Someday, I swear, I am going to quit. Next month, maybe. Or next year. I've done it most of my life and it's getting old.
Not that it's hard. I've been doing it so long it's like taking a shower or brushing my teeth or reminding my husband to tie his shoes. I could do it in my sleep.
Every time I do it, I think, "You don't have to do this. You are just too chicken to quit."
That's the truth. It's become such a part of my life, not to mention, my identity, that I can't picture me without it.
Who would I be?
What would people think?
Who would care?
I've been asking those same questions for as long as I can remember about all sorts of things, really, and the answers are always the same:
1. I'd still be the same person.
2. It doesn't matter what people think.
3. Nobody would care anyhow.
As much as I'd like to believe those answers, clearly, I do not. What I really think is this:
1. I would not be the same person. I'd be somebody else. Somebody I might not like.
2. It matters very much to me what people think. Possibly too much. Always has. Always will.
3. Maybe nobody else would care a lick, but I would.
That last answer is the bottom line, the one reason I keep doing something I should've quit long ago: I care.
So today, again, for the forty-eleven-millionth time in my life, I pulled on a pair of rubber gloves and dyed my roots.
I wish you could see them.
My roots, not the gloves. They aren't gray any more. For now.
I started going gray in my 20s, after the birth of my third child. Some might call that premature. I just call it motherhood.
At first, it was only a random gray hair here or there, nothing anybody else would notice. But I did. I noticed it the way you might notice an armored tank rolling through your bedroom.
I'd check my hair daily for any stray gray and yank it right out. Finally, when I began to fear I might be yanking myself bald, I started coloring my roots.
Call me simple, but it didn't occur to me when I started that I'd have to keep doing it forever. Or at least until a point at which I would get so fed up I'd give up and just go gray.
I am at that point now. Well, nearly. I have friends who've gone gray and they look totally fabulous. But they would look totally fabulous totally bald.
I don't kid myself. I know I'm not hiding my age.
Once, long ago, while driving my oldest and his buddy Eric to preschool, we passed a parked car covered with a tarp.
"Look!" Eric said. "Grown-ups are so dumb. Everybody knows there's a car under there!"
I cover my roots, but I'm no fool. Everybody knows there's a lot of gray under there.
So why do I keep doing it?
It's not so much about how others see me. It's about how I see myself and the way it makes me feel. Isn't that what counts?
I live in Las Vegas. Every day I see people sporting all sorts of interesting looks -- tattoos and nose rings and goatees and comb-overs and mind-boggling clothing (or the lack of it). It often raises the question: Why?
But why not? Everybody knows there's a person under there. Shouldn't that person get to pick how they want to look?
That's called freedom. No matter how goofy-looking it may seem, it's still a beautiful thing.
Especially if it makes you feel better about yourself. If we're lucky, the people who matter most to us will let us be who we are and look the way we want to look, and like us anyway.
Who knows? Maybe we'll even do the same for them.
Everybody wants to hide something. Mistakes. Scars. Roots. Whatever.
But everybody knows, God help us, we're all under there somewhere. Together.
Sharon Randall is a columnist for McClatchy-Tribune News Service (www.sharonrandall.com).