“I have a couple in my bangs,” I said. “Mostly I just dye my hair if I feel like changing the color.”
“That’s not fair,” Kim replied, and there was a bitter tone in her voice, the kind that makes you think, my sister legitimately wants to kill me.
Let me digress for a moment to examine what sort of crappy genetics my sister and I each inherited from our parents:
- Dad’s bad cholesterol
- Dad’s supersensitive skin which makes it difficult to buy both regular soap and laundry detergent, for fear of breaking out in a painful rash
- One weird heart issue—of which Dad’s family tree has several
- Mom’s ability to gain weight simply by walking down the potato chip aisle and breathing deeply
- Spontaneous spider veins erupting on the ankles despite never having done any sort of strenuous exercise in my life (Mom)
- Inability to navigate my way out of my own driveway (Dad)
And here’s Kim’s list:
- Started growing gray early (Mom)
You can imagine I had little sympathy for my gray-haired big sister, who repeated several times that this simply wasn’t fair. As we say in my family, “Move your face closer so I can slap you.”
So no, I don’t dye my hair out of necessity yet. I have, in my life, been platinum blonde (the year I was Marilyn Monroe for Halloween), strawberry blonde (incidentally, not as cute as I’d thought it would be), dark brunette, and ginger-haired (such a terrible look that I ignored the advice of 100% of chemists and dyed it again within two days).
You see, children learn what they live. And my mother has been dyeing her hair all my life. So of course I’ve chemically changed my locks, even though I haven’t really had to yet, much to Kim’s absolute ire. Dyeing your hair is just something women do.
My mother’s family—with the exception of my late great-aunt Demi, who embraced her brilliant silvery-white locks as soon as they sprouted—has not taken this genetic flaw lightly. They’ve all become experts in dyeing, highlighting, and touching up roots to rival any salon stylist. They hold intense debates over cream vs. mousse kits, and can break the oxidization process down to the atomic makeup of the chemical compounds involved. These women do not mess around. One day in my late teens, I came home with a box of semi-permanent dye, hoping to get streaks a la Cyndi Lauper. My mother laughed so hard tears streamed down her face. Semi-permanent? Why waste your hard-earned cash on something that’ll fade in six shampoos?
It was a mistake I’d never make again. (Though oh, how I wished I’d gone with semi-permanent during the Great Orange Pumpkinhead Debacle.)
The women on my father’s side, however, have accepted their lighter locks with grace and dignity when nature did take its course. Auntie Bea, for instance, wore her stunning head of salt-and-pepper curls for years, without once worrying she might look old—and she didn’t. She was (and still is) gorgeous. Hair dye? Pfft. Who needs it? There are bigger things to concern oneself about in the grand scheme of things. And my father? He went white overnight—woke up one morning to find his once golden blond curls markedly paler. Thought to himself, Welp, that’s that, put on his slippers, and went about making coffee. I admire their lack of concern. And I’m proud that in this one genetic gift, I take after the Longos.
But honestly, when my morning comes, I suspect I’ll forego the coffee, pull a hat on, and rush down to CVS for a box of Performing Preference by L’Oreal. Because though I take after my dad’s side when it comes to pigmentation, I am my mother’s daughter.
And to my sister, I say this: one thing. Just let me have this one thing.