Wineka reluctantly takes a trip to the darker side

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I slunk into Walgreens a beaten man.
Age and vanity had caught up with me and, as incognito as I could be, I searched the signs over the tops of merchandise and quickly found “Hair Coloring”‘ on Aisle 3.
I walked up and down the aisle, but only women’s faces on the boxes stared back. A clerk stocking items nearby finally asked, in a voice loud enough for the whole drugstore to hear, whether she could help.
“I’m looking for something to color my mustache,” I whispered. I may have even held my hand over my mouth.
A voice rose from Aisle 2. “The men’s hair coloring is over here,” it said, sounding like an announcement over the store intercom.
Another lady clerk met me on Aisle 2 and became my personal guide through the wall of hair-color products such as “Just for Men” and “Grecian Formula.” Why were all these guys smiling?
My cover long blown, I allowed the clerk to size me up and suggest a few colors that would “target only the gray for a natural look.”
It was amazing how many shades of brown I had to choose from. I finally settled on the Just for Men “medium brown” after I read a note on the side of the box that said, “Can’t decide between two shades? Try the lighter one first. You can always go darker later.”
As I paid my $8.53, the woman at the cash register seemed to have a look of pity in her eye.
I took the Just for Men home and let it age a couple of weeks.
My brush-in color gel promised results in 5 minutes, but I resisted painting anything on my mustache after I read the instructions for its use.
The plastic gloves. The color base tube and developer. The need for a timer. A recommendation for old towels and shirts to protect my skin and bathroom sink.
The box also advised to perform “the allergy patch test” 48 hours before each use.
It all sounded corrosive to me. Plus, I feared that I would leave the gunk in my mustache too long, turning it coal black.
Just for Men also advised taking a shower to rinse off the gel after the 5-minute setting time. A shower for a measly mustache?
The moment of truth finally came Thursday night when my wife, exasperated by now, agreed to supervise the procedure.
“You cannot wear that good dress shirt,” she said as one of her rules.
That was no problem with me. I stripped to my boxer shorts ó not a pretty sight ó because I wanted to be able to hop into the shower as quickly as possible when the 5 minutes had expired.
I put on the plastic gloves, mixed the developer and base together in the plastic dish provided by Just for Men and began brushing in the gel.
Those 5 minutes seemed like an eternity. My wife worried that I had not used enough color base, while I assumed that the whole texture of my mustache would change, and the wiry gray would be replaced by discolored cardboard.
I jumped in the shower and rinsed, as instructed, with shampoo, not a bar of soap.
When I finally allowed my wife to enter the bathroom for her first look, she proclaimed the exercise a success.
“That color is perfect,” she said.
The next day, I came clean and informed my newsroom colleagues that I was no longer a virgin when it came to hair color.
They said I looked 10 years younger and 30 pounds lighter.
Aisle 2, that’s all I’m saying.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or