Paint Your Hair

I am writing this column from Canada’s newest northern territory, Nunavut. I am located in a deep underground ice cave and guarded by a fierce pack of Canadian northern beavers. These animals make starving wolverines seem like kittens. My trusty sidekick, Igwanaluk, has provided me with a computer and access to the Internet via Canada’s remote northern satellite, Persephone III½.

You are no doubt curious as to why I am cowering like a craven coward in the remote reaches of Canada. It is because my wife asked me to paint her hair. Although, technically, “paint” is not the precise word she used. She used the word, “color,” but after having recently endured the experience, I fail to see the practical difference between the two.

This is the first, and I suspect will be the last, time that my wife asks me to color her hair. Now I am not a neophyte when it comes to hair coloring. No siree! When I was a young child, I used to watch my father prepare himself and the kitchen to color my mother’s hair. He would don a rubber smock, goggles, thick rubber gloves, and one of those chef-style hats. Then he would spread two inches of newspaper on the kitchen floor and put a plastic garbage bag over the stool that my mother would sit on. He would shoo all us kids out of the house, but I always snuck back in to peer over the half-door to our kitchen to see what was going on. It smelled terrible.

And I have witnessed on numerous occasions my mother-in-law or my sister-in-law coloring my wife’s hair. While I must confess that I only paid attention out of the periphery of my eye, it sounded like they were having just a barrel of fun from all the peels of laughter as they chatted about girly things.

So I was reasonably confident when my wife asked me if I would color her hair.

As she emptied the little box of hair coloring bottles, I immediately noticed something that I could connect with — a little paint brush with a long pointy handle. As she brewed up her mixture of hair coloring chemicals she explained to me that I must use the pointy handle of the brush to make a part in her hair down to the skull skin. Since the current color of my wife’s hair is red, I immediately thought of Moses parting the red sea down to the sea floor. Then I had to dip the brush in the brew, and apply it on both sides of the part, paying particular attention to the roots that are grey. I must repeat this process over and over again moving one-quarter inch at a time around my wife’s head until all of her hair had been parted, or all of her grey hairs had been painted, or I ran out of brew, whichever came first.

My thoughts on these instructions as I was actually executing them were the following:

• This process would go a lot faster if I moved around my wife’s head two inches at a time.

• I could spread out the brew over a wider area to use it up faster.

• It would be a lot easier to part hair if peoples heads were cubical instead of spherical.

• I hope my wife doesn’t mind if she has random grey spots of uncolored hair making her head look like some sort of rare red Siberian tiger with white spots.

• Boy I wish I had a beer.

After applying the paint/coloring, I was told to set the timer on the oven for 20 minutes to allow the dye to “set.” About ten minutes later, one of my sons came home from school and asked if he could play Nintendo. We have a strict rule in this house that Nintendo time is limited to 30 minutes per day and that the timer on the oven is to be used to keep track of their time. So after 40 minutes had gone by when the oven timer alarm went off, my wife remarked that that was an awfully long 20 minutes and that her head was burning.

The next step in the process was to spread the dye through the rest of her hair with my fingers. I felt much like Bugs Bunny must have felt in that barber episode where he did Elmer Fudd’s hair, so I started humming “The Barber of Seville” to myself.

My wife told me to knock it off and to lead her to the kitchen sink (without her glasses, my wife has the visual acuity of a mole in the sunshine) so that she could rinse her hair and get me to apply some medicinal cream to the burnt patches of her skin.

So when all was said and done, and my wife put on her glasses and looked in the mirror, I hightailed it for the far north. I still feel a cold chill coming from the south, so I think that I may be here for a while.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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