a shower and thought that just for kicks, I’d see how all my hair looked if I went brunette again. I was going to wash it out right away anyway. So I sprayed away. The roots were darker than the rest of the hair, though. I left it on a few minutes longer. Then I sprayed some more. It didn’t seem natural, and it sure wasn’t what I would call brunette. It was definitely in the ginger category on me. Of course, I’m not 30 or 40 or 50 anymore either. But I was going to wash it out anyway. Right away. A funny thing happened though. As weird and sticky as the texture seemed to be, it had enough moisture in it to make my hair curl more than usual. It’s naturally curly when the humidity gets up there, but it’s really not curly-curly. It tames down to a softer curl, wavier, once I get a brush in it. Touchable Hold, says the can. So not touchable! More like Sticky Goo Hold. I could hardly get my fingers into it, much less through it, and forget a brush. It wasn’t bad, though, this light brown chestnut look. I mean, it did look colored, but there was enough of my own natural color in places that it looked like I had frosted my hair from back in the day. So I left it on for a while I made the bed and straightened up. For maybe 15 minutes I pretended I was young again, looking at myself every time I came within peeking distance of a mirror. Would I dare to start coloring again? Nah, probably not. It was a fantasy, and a pricey one at that, never mind the inability to get to a salon regularly given our pandemic restrictions. Finally, I stepped into the shower. I poured out a liberal amount of Paul Mitchell Shampoo One (gentle cleansing, you know). My hair felt like it was glued in place. I made sure it was very wet and tried again. I could barely get my fingers into the muck, and it hurt a little when I tried to lather up. I rinsed as best I could and told myself to get ready for the repeat. This time I used my Biolage Moisture Plus, and lots of it. A few more strands came loose. I used Biolage conditioner to try and soften things up, and that worked…about as well as trying to thin out setting cement with more water. I had a bar of Irish Spring soap, that was my third attempt. It was harsh, I know, but this girl was not going to get out of that shower until I could get my fingers through my hair. It seemed to have the intended effect, so I gooped another palmful of conditioner and let it do its magic while I buffed and polished the rest of me, complete with a sugar scrub, shaving my legs, and using the pumice on the heels of my feet. No more excuses; I was done. I have needed glasses (or contact lenses) to correct my vision since I went into the 9th grade. I have pretty good near vision but need them for clarity for anything more than a few feet away. Like most people, though, I do not wear my glasses in the shower. Yet, I stepped out of the shower stall and looked across the room to the mirror. I am blessed with a large dream bathroom. It is at least 8′ from my shower to the sink vanity where the mirror is. One glance and I had no doubt that my hair was still a shade of Not Silver, nor gray, nor even blonde. It was still some version of cafe au lait. I knew it was darker because it was wet but I also knew it wasn’t going to dry white either. It’s been roughly 4 months since we’ve been homebound with Safer At Home rules due to the Covid-19 virus. I wear my mask when I go out, and my hairstyle includes bangs. I also wear the aforementioned glasses. I no longer take the time to “put on my face,” i.e., makeup. I will use a light coat of eyeliner but no mascara, no foundation or blush, not even lipstick. My face has been free and my skin is as natural as my hair. Except for today. I am made up today, complete with a turquoise beaded necklace to draw attention away from my hair. Which is some version of dull anything. If I were a painter, I might call it a cross between raw umber and yellow ochre. And oddly, it is fairly well distributed. I guess the shampooing helped spread the joy around my crowning glory. It is still not what I would call “touchable.” It pulled way too much for that when I tried to blow it dry. It has also gone from cute Brillo coils and curls to an SOS pad without the blue soap in it. I used Argan oil to help with the frizziness but still needed the curling iron to tame it. Now I worry that the heat from the iron may have tattooed the color onto my hair strands. It probably can’t get much worse, but I was afraid to try the hair wax stuff in the orange jar for shine just in case it somehow did … get worse. It rained last night so I don’t have to go out to water my plants. Trash day was yesterday. I went to the grocery store last week. My next Amazon delivery isn’t supposed to be until Friday. I have hung pillowcases on the mirrors in the bathrooms so I can avoid looking at myself. I will avoid any Zoom or other video calls for a few days and it will all come out in the wash. Eventually. Right? ‘Cuz I want to get back to this. Forever. And ever. Amen.
by Patricia Duggan