A Penny Saved Ends Up on My Head
By: Mary Fran Bontempo

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Just call me “Penny.”

The new moniker refers to my new identity; you see, I’m not looking like myself these days. The culprit is my new hair color, the result of a dye job I inflicted on myself in yet another effort to continue pretending I’m younger than my chronological age. (There’s little question of my emotional age. My mother just this week referred to me as Peter Pan. Thanks, Mom.)

If you haven’t surmised by now, the “Penny” alias refers to the current color of my head, something not naturally found on heads, unless you happen to be Abe Lincoln on the side of a one cent coin.

My real hair color used to be what one referred to as “dirty blonde.” It never sounded attractive and looked only slightly better than its description. Not quite “mousy brown,” but still not good. Yet even dirty blonde was preferable to “dishwater blech,” which is what my follicles currently claim as their own.

Dishwater blech is a combination of gray and some non-descript color that doesn’t even deserve the title “color.” It’s not blonde, it’s not brown and it’s not gray. At least, it’s not that stunning silver gray that you see on those older models who somehow manage to look as though the whole gray thing was intentional, it looks that good. No, this color is a cross between dishwater, rain, mud and yuck.

So, I decided it was time to free my hair from nature’s perverse sense of humor and brighten things up. This is where sensible women high-tail it to the salon and let someone who knows what she/he is doing attend to the task at hand. However, in addition to being a notorious know-it-all, I am also notoriously cheap. So I high-tailed it to Walgreens and bought myself a highlighting kit to beautify myself by myself.

The directions were fairly simple. Mix up the gunk from the packet and the bottle, select the strands of hair you want to highlight and smear gunk on hair. Wait 15 minutes—NO MORE THAN 30 MINUTES! the instructions screamed—test a strand for lightening and wash out the highlighter.

After 15 minutes, I tested. Nothing. And I mean nothing. It was as though the stinky concoction had no power other than to bleach my towels, which it did quite readily, after I mistakenly dried my hands with some residue still on them. Thirty minutes and there was a little lightening, but not much. So I waited for almost an hour before dunking my head under the tub’s faucet and washing out the goop.

And now I look like a penny.

I suppose it’s better than dishwater blech, as this color at least resembles something—autumn leaves, copper pipes, rust and of course, honest Abe, who, to be honest, was not my first source of inspiration here. For making grandiose speeches, yes. For hair color, I was thinking more along the lines of Jennifer Anniston.

I have a few friends who refuse to color their hair, preferring to let nature take its course. They are admirably at peace with the fading hue of their tresses, preferring to focus on things more important and less time consuming and expensive than hair color. And I suppose that’s where I balk.

It’s the idea of fading that gets me. I’m not ready to fade yet, in any way, and aside from jumping up and down and screaming about it daily, I guess my other, less vocal form of protest is to color my hair. Hey, everybody, I’m still here! Look at my head; I’m not done yet!

Next time, though, all deference to Abe, I think I’ll let my stylist handle the highlights.

What hue are your follicles sporting these days? Click “comments” below and share!