I was only a kid when Miss Clairol hair color came out with its catchy slogan, "Does she or doesn't she?" and the second part, "only her hairdresser knows for sure."

I suppose that may be true for ladies who use Miss Clairol or other hair coloring products, but it was not the case for me recently when a good friend talked me into covering up some of my rapidly graying hair.

When it came to "Does he or doesn't he?" - my hairdresser and everybody else knew for sure that I did.

When I began to turn gray in my beard and around my temples, I really didn't mind all that much. I was just happy that I still had hair on top of my head. I didn't really care if was dark brown or light gray.

However, my beard really began to wave the gray flag of color surrender a few years ago. Years ago, I favored a much bushier look when it came to my beard. In college days, pictures of make me look as though I was peeping over a hair hedge.

But I later switched to a close-cropped look, with only the hair at the base of my chin being longer than a fraction of an inch. Then I began to notice in photos of me that it appeared that I only had a goatee.

Not only was the gray stubble virtually invisible on my cheeks and along most of my jaw, it appeared to turn my normally pasty white complexion into a shade of hospital gray.

The validity of this observation was proven a few summers ago when I shaved so that I only had a moustache and goatee, and nobody even noticed the difference.

The only negative was that for the first time in 35 years, I had to worry about getting my sideburns straight. Then it dawned on me that that was the reason why I grew a beard in the first place.

Who says you do not acquire wisdom - and gray hair - with age? Instead of wasting time with a ruler and razor in front of the bathroom mirror, I came up with a simple solution.

If one sideburn stubbornly insists on being shorter than the other, I just tilt my head slightly in the other direction and that creates the illusion that they are equal.

However, the solution to my rapidly graying hair atop my head was not to prove as simple. I couldn't very well camouflage it by tilting my head - unless, of course I tilted my head all the way forward and covered it with a towel.

I have not been a big fan of headwear ever since my days of wearing a baseball cap while sitting on the bench in the junior league. And that's not because I had been hit in the head with pitches. (Although, that would explain the grades that I earned in high school and college.)

Actually, I was never hit by a pitch. When the opposing pitcher would see me make a rare batting appearance, he would start laughing so hard that he never got the ball anywhere near me or the catcher.

By the time I finally got back in the habit of wearing baseball caps or cold-weather hats, such headwear proved to have two drawbacks in concealing my gray hair.

If you're a guy over 50 and you start wearing a cap or hat, people automatically assume that you are bald or balding. There is nothing wrong with that, but I didn't want to be accused of trying to pass myself off as a bald guy by wearing a cap.

Secondly, I do not belong to a religion that requires guys to wear something on their head during services. I would have gotten some strange looks from my pastor had I come to church wearing a West Virginia University ball cap. (He's a Notre Dame fan.)

This was what brought me to accept my friend's suggestion to try one of those hair color shampoos for men.

It was expertly applied by our family hairdresser, but I think I might have chosen a shade too dark of brown in covering up most of the gray areas.

It was as if you came out to your car and found that it had been repainted during the night.

My colleagues at school and friends at karate class and church were too polite to say anything no matter what they really thought.

My seventh-grade reading students were not as discreet. "Mr. Koz! What did you do to your hair?"

Years of writing this column have taught me that the truth can be told creatively, so I told them that I dyed my hair.

I explained that I had intended to dye my hair orange in commemoration of autumn and Halloween, but somehow I had gotten hold of some dark brown.

Now that the shock of the new, old look of my hair has worn off, I may try coloring it again.

I either have to do that when school is not in session or actually dye it orange. If my head is the color of a ripe pumpkin, my seventh-graders probably would not notice, because my hair would be as brightly colored as some of their classmates.

The only drawback is that it would be much easier to see if my orange sideburns were uneven.

(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)