About six years ago, I did that thing women of a certain age aren’t “supposed” to do: I stopped colouring my hair. Soon afterward, a female acquaintance of similar vintage felt compelled to provide a report, which she delivered with a combination of concern and competitive glee, on the number of shady interlopers congregating in back, suggesting I was overdue for a salon visit.
Going au naturel, so to speak, evokes an astonishingly visceral reaction. How dare I actually choose to do so? After all, the right shade, savvy marketers purr, will make all the difference. You will still be you, but a better you, defying the slings and arrows of Mother Nature and Father Time through a shimmering, multi-dimensional forcefield. If it doesn’t work out, just pick another colour. With a little effort, a fair bit of cash, and a slightly itchy scalp, you can not only look glam, but also fight the clock!
Do not curse me, manufacturers and purveyors of hair-colour products, for I’m sure I kept you solvent in my many years of trying to keep up appearances. And not just for grey coverage, but style. More than once I left the salon with something far too dramatic, acquiescing to the whims of stylists and, after wincing repeatedly at my reflection, sought a home remedy to tone it down. The result was usually odd with copper highlights. Then I’d wash it multitudinous times to fade it, tie it back and vow to never do the same again.
Until I did. There’s something mesmerizing about what happens in that salon chair, whether it’s sitting primly while adorned with a crown of foil – a look that could easily be mistaken for an attempt to receive alien radio signals instead of highlights – or the subdued calm induced by tightly bundled plastic wrap for colour processing. Call it the magic of anticipation; the promise of crowning glory.
I attempted to rediscover my natural colour in my 30s, thinking I’d just get it back to “normal” and leave it alone, scouring the aisles of permanent and semi-permanent hues for the ever-elusive match. During this Holy-Grail quest, an intriguing new trend surfaced amongst younger women as they took the shades once designed to ease women into senior citizenry and inverted them, showing brunette, ginger and flaxen roots atop greyscale locks. At first, I thought it was a bold feminist statement, but I ultimately realized it to be no different than the incipient expressions of individuality my friends and I experimented with in our teens. Back then, lemon juice and sunshine were all you needed.
Despite the pleas and thinly veiled disdain, I’m sticking to the plan and avoiding the telltale stripe that is a recurring side-effect of colouring beyond a certain time. The first two years were moderately dreadful, but with a modicum of patience – all right, an abundance of patience – you, too, can discover and embrace your authentic shade after years of colouring. Mine turned out to be chocolate brown with a touch of auburn and a growing luminescence. But there’s nothing wrong with a bit of bling.