Dyeing to Tell You: My Ungreying

I didn't tell anyone at the time. Until now, I've never told anyone. I felt such deep shame, such conflict deep in my soul, such... nausea and disgust. It was like the aftermath of one of my yearly KFC pig-outs, but worse, because there were no greasy fried chicken parts to comfort me, no crispy potato wedges to attach paper (or chicken) wings to and fly out my sunroom window, and no brightly colored cardboard bucket that I could wear as a fez for a few weeks until it started smelling bad. No, there was just the guilt and shame.

You see, for about a year and until very recently I dyed my hair to cover up the grey.

Now, it's true, women dye out grey as a matter of course and no one thinks anything of it, and while they might not trumpet it, they're usually not shy about admitting it to friends, family or lovers. But somehow, it just seemed wrong for a guy to do it, unmanly, vain. I mean, I am a Modern Enlightened Liberated Guy and as a MELG, yes, I understand how sexist my attitude about dyeing sounds and perhaps is, but I grew up in a different time, when trilobytes filled the skies from Pangea to Pangea, dogs ran for the Senate and men did not dye their hair. Oh, sure, maybe punks would dye their hair green or purple and spike it, but I never did that. For one thing, I wasn't sure how I'd sleep, and I worried that I'd poke holes in my pillow and inhale the feathers. You know, more than usual.

Before taking on its current perhaps over-seasoned salt-and-pepper tone, my hair had a lot of red highlights, all of which went grey pretty much inside a week. (And a stressful week it was too, because I think that was also the week of the last episode of The Sopranos. Seriously, David Chase: alive or dead? Just tell me; I promise I won't tell anyone except the people who read my Huffington Post pieces, so it'll be like our little secret.) My beard too used to come in mostly red and now is mostly white and grey. Co-worker's reaction when I grew the beard out for a couple of weeks recently: "Dude, are you trying to look like an old wino?" I was carrying a brown paper bag of muscatel around the office, so okay, I probably left myself wide open to that. Nevertheless, I shaved the burgeoning beard off that evening and haven't considered growing another one since.

I had what I thought were good reasons for de-greying: it becomes harder to find work in my profession when you're grey (I'm in eternal-youth marketing); I was dating and didn't want women my own age to think I was on Social Security (oh, and just by the way: bite me, AARP, with your massive junk mail campaign aimed at I'm guessing by this point everyone down to tweens and toddlers) (except all those AARP discounts look pretty sweet, actually); and perhaps most importantly, I am a monster of vanity and self-regard.

I had no illusions that I could do the dyeing myself: as my condo neighbors can attest, I am not good with chemicals. (Oh, sure, like you know the difference between flammable and inflammable.) (What? No difference? Hmm. Excuse me while I dial 911. It's about time, anyway; they get worried about me if I don't call every few days.) I knew well enough not to put caustic chemicals on my own head. The woman at my hair salon (a manly hair salon, damn it!) suggested something called "Camo" (See? Manly!) which she described as a subtle color process -- I was determined that my hair not look like Groucho's mustache, or like that guy on the Grecian Formula commercial, which I first saw at the age of 6 and responded to by shouting, "Mommy! That man has black finger-paint on his head!" Or maybe I was 16; I might have been a bit, as they say, slow.

And might still be, I'm proud to say.

And the result? None. Rien. Nada. Nobody noticed (which, sure, was the point of going with the subtle process, but still, it would have been nice if someone had looked at me narrow-eyed and asked if I'd had a wen removed or something); no one said, "My god, Floyd, you look like a young Gary Cooper and not all like Steve Buscemi" (I have always hoped one day to hear that--no, no, too late now; it cheapens it if I have to ask); no supermodels threw themselves at my feet, or even fell when I tripped them. (They have amazing balance, those supermodels; that's their superpower and what distinguishes them from ordinary mortal models. Well, that and they can see through lead.) Young women on the bus did not cease to call me "Sir," nor did I cease to tell them frostily, "That was my dad's name."

So a few months ago, I stopped dyeing -- and no one in particular noticed that either, despite the buttons and t-shirts I now wear that read, "I Stopped Dyeing My Hair! Ask Me How!" I like to think that I've accepted my grey hair, and accepted with it and even welcomed my inevitable aging and the wisdom and depth of character that comes with it, and that I will continue to grow and mature gracefully.

Eh, or possibly I'll just start wearing hats.