50 Shades of Gray…

Have you ever had a fleeting thought, problem or solution for a split second-then just as suddenly it disappears? You’re not really troubled by this and it might be years before it pops up in your head again. Sort of like you’re waiting for that second shoe to hit the floor, but never realized the first one smacked the floor boards a long time ago.

Adam, late fall 1979. No apparent ill effects from his traumatic beginning…

It began in the early 80’s. I’ve talked about it before but let me recap for a minute. Adam. Our unplanned, amazing youngest child. Who was darn near impossible to get borned. (I don’t think borned’s a word, yet somehow it works here perfectly). Shannon was 8, Josh was 4 and I was going through a difficult pregnancy. My due date was September 7. At the tail end of a long, hot, humid Iowa summer. (Not many women plan for a late August or September birth-unless they’re sadistic). The only thing that felt good-was nothing. Nothing felt good. Literally. I was humongous. And swollen. With about a month to go I was in for my 8th month check up, which included a pelvic exam to see how things were progressing. 

Yikes, late August, 1979. A couple weeks before the addition of Adam…

Doc was frowning and muttering to himself. Said something like, “something’s not right. His head seems too small and you’re huge. Let’s take an X-ray, and see how this baby’s doing.” Came back in the room after he had studied the X-rays wearing a bigger frown. “It’s not your baby’s head that’s so small, those are his little feet. His head is under your right breast. But I believe something’s not right with this baby.” (Well why not scare the living shit out of me while you figure out exactly what’s wrong with my child)? “His head should be tucked down, with his chin on his chest. Instead he’s looking straight up your throat, head tilted way back. First, I’m gonna try and get him out of that breech position. He’s not too big to freely move about, yet seems determined to stay feet first.” 

Gently Doc placed his hands under my right boob where you could clearly make out the outline of Adam’s round (and normal sized) head. Working his fingers clockwise he slowly moved Adam’s (we did not know at this point he was a boy, that fun fact became clear a bit later) head until it was snugly in my groin. Hustled me to X-ray, then I waited. All the while, lying on the table, watching Adam’s little head move slowly counterclockwise until he was all comfy again under my right boob. Oh. My. Word. Doc waltzed in, proud of himself because Adam’s little head was clearly down in my groin on the X-ray minutes ago. Placed his hand on my abdomen and spotted Adam’s little head tucked neatly under my boob. Hmmmm. Doc went through the whole procedure again, including another X-ray. (For the love of God, please stop with the X-rays). This time Doc watched in amazement and disbelief at Adam’s steady progress. Returning to where he was most comfortable. Little stinker. 

Honest the doctor encouraged a small glass of wine for milk production. At Elly’s house for Christmas, 1979…

Doc conceded. “Denise, looks like you’re gonna have this baby breech. It’s your third pregnancy, I don’t see this as a big issue. He still has plenty of room to move in the right position before you go into labor. Don’t worry about this. You’ll be fine.” 

Long story-short, (long version is called, Party of 5, September, 2014) both of us (Adam and me-though John almost killed the doctor afterwards, so maybe I should say all 3 of us) nearly died during (or after) the delivery. They couldn’t get Adam’s head out which was the last part of the little guy coming down that worn out path. Scary and terrifying time. Hubs was extremely upset that I didn’t see a specialist in Sioux Falls or Sioux City after we learned he was breech or insist on a C-section. 

Those rubber pants! Adam about a year old, 1980…

Anyway, everything was eventually fine and dandy and I’m veering away from my storyline. The point I’m trying to make was the huge traumatic impact this pregnancy had on me. Physically and emotionally. I did not feel well for about a year after I had Adam. Plus walking on eggshells around Hubs because he was still furious with the doc and me. Safe to say from August of ‘79 through December of 1980 took a huge toll on me. 

Besides not feeling well, parts of me seemed to age decades overnight during the 14 months before I hit the big 30. It was like one day I stood in front of the mirror and noticed for the first time half my hair was gray. WTH. When did that happen? After I picked myself off the floor I called for an appointment with my hairdresser. “Holy smokes Joan, help.” She suggested a non peroxide rinse which would last 6 or 8 weeks. Covered the gray and just slowly washed out with shampoos. Well that worked for a couple years, but the grayer I got, the more stubborn the gray hair became. My gray hair seemed royally pissed for using shellac on a regular basis and picked up the slogan, “resist.” Yes folks I made up that now infamous slogan-it’s really all about my hair follicles-not politics. Thieves stole my line. 

