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  Updated 1-2-08




























Hair Apparent

By Karin Fuller

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 full.

  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 things. 

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 him. 

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 color. 

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 Id done when Id found myself with bad dye jobs before. The first time had been the fault of the manufacturer. Without warning, theyd changed the hair model they used on the box front. Id 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 Id 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. 

Id 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 normal again. 

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 with.

Copyright 2005 Karin Fuller

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  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. Karins columns can be read on The Sunday Gazette-Mails website ( or more easily accessed at her newspaper- sponsored blog at 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 protected]

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