The old grey mare, she’s confused

By Mir
October 6, 2005

I’m not really allowed to go to Target these days. Money’s tight, and let’s face it, there is no walking into Target for an item or two. I can go in there for socks and come out with lawn furniture. Swinging by to pick up juice boxes on sale? I come home with towels. It’s a problem. Those little red clearance stickers woo me with their promises of bargain nirvana.

So. I’ve been staying away.

But today, I HAD to go to Target, on account of I’m almost out of my little rectangles of sanity (otherwise known as hormone patches). And there were a few other things I needed to get. So I allowed myself to visit Mecca.

The good news is that I did get my prescription. Pardon me while I stick this thing on my ass. That’s better!

The bad news is that there was a lot of stuff on clearance, and maybe you saw me weeping in one of the aisles as I debated whether passing up a duvet set at 80% off might in fact cause me to spontaneously combust.

The other news is that it may be time to have my license to be female in America revoked. My name is Mir, and I confess that although I went to school for twenty-five years, I lack the most basic understanding of how to select a box of hair color.

I have gotten so many comments on my new haircut. Everyone loves it. There’s an entire segment of the population that apparently was unaware that I have a FACE! So it’s been great fun, hearing all the gushing praise for my new ‘do. And then came the encounter with a friend whose mouth fell open as she forced me to twirl before her, and then she gathered herself back up and said…

“WOW, you are REALLY GREY!”

Hmph. But, yes. I am really grey. I knew that I was, of course, but a lot of the grey was sort of UNDERNEATH, you know? And now my hair is short and layered and poking this way and that and suddenly there are silver sprigs taking over my entire head.

It’s so YOUNG and FRESH and HIP, the way my hair flips up in the back and swoops in the front and whatever else it is that it’s doing! Too bad the whole young thing is ruined by the part where most grandmothers have less grey than I do.

Off to the wall of hair dye! My stylist had actually recommended a couple of at-home brands suitable for grey coverage (after I said that yes, I would absolutely love for her to do my color just as soon as I have some extra money laying around), so I was able to narrow the choices pretty quickly. Without this guidance, I’d probably still be standing in Target, scanning the boxes, and hyperventilating. In the space of about 2 minutes, I had selected my box.

Color 131. OBVIOUSLY. Dark Brown. “Designed for dark hair” it says. Hey, I have some dark hair! It claims “Visible dimension on even the darkest hair” and–my personal favorite–100% grey coverage. It sounded perfect, and I was very pleased with myself for finding it so quickly. But then… I started checking just to be certain I’d picked the right one.

… and that’s when I fell down the rabbit hole.

Color 128? Also Dark Brown. But! Not specifically designed for dark hair! Does that matter? I don’t know! Hmmm. Well, maybe I should pay some attention to the whole chart of how it works and compare across boxes. Okay, let’s see.

On Salt/Pepper Grey:
You will get a dark brown result.
On White/Grey:
You will get a dark brown result.
On Natural Red:
You will get a dark brown result.

Gee, I sure wish they’d told me more. I’m just not sure what color result I can expect from this. What if my hair is blue? What if my particular gray is less salt and pepper and more, oh I don’t know, steel wool and manure? WILL I GET A DARK BROWN RESULT? I may call them and ask.

Anyway, then I came across Medium Brown. And I will admit to not being the most visually discriminating person on the planet, sure, but I SWEAR the model in the picture had the same color hair as Miss 131. And Miss 128. I’ve had enough unfortunate coloring experiences in my youth to know not to buy any color with the word “reddish” in it (my natural color IS reddish, but “reddish” is dye-speak for ORANGE). That ruled out a row of boxes. But there was Chestnut Brown. Natural Medium Neutral Brown. Deep Cool Brown. Natural Dark Brown. Natural Darkest Brown. Dark Spice.

Eventually I fled, clutching the first box I’d picked up (Dark Brown). Now I am gripped with doubt. Don’t I want NATURAL Dark Brown? Is 131 actually FAKEY Dark Brown? Why does the swatch for Dark Brown appear to be LIGHTER than for Natural Dark Brown?

How is it possible that I have lived 34 years without knowing what color hair I have? I thought I knew, but Clairol begs to differ.

It was all very traumatic. I had to buy the duvet set to soothe myself.


  1. Mija

    I decided to highlight my hair this summer and spent probably as long as you in the aisle of Target, agonizing over which box to get (the one with the toothbrush shaped applicator or the one with the comb shaped applicator?). I eventually chickened out and got my stylist to do it, but now it’s growing out, and (partly because expense), I’m debating whether or not touch up or not. Oh bother.

  2. ben

    Visible dimension on even the darkest hair


    Once again, it is so nice to have a penis and not be required to care about this kind of thing. Cuz have you ever seen my ability to match colors? There’s a reason they make Geranimals.

    Congrats on the duvet, btw…

  3. Jenn

    Don’t worry if at first it’s really, really dark and you surprise yourself every time you look in the mirror. It will look more normal after you wash it once or twice.

    Every time I pick hair dye, I spend a few minutes boggling at those little swatches of fake hair. And then I have to try to remember which kind I had before. Was it a blue box? Was that girl on it, or a different girl? Was it really a blue box or a red box?

    I think that the companies switch the girls and the boxes every few months to mess with me.

