How to be a woman - dying my hair

My favorite sane wedding blog, A Practical Wedding, recently held another one of its world-wide book club meetups, and the book we read and discussed was aptly titled "How To Be a Woman" by Caitlin Moran. The book is a humorous (but serious in its message) take on feminism and what it means to be a woman, on a practical level. For example, there is an entire chapter devoted to hair and the constant battle that women have with it.

During our local APW book club meetup, we talked about how some of us (or most of us) feel that in some aspects, we fail at being women. I personally don't think it is even possible to fail at being a woman if that is what you are. It seems to me that to say that we are failing at being women, we have to define the criteria that make one a "successful" woman. Based on our discussion, it appears that inability to put together a fashionable outfit or ineptitude at applying makeup could result in being a failure of a woman. If so, I am a lost case. I seem to be missing the gene required for finding fashionable clothing, my makeup comes out only on special occasions, and I have never been able to figure out what to do with the mane of hair on my head.

But, "successful" woman or not, I had a situation to deal with. Namely, the increasingly obvious amount of gray hair that has been popping up on my twenty-eight-year-old head. I held off as long as I could, but those grays were finally starting to get to me. Something had to be done.

A month ago, I purchased a hair dye from the pharmacy. I was fairly certain that I had picked the wrong hair color (there was no mirror in the hair dye aisle), but didn't have the patience to go to multiple stores in search of the perfect match. The hair dye box sat in the bathroom vanity for weeks, mocking my gray hair every time I looked at it. Yesterday, I finally gave in and decided to give it a try.

Having never done this before, I set out to read all the instructions carefully before doing anything. The instructions looked like something that might appear in my lab, not in a widely available hair product. The labels warned me that, despite this dye being ammonia-free, if I get any of it in my eyes, I will go blind. (!) Also, I was not to squeeze or shake the bottle without first twisting off the tip, as the contents "may explode". Duly noted.

Despite the life-threatening warnings, I decided to proceed. First order of business was to find some clothing that I wouldn't mind ruining with the dye. Unfortunately, I'm so good at purging my closet, that I couldn't find anything appropriate for the job. Giving up on the clothing hunt, I decided to sacrifice an old towel. Things went downhill from there.

Armed with the hair dye components, plastic gloves, instructions, and the towel, I locked myself in the bathroom. Stripping half naked, I wrapped the towel around myself and put on the gloves. That's when I realized that I'd have to remove my glasses in order to dye my hair. I am extremely near-sighted. This was going to be interesting. With the glasses off, I opened the two parts of the hair dye and mixed them together. The chemistry geek in me happily observed that upon mixing, the two white substances turned purple and gave off lots of heat. Then, the hair dye started coming out of the bottle prematurely, as I was shaking it. The purple stuff covered my gloves (and all the surfaces in the bathroom, as I later discovered). While I was debating whether or not I shook the dye long enough, and whether I should wash my gloves before proceeding, my towel began sliding off of me. Instinctively, I adjusted the towel, getting the purple stuff all over myself. So far, the hair dying process was going great - the dye was on my gloves, my shoulders, the bathroom sink, the toilet, but not a drop of it was on my hair.

Giving up on the towel, I brought the instruction sheet to my face and reviewed. My next step was to apply the dye to my hair, making small parts in the process. Avoiding the hairline in an effort to not accidentally squirt the stuff into my eyes and make myself blind (and also, completely missing the grays in the front), I held the bottle over my head and squeezed. Nothing came out. WTF. I squeezed again. Still nothing. I shook the bottle in frustration and tried for the third time. Finally, the purple stuff appeared. I tried to guide the bottle over my head and make small parts, realizing that I have no idea what is going on on the back of my head. The small parts weren't happening anyway. Ignoring the instructions, I poured some of the dye in my gloved hands and spread the goop into my hair, hoping that I was distributing it evenly.

According to the instructions, I was to put the hair covered in goop on top of my head and wait ten minutes. I put the hair on top of my head. The hair immediately fell off the top of my head. I walked out of the terribly stinky bathroom and paraded around the kitchen in all my glory - dirty towel wrapped around me, purple stuff all over my head and shoulders. D called me a cute purple dinosaur. He had never seen such a curious sight.

Ten minutes later, I hopped in the shower. I was to rinse my hair until the water ran clear, all the time wearing the plastic gloves. But I was also supposed to not get this stuff in my eyes because of the whole blindness thing. As I stood in the shower with my eyes closed, I wondered how the hell I would know when the water ran clear if I couldn't look at it! Some time later, at the risk of losing my eyesight, I opened my eyes. To my relief the water ran clear. I applied the conditioner that was to lock in the color, rinsed, and got out of the shower. Immediately, my fears about getting the wrong hair color were confirmed. My hair was now darker than normal, and I also became a slight redhead. And with all my ineptitude, I missed half the gray hair. Failure at being a woman confirmed!

Nevertheless, the battle against gray hair continues. I will persevere!


  1. Haha, I can totally picture this (minus the near-nakedness, not a total creep). I dye my hair with henna, a ground up herb that is green and stinky and dyes everything it touches long enough, and it has taken me YEARS to perfect my technique so I don't do any damage. I go through several gunky towels, a plastic bag, gloves, diligent wiping etc.
    It's tough work to be a woman. Or at least that's what we've convinced ourselves.

  2. Oh the ugly gray hairs. I am obsessed, to the point that I do not let them grow. As soon as I see them, and that's when they are less than 2 cm, I pluck them out with tweezers. And I know I should stop . I know. But I can not have them.
    I have done the hair-dying back in the day when I dreamed of orange hair, but never by myself. It was always my best friend doing it for me back at the university residence. When I finally decide to let them grow (working on it) I think I will just do highlights all over and hope they will be stained / hidden .
    But highlighting every so and so months is $$$ expensive.
    Good luck with your next try, and you are totally not failing at being a woman, scientist-writer girl :)
    As far as makeup, fashion and high heels are concerned, then I am a lost cause as well.

  3. It definitely is tough work being a woman. And if you don't do all (or most) stuff yourself, it does get expensive real fast! I've had my hair dyed in a salon before, and it looked great, but I can't really afford to do it all the time, now that the stubborn grays are showing up. Thus the attempt at dying my own hair. Oh well, I guess I'll get better at it with time, right?


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