Salt & pepper by 1981. And looking like a complete dipshit to boot…

So in the year of our Lord 1983 I started dyeing my hair with permanent hair color. Since I was young (33) and still supposed to have brown hair, my first choice was L’Oréal (remember Cybil Shepherd sitting in a chair, looking absolutely stunning, advertising the use of L’Oréal-because you’re worth it) medium brown. As I aged, when the color suddenly seemed too harsh, I’d move to a lighter shade. (I’m now close to running out of lighter shades-ha-ha) From that very first time I never gave one thought to, “what am I gonna do when I’m done dyeing my hair?” I assumed one day, more than likely a milestone in my mundane life I would simply say, “OK, I’ve had just about enough of that hair dye crap.” 

Never happened. The “when am I gonna stop using L’Oréal” thought might pop into my head close to each biggie in the life of Neese. My 40th, my 50th, my 60th. Zip-nada-zilch. Lasted maybe 5 seconds and I just knew I wasn’t done having fake brown hair or ready to go gray-yet. 

The lovely Esther after 6 months of wearing hats…

I visited this wonderful lady named Esther for several years. She had an Asian background and was getting close to 80. With jet black hair. She’d been dyeing her hair over 40 years. (Not as absurd as you might think. It’s almost been 35 years for me). She had a minor skin issue and had to see a dermatologist. Asked the doctor about the length of time she’d been using peroxide based hair products and should she stop? He said, yes it was time. So she did (unbeknownst to me at the time). I dropped in for a visit a few weeks later (we always had a cup of tea together) and Esther answers the door, wearing a hat. In her house. Told me the tale of her encounter with the dermatologist. To which she added, ”I’m staying in the house and I’m going to wear a hat until my natural color has grown out. I won’t be coming to church this winter.” I chuckled. Oops, sorry. Not really a laughing matter. 

It probably felt like forever to Esther, even though she wore her hair quite short. Several months later on a Sunday, she walks down the center aisle of church, meandering to her usual ‘reserved’ pew with exquisite snow white hair. She looked like a million bucks. Her hair was beautiful. At the time I thought the whole notion of hiding, covering her head up was kind of silly. Not anymore.

I was in the bathroom about a month ago when it hit me. I’m done. Right now. D. O. N. E. Not going to color my hair again. Never realized in the back of my mind, this had been simmering for at least 20 years. Maybe more. You know what a quantities shopper I am. It’s a rare occasion if I run out of anything. Well, if I’m not gonna use any more hair color, I wonder how many boxes of L’Oréal I have stashed  in the cupboard? Goodness there’s 7. Ugh. There’s 60 bucks I’ll never get back.

One time where buying ahead has not saved me money. Oy vey…

My hairdresser said hair grows about a half inch a month. I wear it short, still it’s going to take 6 to 8 months, which now feels like an eternity. Oh Esther, I apologize. Right now is the time I should be getting out one of those L’Oréal boxes. If I tilt my head an inch forward there’s quite a bit of gray in my part line. Looks gross. Yesterday I was shopping and walking behind a gal quite a few years my junior. She had shoulder length auburn hair with about 2 inches of gray roots. I wanted to give her a hug in shared sisterhood of solidarity and mortification, but she seemed quite unconcerned with what was going on with her hair. Good for her. I flip-flop somewhere in between admiration and revulsion. 

I am aware how long (and hard) this winter is going to be. On the inside and outside of my head. I haven’t faltered or changed my mind however. Although I never realized it, this decision has been something akin to having a weight lifted off my shoulders. When I told Hubs I was ‘going gray’ and needed to shop for various beanies and hats, he laughed. After spotting the flying daggers aimed at his heart, he suggested a 6 month stint in witness protection, far from everyone I care about, I laughed. No, I can’t hide out while my natural hair color emerges. Landon’s senior season of basketball starts in a couple weeks. I’m not going to miss any part of it. But I will be sporting an Ann Arbor Pioneer stocking cap to games this year. 

So done with brown hair. If I hate my gray, I’ll go back to my evil ways…

Truth be told, I’ve seriously been hat shopping. Thanks for that Esther. I wonder what color my hair will be when given the chance to be free and naked?  I’m hoping for striking white, but feel strongly, given my root situation, it’s gonna be just plain salt & pepper-gray with white. Not too drab I hope. There is some concern for the inside and outside of my head. Gray matters abound…

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