My brother and father never dyed their hair, of course. "It's different for men," my mother says. "They look distinguished. Women look wizened."
But I spent most of the past month sitting beside my father's bed as he died, and staring at his glorious shock of silver white hair. His hair was so abundant and healthy, it looked jarring and incongruous against his jaundiced skin and skeletal frame.
Even the Hospice nurses and his caregivers had trouble believing he was dying: "But look at that head of hair! He's so handsome!"
Also, to the extent that his brain still worked, he retained a wicked sense of humor. One day he couldn't remember my brother's name. Not wanting to admit that dementia had gotten the best of him, he called out instead, "Hey, Fatty!"
Fatty's also handsome, by the way, and not actually fat--the caregivers informed me that he was muy guapo. His hair is more gunmetal than moonlight, and no one's calling him wizened.
A couple of nights before my father died, I began to hatch my plan. I stayed up too late Pinterest-ing images of women with naturally gray hair and texting pictures to my poor stylist, the omnipresent smart phone an effective distraction from thinking about the inevitable.
"I can't strip all of the color out of your hair; that would totally damage it," she said. "But I can give you some highlights, and we can tint them ash blonde, so the roots will be less noticeable when they grow in."
I was dubious--I don't feel right as a blonde. But I figured it was my only option, so I decided to first get my hair cut short, to minimize the grow out time. I actually drove to my stylist's house to get it done, since she was booked up at the salon.
"Oh my." She looked at my Pinterest board. "Those are all really short."
"Be bold!" I encouraged her, and she was. We started like this:
I made an appointment for the following day to finish up the color...And then my dad died. Someday I'll talk about that in more detail, but for now I'll just say that after we had said our final goodbyes and met with the Hospice Chaplain, I invited my mother and brother back to my house--after my hair color appointment.
I felt weird and I'll just go ahead and say it, guilty sitting in the stylist's chair right then. But it was a space of silence, where I could sit and feel numb while someone who cares for me did her best to get rid of one aspect of my past appearance and help me transition to one more consistent with who I am psychologically as well as genetically, and that seemed entirely appropriate.
So the next step was to lighten select pieces while toning the rest ash brown, then tone the highlights as blonde. However, once we removed the foils and washed the bleach off, my stylist decided that the highlights were light enough that we could skip toning ash blonde and instead use Pravana Silver, a trendy wash that would instead tone my lighter hair silver-gray--that much closer to my roots:
Take a second and go Google "Pravana Silver Images." Lovely, no?
So we decided to go for it:
What's that you say? Why, yes, my hair is blue. Not silver.
I sat in the chair, staring at my reflection. My stylist freaked out. I considered freaking out. And then, I remembered that my dad had an affectionate term for little old ladies: "Blue Hairs."
So I decided to embrace it. After all, it beats being called Fatty.