If I was needing to fill out the paperwork to
get a new driver's license right now, I'm not
sure what I'd put in the blank where it asks
for hair color. Maybe, "It starts out
kind of brownish, then gets sort of reddish
before it turns mostly blackish."
There are times it doesn't pay
to be a do-it-yourselfer. Last Friday morning,
at 3:30 a.m., was one of those times.
I occasionally have trouble
staying asleep, and if I can't find anything
appealing to read or watch on TV, I'll
entertain myself by doing something totally
out of character, like cleaning or organizing.
That Friday, it was a cluttered bathroom
cabinet that drew my attention. I soon had it
completely unloaded and the trash can half
Among my finds in that cabinet
was a long-forgotten box of hair color. I was
pleased with the discovery, as a fresh and
hearty crop of new grays had been sprouting of
late, apparently well nourished by the
fertilizer supply so close to their roots.
Even though it wasn't the same color or brand
I'd been using, it seemed close enough.
I was about to learn several
First, the ability to
determine whether something is truly
"close enough" can be
short-circuited by sleep deprivation.
Second, it's a good idea to
check the expiration date before applying
color to hair.
Third, an extra three years of
storage time beyond that date can alter the
outcome in a most drastic way.
Fourth, even though my loyal
dog was sleeping against the bathroom door the
whole time, he was convinced the black-haired
person who emerged was a complete stranger to
I returned to the shower and
shampooed my hair a few (dozen) more times. I
could tell it was getting lighter. I could
tell this because the many deserters that were
attempting to build a dam at the drain weren't
nearly as dark.
It was time to retreat and
regroup, to devise a new plan of attack.
To buy another box of hair
Sadly, however, the new box of
color lacked the strength of the aged, and
could only lay claim to a few inches of growth
near the top. It marked its territory with an
odd reddish-brown shade. An effect not unlike
those synthetic Halloween wigs they carry at
Wal-Mart, the ones that usually come attached
to pointed hats.
“You look goth,” my
daughter said. I briefly considered getting
black lipstick and a few facial piercings, but
doubted I could pull off the attitude to go
with the look.
I tried to remember what I’d
done when I’d found myself with bad dye jobs
before. The first time had been the fault of
the manufacturer. Without warning, they’d
changed the hair model they used on the box
front. I’d grown accustomed to looking for
that one particular face and never paid any
attention to the letter/number combination on
the lid. In my befuddlement, it seemed logical
to choose one featuring a model who looked
like a close relative of the girl I’d
trusted for so many years. It was an
unfortunate choice, one that prompted a
wisecracking coworker to request I pass his
greetings along to Fred, Ethel and Ricky.
I’d managed to recover from
that and a few other times without
professional help, but I was beginning to
suspect my luck had run out. When running my
fingers through my hair, there were places
that felt like the bristly head of a
toothbrush. It was time to concede, to wave
the white flag. To stoically walk past that
third box of hair color on my bathroom sink,
the one that promised it could make me look
Finally, I grabbed the box and
shoved it deep into the recesses of that same
bathroom cabinet where this whole saga began.
I have two years to use it
before it expires. And three more years after
that to forget why I put it there to begin
Copyright Karin Fuller
* * * * *
Karin Fuller has been a
lifestyle columnist for The Sunday-Gazette
Mail, West Virginia's largest newspaper, since
1997, and every year since then has been
recognized as one of the state's top
columnists by the West Virginia Press
Association. In June of 2003, her columns were
awarded first place (general interest) by the
National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
Karin's essays and short stories have appeared
in such publications as Woman's World
magazine, Appalachian Heritage, Atlanta Parent
and Front Porch magazine. Karin’s columns
can be read on The Sunday Gazette-Mail’s
website (www.sundaygazettemail.com) or more
easily accessed at her newspaper- sponsored
blog at http://www.thegazz.com/guide/blogs/karinfuller.
Karin lives in Poca, West Virginia with her
husband Geoff and eight-old daughter and
personal muse, Celeste. She can be reached via
email at email@example.com.