  4. DebR

    Helpful hint from someone who has been through manyManyMANY boxes of various brands and colors of hair dye in the past 20 years: Tear off the top of the box before you throw it away and keep it someplace where you can find it again.

    If you love the color, you’ll know exactly what to buy next time without having to try to remember which one of 9,428 different shades of brown is Your shade. If you hate it, you can put a big red X on it or something and you know not to get that one next time.

  5. DebR

    PS…what color was the Duvet cover?? :-)

  6. Cyndi

    Oh, my…unfortunately, it gets worse.

    My last adventure was one of those two-step deals. [No, not the dance, the color AND highlights.] A friend insisted I needed to do the highlights…

    Geez, it’s not enough I am covering the gray? And when is it grey and when is it gray?

    Anyhow…LONGest day of my life…THEN I had to go home and do it.

    I am cheap enough to be a trailer-trash-WalMart kinda gal…though I LOVE Target when I have some extra money! LOL

    80% off!! You GO, Girlfriend!!

  7. Mom

    I was _so_ relieved when I read that the duvet cover went home with you. In future, when there is a critical decision like that which needs to be made, use your cell and the duvet faerie will right the situation. That’s her _job_, after all. And she, like you, is a freelancer and has no benefits. She needs that job. Unemployment is a bitch, as I’m sure you know.


  8. Bob

    random comments:

    1) ?your? mom is a riot!

    2) your license to be an American Female was immediately renewed when you made a comfort purchase of a duvet set. You would have received a platinum renewal if you had purchased shoes in addition.

    3) no matter how hard you try, you WILL have a dye stain on the top of or behind your ears after the coloring manouver.

    4) be prepared for stinky hair comments from young offspring for the next few days.

    5) the duvet set had damn well be from a certain southern textile manufacturer who has just exited bankruptcy and keeps me in wouldacouldashoulda mugs.

    I’m just sayin.

  9. carson

    I’ve never dyed my hair just for that exact reason. My sister has beautiful real red hair. If I could get mine to look like hers. . .but no, I would look like Ronald McDonald.

    My dad has gotten me Target gift certificates the last few years for Christmas. I use them for the things like duvets that are only 20% of their marked down price. The DVD of Princess Bride. Those little essentials that somehow you can’t live without. I love me my Target gift certificates!

  10. Zuska

    The swatches do me in every time! I find myself standing there, trying to blend my hair in with the fake hair swatches to see which matches my (ahem) natural color the best, lol!!

    Here’s hoping #131 doesn’t clash with the new duvet.

  11. Brenda

    Been there, done that, shoulda gotten a t-shirt. I’ve been playing with brands and colors for about 4 years now. I may finally have it right. My hair was a nice light auburn red. Then I got old. It went horribly flat, mousey brown with just enough gray to make me look washed out and OLD. To stop that in its tracks I started coloring.

    Right now, I’m using Feria, and I always get tons of compliments on the color and shine, and it does leave my hair in good shape. I mix a brown and a red to give it a more natural tone.

    Of course, now that I’ve finally found the perfect mix of colors, my gray hair is getting much thicker, so I may just give up coloring and loudly place the blame on my ancestors who are Irish. That’s the ONLY reason I could possibly be this gray at my age (Minus the children, husband, job, family . . .).

    And your mom is totally cool.

  12. lani

    target has a dollar bin now. i like the candy-flavored lip balms. and the goofy socks. and the pretty little notepads.

  13. D

    …which is the reason I stay “wow you are really gray”… those damn boxes and the pictures and the swatches… just keep the color off the new duvet!

  14. Lisa C.

    Don’t worry, I think my license to be female was revoked long ago when I gave up on makeup.

    I so feel you on not going to Target. My son and I used to cruise through there on an almost daily basis until I realized that I spend at least $50 every time I walk in the store. I’ve been avoiding like the plague since then. Case in point, last night I went in to buy garlic bread and ended up with a DVD and clothes for the child as well as the garlic bread. Grand total: $51. Sigh.

  15. Erica

    OMG! The boyfriend left me, so I decided that it was time to highlight my hair, like he had always wanted me to, of course! Spent a good hour or so holding 5 boxes at a time trying to figure out what the heck the differences were. Took it home, read the instructions. It sure sounded easy, HA! I ended up with orange blob-like spots, horrific! I ended up calling his mom to help me! We attempted to cover it up with a brown. Looked ok for a day or so. Two days later I had it professionally “fixed.” NEVER AGAIN!! Target rocks!

  16. Shelly

    So, how did the hair turn out??

  17. Patricia

    Sweetie — I’ve been going gray since I was 16. Nothing about — it ever made me feel old — well, until I was 19 billion months pregnant and my stylist says — “you really should color this, I’d hate for people to confuse you with the grandmother.” So, I was stubborn for a few more months and after my child slept through the night — I colored. My secret is to never use the same shade twice — I figure, why remember what you did last time when you can have angst in Target with a screaming toddler. I know, you envy me.

    Anyway, my real advice is always go a shade lighter than you think you want to be — otherwise it always seems to look rather fake (like the purple/black color the goths in high school wore)

    Hugs — and duvet photos please?

  18. stephanie.

    So addicted to lovely little red is maddening…to the point I have a specific sequence in which I hit the end caps that always have red sticker stuff!!

    Hormone patches gave you grey hair??

    I’m scared!!

  19. JuJuBee

    Pictures of the hair. Pretty please!?

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest