My first silver hair appeared when I was 29. At that time, I lived in Dearborn and worked at the City-County Building in downtown Detroit. I was a file clerk in the Civil Service Department of Wayne County. Most of my workmates were 20 years my senior and satisfied with the daily routine of paperwork. The word monotonous cannot begin to describe how I felt about my dead-end office job. I held a bachelor's degree in English from Wayne State University and felt I was qualified for something more than pulling files.
I recall quite clearly working at my desk one morning when the only peer about my age stopped by for a quick chat. After talking for a few minutes about nothing of consequence, she turned the conversation to hair. She was one of those gals obsessed with tresses. You know the kind-always a new haircut or style every payday. Without preamble or any sense of decorum, she reached over and snatched the silver strand from my temple.
I was stunned. That lovely hair was special to me as it signaled the entrance of a new decade in my life and perhaps a new adventure. It was only one lonely lock, a solitary warrior struggling to gain a foothold among a mess of brown. When I found my voice, I chastised her for pulling out the hair. It wasn't hers so it wasn't her business. In the waning days of my 20s, I failed to realize people often stick their long fingers-as well as their noses-into the business of others.
Well anyway, that was many years ago. My employment at Wayne County is a distant memory. The only reason I recall it at all is due to the hair pulling episode. Since then my brown hair has just about disappeared. Like many women, when I saw it slipping away I no longer saw the beauty of silver, but only the gray of growing older. I had given up the idea of gray hair bringing excitement into my life and faced the reality that age does not always guarantee adventure.
So without hesitation, I reached for a bottle of Clairol's Nice 'n Easy. For almost 30 years, I doused my head with various shades of brown until my hair was multi-colored. It was a combination of Medium Golden Brown, Light Golden Brown, and when I was feeling particularly adventurous, I tried Medium Auburn.
Hair dye, like many other artificial products, can give you an unexpected surprise. Although I was careful about the colors I chose, trying to keep as close to my natural shade as possible, the dye had a mind of its own. In the dim light of my home, I admired my hair and made peace with the monthly dying process. Unknown to me, the color changed when exposed to bright sunlight.
As I wasn't in the habit of carrying a mirror with me when I stepped outside, I was unprepared for my daughter's comments one warm summer afternoon. While we lunched in her backyard, Stephanie mentioned how much she liked the lovely streaks of purple that had overtaken my gray. She said purple was more attractive than blue, and I should happily flaunt whatever color the dye turned my hair because I still had some. I left her apartment feeling rather satisfied with my appearance. I was convinced no one else would notice my purple strands.
That feeling of satisfaction lasted a few more months until I walked into Goodwill one day and ran into a kid about 12 years old. He stared at me for a few minutes then said, "Hey lady, you're in style with that cool purple hair." Although he gave me a big grin and a thumbs up, I knew it was time to throw out the Clairol and surrender. My battle with gray was over, and indoors or out, the victor was all too clear.
It's been seven years since my last dye job. Next May marks the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation. I'm getting a little apprehensive. Should I rub Lady Clairol into my scalp and fake my hair color? Should I pretend I'm one of the lucky gals blessed with the anti-gray gene?
I've probably already made my decision and don't want to admit it. I'm simply not vain enough to trot off to Walmart and hand over a sliver of my social security check. I probably have no more intention of coloring my hair than I have of wearing four inch stilettos and a mini skirt.
Bring on the 50th anniversary. I'm ready and waiting!
Editor's note: Sharon Kennedy of Brimley has earned a graduate degree in creating writing from Northern Michigan University. At 67, she calls herself a humorist and hopes readers connect with her observations on the monotony of daily life and the witty mental gymnastics humans practice to impress each other.