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I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin deep.

That's deep enough. What do you want -- an adorable pancreas?

-- Jean Kerr, author

I don't recall my great-grandmother's hair being anything other than gray. I'm pretty sure she was born gray. Back then, genteel women didn't color their hair, or they certainly didn't admit to it. But in the mid-1950s, all that changed with the invention of the at-home hair color and Clairol's famous "Does she ... or doesn't she?" slogan. Within six years, 70 percent of all adult women colored their hair.

My grandmother, Ruby, was quite fond of her lengthy auburn locks that embodied her name, and she dyed her hair well into her 50s. I remember her saving a long curl when she decided to cut it off and let it go snow white.

My mama preferred to keep her dark brown hair short. She used to "frost" it when I was younger, which made no sense to me because I thought we were taking the frost out of the hair, not adding it back in. She danced with Miss Clairol for several years before showing her salt and pepper. And although they fretted over the decision, I remember thinking at the time that both my mama and her mama looked better when they stopped coloring their hair. I told myself I'd not color mine when I got older.

Ah, yes, out of the mouths of babes. How easy it is to know what you will do in your 40s when you're in your single digits. When you're 7 years of age, anything above 23 is old. And old people have gray hair, so that's that. When I'm elderly at 30, I thought, I'd have long gray locks like Emmylou and I'd be fine with that.

I embraced the first few grays, but as the strands began to breed and shine like beacons from my dark brown mane, vanity took me hostage. I wasn't graying evenly, but rather, in two main sections at the crown and the widow's peak on my front hairline. I wasn't going to look like Emmylou. I was going to look like Cruella de Vil. Dalmatian puppies would run from me.

So last week, I bought a box of hair color. Actually, I bought four boxes of hair color because I couldn't decide at the store. I lined them all up on the sink like little soldiers reporting for duty. I asked for a volunteer, and Golden Chestnut stepped forward.

I read some of the 193 lines of fine print, donned the gloves, mixed the bottles and carefully applied the fountain of youth to my thick, mostly dark brown hair. I then set the timer, sat in the floor and chatted on the phone with my West Coast gal pal while the potion worked its magic.

From the floor, I couldn't see myself in the mirror. From the floor, I had no idea what was percolating atop my shoulders.

When the timer beeped, we hung up the phone and I hopped in the shower, glancing at myself in the mirror. Boy, it sure doesn't look golden, and it sure doesn't look chestnut. I rinsed and rinsed as red water swirled down the drain like the famous scene from Hitchcock's Psycho. I got out, grabbed a towel and looked in the mirror.

Golden Chestnut, my foot. My brown hair was ... RED! I looked like a matchstick.

I read online about what to do and found a recipe of clarifying shampoo and baking soda to lift color out of dyed hair. I tied my hair up as best I could and walked to the market. Back home, I scoured my hair with the alkaline solution and sat for 15 minutes while my pets lined up beside the shower to watch the show. I rinsed and rinsed, and my once silky locks felt like straw as the water ran red again.

I got out again, grabbed a towel and looked in the mirror. Most of the red was gone. Now, I looked like a broom.

Over the next few days of heavy conditioning, as my hair returned to a fairly manageable dark brown, I pondered my vanity. I'd never considered myself vain, but clearly, I had a streak or two of it that rivaled those grays. One can age and be beautiful, I reminded myself. I'll not be so weak in the future. No, sir, I'm done with all that nonsense.

Wait. Is that a wrinkle?

NAN Our Town on 07/07/2016

Print Headline: Does she ... or doesn't she?

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