Beauty comes at a price

I am currently coloring my hair without supervision*. Dave has gone off to get the oil changed to get ready for our trip to Dubai tomorrow. This leaves me home alone with hair dye and without glasses. The apartment is poorly lit. I can only guess and hope that I covered most of my head. At least it’s henna, which is only semi-permanent, right? Besides, my grey roots made it look like I had two heads of hair, one laid on top of the other. Something needed to happen. Getting my hair done professionally wasn’t really an option. There is no place in our town where a woman can get her hair cut. It’s illegal (or haram at least) to have a man cut my hair, and there are no female stylists here. The best place would be Muscat, but that’s 90 minutes away and requires planning to make an appointment. So, self care it is.

I had tried to see what would happen if I just let my hair grow out and go natural, but I lost patience with that idea when I looked at some recent pictures of me. I thought my hair would grey out evenly since the previous color I had – a dark brown — was all gone, leaving me with  what I presumed was my natural color. It’s so hard to tell what my hair actually is now, given that I have been putting different dyes in my hair for over twenty years – ever since graduate school caused my premature greying. Heck, even before that I was getting blonde highlights to stall my darkening towhead (yes, I was a blonde kid!). And then there was the time (almost two years) when I thought magenta was a perfectly fine color for my locks.


So much grey! at least the mountains are super pretty.


I’ve colored my own hair a million times before and now in five different countries with varying degrees of success. I remember one time back in the US when the outcome was mixed at best. I stood in the mirror as I watched the dye saturating my hair turn brighter and brighter orange when the phone rang. My friend Meg was seeing if I wanted to take my dog Brody to the park. He and Lizzie were great friends back then, both now lost to cancer.

“I can’t. I’m dyeing my hair”

“Neat! What color?”

“Not sure. The box said “Fire Red, but, I look like a construction cone. I’m getting nervous….”

“Then rinse it out if you don’t like what’s happening and come to the park with us.”

Duh. Why hadn’t I thought of that? If I don’t like it, get rid of it! Was it a good idea? No matter, the color choice wasn’t a good idea in the first place, so might as well add to the dubious decisions. I hopped in the shower, rinsed my hair and went off to the park – at least that part was a good idea in the minds of Brody and Lizzie. My hair was still wet and I wore a hood to protect myself from the cold and possible humiliation, but despite the head cover, people could tell something was up.

“You colored your hair.” Duke’s mom was making a factual statement and nothing more.

“Yes – about 5 minutes ago.”


I don’t recall anyone saying it looked nice/good/beautiful that evening. And for good reason. I got home and my hair was indeed bright orange. I was OK with that, even though it wasn’t my favorite. I had a good job, a good relationship, good friends, and good life. Ruined hair wasn’t about to stop me from anything. I had a laugh over my appearance and went to sleep, aware that I would most likely cause a bit of a stir at work. My suspicions were confirmed when the next day a student of mine looked at me and said, “I like the color of your hair. It’s almost within the normal range of hair colors. But not quite.”

That about summed it up.

So now I sit with my hair soaking in the muddy henna (the box called it “Burgundy”): the natural and cultural way to color hair while here in Oman.  I like how it smells sweet and earthy as opposed to the chemical smell of the dyes back home.  I know there is no way I got all the parts of my head, especially the back. I have a thick head of hair and it’s hard to see back there, even when I am wearing my glasses. The henna starts to dry, creating a fine layer of sand all over my bare shoulders and chest. I guess it’s time to rinse off.

I forgot about how weak the water pressure is here. I stood under the shower for a solid fifteen minutes as streaks of orange poured down my body. I worried about staining the drain, the grout, my face, my feet. Slowly, the water began to run clear. I looked in the mirror and learn that my hair is much brighter where it was once grey. And Burgundy my ass – my hair has a bright orange tinge to it. Then I remember the stuff was manufactured for those with black hair – maybe the Burgundy part is relative to darker tresses. I sigh. Nothing I can do about it now, anyway. At least I am not quite a construction cone.

* Note: The above was written in real time. The rest was written the day after.

Dave comes home and we assess the damage. The color job is uneven, and the top of my head is indeed bright, though no longer grey (except for the parts I missed). But, it is what it is – bad hair in Oman. The fact that it hasn’t been cut in almost seven months is even more apparent now. Maybe this is a sign I should start wearing a hijab. Or be a little more forgiving of my hair and myself – until I get to a place where I can find a good stylist.

new hair

My hair in “burgundy”


…complete with missed spots and bright orange top. Sigh.




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