May 20, 2005

Brown Hair, Blue Eyes

I believe in always telling the truth. And the truth was always right there on my driver’s license: “brown hair, blue eyes.” All my life I have been “brown hair, blue eyes.” It is who I am.

My wife and I decided to get passports in case I ever agree to travel beyond a thirty mile radius of our home. Filling out my passport application, I came to the question of hair color.

“What color is my hair?” I asked my wife.

She was silent. That question is the equivalent of a woman asking, “Does this dress make me look fat?” There is no good answer.

“What color do you think it is?” she asked.


She laughed.

I bolted for the mirror. I did not turn on the light because that would have been too revealing. I lowered my chin and pulled at the top of my head.

“It’s brown on the top,” I said. I knew it was. And if my hair is cut correctly, the top falls over the sides, which have some gray or which maybe are gray. Okay, the sides are not gray, they are white. But the top is brown. At least, some of the top is brown.

“Your hair is not brown,” she said.

“Liar,” I thought to myself.

“How about if I write in ‘brown with silver overtones?’ ”

She laughed again. “I don’t think they want that much information.”

“How about ‘brown with silver overtones with volumizer?’ ” My new shampoo gives my very fine hair “volume,” which I desperately need.

She laughed some more.

I recall the first time that I faced the issue of hair color. Twelve years ago I was in California for some training. A group of us were on our way to lunch. While crossing the street a woman whom I had just met asked me, “What color was your hair before is turned gray?” What a question! It had to have been the bright sunlight because my hair was still brown. I hated that woman then and I still hate her now

So you can see that this is still a difficult issue for me. It is not that I care what color my hair is. It does not matter to me that gray hair would indicate that I am aging or that I may, in fact, be old. It does not matter that my older brothers have hair darker than mine. No, none of this matters. I just want to get the answer on the application right. I do not want some border guard refusing me entry into some important country.

I stood over the application staring at the blank, but then walked away from it. I have found that it is better to put off difficult decisions when there is time. I wait for the answer to reveal itself. So I walked away.

But I did not want to be hounded by this dilemma. I did not want to spend the next three days thinking about it. So I gave in. I rushed over to the application and wrote in “gray.”

She made me do it. She made me lie. It is all her fault.

Thank God I still have those beautiful blue eyes. At least I think I do. Let me go look.