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Covering The Gray: An Exercise in Futility
by Marjorie Dorfman

Are you overwhelmed with the gray hair that keeps encroaching on your poor, middle-aged head? Read on for some advice and hopefully, a laugh or two.

The first time I covered "my gray" was just about when I accepted the fact that they weren't making the print any smaller and that I really did need glasses after all. It was a painful double whammy day in mid-life, comparable to losing a few teeth. (It doesn't hurt at the time, but when the shock wears off, watch out!) The problem with gray hair is that once it arrives, it's like a persistent houseguest: it never leaves and is always in your face. Unlike a hangnail or the sniffles, its presence on one's head is a constant taunt and reminder of time slipping imperceptibly away. First I tried Henna to cover up my middle-aged tracks. I figured if it was good enough for Queen Nefretete and Cleopatra, it was good enough for me. That worked for a while, but then my gray became stronger, more resistant, and I moved into the big league, nuclear rinses. Now I have so much gray that covering it without professional help is like trying to hold back Niagara Falls, or in other words, it's gotten out of hand.

How did this thing called "gray" happen to me in the first place? The last thing I remember I was about 19 and the world was sort of my oyster which I had sort of on a string. It's really true what they say about youth being wasted on the young. Our earlier years are a powerful state of being and mind that none of us ever think about until we all slide, and not so gently I might add, into the wayward, unforgiving grasp of middle age. And there's no stopping the plunge once the descent has started. Forget about look before you leap and other such adages. There's no choice in the matter of general deterioration unless you wish to do it all at once by killing yourself! I will always opt for life, but gray is another matter.

Why couldn't nature turn our hair turn pastel or autumn colors as we age? At least that would be somewhat poetic! Why does it have to be such a dull, uninteresting gray? That's fine for a pants set or a car or a pocketbook, but come on guys. The bitter truth is that if I can't change the gray, then I must hide it. I doubt if this is the same as keeping up with the Joneses because the last time I looked, they had gray hair too! It must be just the way of all flesh, as Samuel Butler used to say (before he went that same route, of course!)

If I have to cover it, I have to cover it. What bothers me more is the question of why it can't stay covered. Why do I have to keep returning to the scene of the crime and do it again and again? It's not bad enough that it's there, it wants attention too! This is like adding insult to injury and makes me want to fight back. So tell me, how does one wage war against brazen hair follicles? What weapons must one use? Perhaps the following suggestions might help to "have our way with the gray."

First of all, surround yourself with people that are older and grayer. (This also works if you want to look thinner.) If everyone else is grayer than you, your gray won't be so obvious and you will feel better. Secondly, only keep mirrors in the bathroom. After you've checked your face for the day, believe me when I say that once is enough. I've had it with staring into the living room and hall mirrors and counting my gray hairs on my way in and out of the house. Always try to leave a little gray somewhere on your head or person. It looks more natural than not having a shred of it anywhere, especially if one is over forty-five. It will also serve to calm the gray down and make it feel a little more welcome. Just maybe it will leave you alone and not advance any further, but I wouldn't count on that if I were you. Lastly, do not discuss your gray with anyone, except maybe your hairdresser. (You might as well. He/she knows anyway.) Deny in general that it's even there and try not to think about it. This won't help at all, but it might empower you to get a life beyond the gray (or the blue horizon, if you prefer).

If all of the above fails, look elsewhere. Find other gray things to concentrate on. There's an endless supply of sidewalks, cars and skies on certain days. (Do not listen to songs about other colors such as "Blue Suede Shoes" or "Red Sails in the Sunset." They will only make you sad (or blue, if you choose). Be strong about primary colors, understand they are the enemy and ignore them. If this fails, give up and paint everything around you gray. Then no one will even be able to find you and you can go through life as a mere figment of someone else's imagination. Only tell your exact location to the people you really care about and let everyone else fall by the gray wayside. Call me if you think of another solution. If I'm not at home, I'm probably at the hair salon. Can you guess what I'm doing there?

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Copyright 2002