Only My Hairdresser Knows For Sure

Did I ever tell you my hair color horror story?  I was in such a state of shock for several weeks, that I don't believe I could bring myself to write about it.   While the most devastating effects have now faded from my memory (and thankfully from my hair!) the ramifications continue in other ways. Here's what happened...

ist2_7887712-applying-hair-colour1On December 4, 2008, I made an appointment for my regular hair cut/color session.  I've been coloring my hair for a while, first getting highlights, but recently having an all-over color just to brighten my dark brown hair and cover the isolated gray hair that cropped up now and again.  I've had the same stylist for a couple of years, and I love her dearly.   My heart goes out to her in many ways - she has an interesting life, but that's for another post.

Anyway, she puts the color on as usual, checking her little notebook for the formula.  She comes back with her dish of color, and starts brushing it on. 

"Wait a minute," she says.  "Let me just check that formula again."  She grabs the notebook and runs her index finger down the page.   "Yes, okay,"  she says.  "That's what I did.  Okay, then."

She continues painting away, and we talk - about my plans for the night which include attending my husband's big Christmas concert at U of M's Hill Auditorium, about all my friends who are going, about my boss and her husband and their friends who are going for the first time, about how I will see some of my former high school students in the Michigan Men's Glee Club, who are guest performers at the concert.  How excited I.  How much fun it will be.

And then I sit for 30 minutes while the color "takes."

And then she unwraps the towel from my head and says the words no woman wants to hear from her hairdresser.

"Oh, no."

"What?" I said warily, rearing up from the shampoo bowl.

"Oh, Becky," she said in a whisper.  "You hair is not the right color."

"What do you mean?" I yelped. " What color is it?"

"It's," she replied, pushing my shoulder down into the crux of the shampoo bowl.  "Here, let me see if I can rinse some of this out."

"How red is it?" I asked as she scrubbed my head.  "I mean, is it bright red? Or auburn? Or orange? What color red?"

"It's not orange-red, it's -  well, it's more purple," she answered.


It's 3:00 p.m., I'm leaving for Ann Arbor in 2 hours, and I have purple hair.

I caught a glimpse of it once, in between rinses and clarifiers and all kinds of other treatments.  At one point, four stylists were clustered around me, conferring like a bunch of surgeons over an ungainly and inoperable tumor.  My hair was that cranberry color some of the younger girls are wearing now.  It was unbelievably horrible. 

I swallowed hard.  "My God," was all I could say.  Finally, I had to call a halt. 

"I have to leave," I told them.  "You've got to make it as presentable as possible." 

"Presentable" turned out to be almost equally terrifying shade of black - the dark black some of the other younger girls are wearing, the girls they call "Goths."

Believe me when I tell you there were days I couldn't look at myself in the mirror.  I have always had dark brown hair, but this was jet black - like my daughter in laws beautiful Asian locks, but looking absolutely ridiculous on this fair skinned, middle aged Caucasian woman.

And so I swore up and down I would never color my hair again.  I was desperate to see my "real" hair, longed to see my own brown, wavy hair, the color I was born with.  I ached with regret for covering it up, for being so vain as to want a new color.  "If my real hair is under here," I begged, "I'll never cover it up again."

It's been four months now, four months of daily washes with clarifying shampoo (for a while I was washing my hair in Tide with bleach, trying to strip out the color faster).  The horrible black has faded to a quite presentable chestnut brown.  And there is new hair growing in daily, new hair that is apparently the natural color I was so longing to see once again.

Except it isn't.  Because all my new hair growth is gray.

 I've never been terribly vain about my appearance. I don't wear tons of makeup, and I've  never even considered having cosmetic surgery.  But I am finding it difficult to accept the idea of seeing my hair entirely gray.  I've always been fond of my hair - even though it's occasionally unruly in humid weather, it's thick and wavy, it lies beautifully when cut well, and is extremely easy to style with 10 minutes and blow dryer.  And it was a rich, chocolate brown, with natural auburn highlights. 

My mother had beautiful dark brown hair too, just like mine.  Her hair turned gray when she was in her late 30's.  Back in those days, she colored her hair with a technique called "frosting," which was similar to highlighting now.  Once, having just returned from the salon with a fresh "salt and pepper" look, my great grandmother took one look at her and said with her usual candor, "Honey, I don't know why you don't let your hair go back to its natural color."

My mother laughed.  "Grandma, I sure wish I could!" she replied.

Ah yes, so do I.

How about you? Do you have a hair color horror story?  Do you color you hair, or go au naturel?  Or does only your hairdresser know for sure?