The other day as my class was walking to lunch, I was looking carefully at one my young friend’s hair. “You’re hair is really pretty,” I said. “It’s not really a single color at all. It’s an interesting mix of colors.” She smiled and swished her hair around her. She looked like a model working for a shampoo or hair color company. “It’s sort of a blondish-reddish-brownish,” I went on. She’s a swimmer too, and so it has some of the shiny chlorine effects you see with those who spend a lot of time in a pool.
“Thanks,” she said. “I got it from my parents. And your hair is,” she paused. “Grayish, brownish.”
“Really? Gray is the first word you would use to describe my hair?”
“Sure.” I went back in line a few children to get the opinion of someone who did not hear our conversation. “What color would you say my hair is?”
“Um, probably grayish, brownish.” What was this, a conspiracy? Back a few more kids in line.
“What color is my hair?”
“Gray.” Gray? No other color adjective? No ‘ish’ to make it not quite so true?
End of the line. Same question – different kid.
“I’d say,” he paused, taking his chin in his hand, considering my question carefully as we walked. “Sort of brown.” Whew! And then, “With a lot of gray in there. Sort of mixed up. Like a salad.”
It must be true. Kids don’t lie. Well, most kids don’t lie. Not about that kind of thing anyway. Hmmm. Gray hair.
I have seen it coming. I don’t spend a lot of time in front of the mirror. I do trim my beard every week or so. Yes, it is getting very gray. No. White. But I don’t really comb my hair or brush it. I just run my fingers through it after getting out of the shower or after coming inside from recess. I don’t really study it. But, yeah, I have seen it coming from a distance.
Heidi tells me that she likes the gray in my hair. Distinguished and all that. But she would have to say that right? I notice that she has lots of gray hair. It’s silver and shimmery on her. It mostly comes out of her crown and falls over the back of her head. And it does look pretty. And I don’t have to say that. She probably won’t read this.
I know lots of people who color their hair. For some, the coloring is so obvious. As in, there are NO people that age with THAT color. Some people try to keep it subtle. You know, highlights or some soft shade that is pretty close to their former real color. It’s funny to walk into a hair salon (formerly know as a beauty parlor) and see the folks getting highlights with those odd little caps on their heads with the strands poking through. They look a little like sea anemone.
I know this guy about my age, probably older, with jet-black hair and beard. It’s kind of long in the back. He would look like a pirate with a mullet if he had an eye patch. With the wrinkles and the chin sag that accompanies most gentlemen my age, the blue-black hair isn’t a good fit.
Don’t get me wrong. We all probably do things that wouldn’t occur in nature to make ourselves look and feel better. I scrape the whiskers off my throat. If I didn’t, they would probably grow right down my shirt into my chest hair. There isn’t much of a border there between those two hair countries. They would form one big hair continent. I have a pierced ear. That certainly isn’t natural.
My dad had brown hair. He had a little gray in his short sideburns. And I saw a picture of him with a gray beard that my mom took when they took a trip to Ireland and he didn’t shave for a couple weeks. When he was a kid one of his nicknames was Red. But the day he died, at 64, he had brown hair with nary a strand of gray. He was proud of that hair, proud of the fact that some people thought he colored it or that he was wearing a toupee. Nope. All real.
I really don’t care about hair color. It is what it is. Comes with the territory and all that. I am certainly not going to color over it. And I am really glad that Heidi has no plans to color over hers. I remember when I first saw the first few strands of gray in Heidi’s hair. It sort of amazed me. As in, are we really that old? Did we really make it this far to have gray hair? Have we been together that long? And it takes my breath a way a little. When we take our evening walks, Heidi is walking with a gray-headed man (I still maintain an ish, but some might not think so).
When we met, back in 1976, we were slender, our faces were tight, we were light on our feet and our hair was pretty much one color. Heidi auburn; me brown. My beard was red. It happened so gradually you know, this slide from brown to gray(ish). But it is cool. Absolutely cool. Because I am growing gray with the one I have loved for so long. And she does look at my face. And it is OK with her. Just fine. And I am the lucky one.
But when I am filling out that little line on the form for hair color at the DMV when I am applying for my new driver’s license? I’ll probably put brown.