Most people are surprised to learn that I’m not a natural redhead. (“Most people” = pretty much everyone who didn’t know me before I started dying my hair.) This is most likely down to the fact that I have a redhead’s complexion. Also, most people are surprised to learn that I have a soul.

At one point in my natural-hair life–and I have pictures to prove it–my hair, in the right light, had a sort of coppery sheen to it. So maybe there’s natural redheadedness somewhere in my DNA. (My father had a red mustache, back when he had a mustache. I have never grown a mustache. I can’t tell if either of these factoids is relevant or just an interesting aside.) But that was before I started greying in earnest and back when my natural hair was sometimes exposed to sunlight and also before I became old. Now everything that grows out of my head is grey or mouse brown, but mostly grey.

I’ve been coloring my hair continuously for the last 10 years. Originally I used permanent hair color, but a few years ago I switched to demi-permanent because it is supposed to be less damaging and better for curly hair. My hairstylist sister is a big demi-permanent booster. Unfortunately, you can only go darker than your natural color with demi-permanent, and going darker has, I think, added almost (but not quite) as many years to my face as growing grey did. And dark red looks browner than light red, especially since reds tend to brown as they fade anyway, so I am actually surprised that people still consider me a redhead, natural or otherwise, since my hair looks very un-red to me most of the time.

Also, since my natural hair is mostly grey–especially at the front of my head–the red color looks exceptionally brassy and punk-rockish (a little bit purple) for the first week or so after a touch-up. I didn’t mind this so much initially, but in the last couple of years it’s started to feel undignified. So a few months ago I started doing what you’re supposed to do when applying red color to grey hair, which is dye it brown first. This is a huge pain in the neck, in case you were wondering why I was so willing to live with brassy-purply hair for so many years. I hate doing it. I hated coloring my hair before, when it was only one step. Now that it’s two, it is practically unbearable. Also, as you can imagine, dying the roots brown first also makes the finished hair…extra dark and extra brown and even more un-red. Which defeats the whole purpose, IMO. All of the purposes.

Also, I’m supposed to touch up my roots every 6-8 weeks, but my roots start showing around week 4. Grey roots are slightly less obvious with demi-permanent color because there isn’t this bright line where new hair meets old, but by the time I’ve stretched out the color six weeks, my grey roots are very, very obvious. So while the two-stepping and extra-browning have made me seriously consider returning to permanent hair color, hair damage be damned, the obvious-roots problem remains an issue.

So I am now seriously considering going back to the brassy-purply hair. It is, after all, a temporary effect (before it fades into something normal-looking), and at least it is lighter than the brown-red-but-mostly-brown hair. Also, one step, not two. I am only at four weeks right now, so I have a couple weeks to decide (in case you couldn’t do the math yourself). Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be in a financial position where I wouldn’t feel guilty spending the money to get my hair professionally colored. Probably I should get a job. But probably I should get a job anyway. And now I’m on a topic that depresses me even more than getting old does.

I would really like nothing more than to stop coloring my hair altogether because it is such a pain in the neck–except that the thing I do like more than not coloring my hair is not looking like my husband’s mother. My husband finally looks like he’s in striking distance of my age–mid-thirties at the youngest–and I’m not keen to race ahead of him again in that department. Also, I already look old and haggard with my unnatural hair. I don’t want to think of how old and haggard I would look with the hair that made me look old and haggard at 36.

I’ve already written about how jaw surgery and orthodontia changed my face for (I think) the worse. I don’t regret either, because I’m very happy to be able to breathe and also to keep my teeth, hopefully into my (actual) golden years. But I’m a little too vain to be grateful for things like breath and teeth all the time. I sometimes think I could accept this new face more if I could just have the hair color I deserve.