Go Gray!

Go Gray!

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Whether your first gray hairs pop up after 40, or if your genetics talented you with premature gray, you are faced with a choice: let it move or cover up? I found my first gray hairs at age sixteen;”Oh, that is my side of the family,” my mother remarked. Such a color appeared to say,”I’m grown and powerful up – take me seriously.” But rather the silver threads were hardly noticeable, except when they stuck out at crazy angles in the rest of my’do.
From the time I was twenty-five, I decided it was time to begin coloring. At first I did not stray too far from my natural brown, then slowly experimented with auburns, scarlets, one which called itself”midnight ruby”… which turned my hair a deep eggplant. I spent twenty minutes trying to think of what I could wear which might make my hair look less purple, then eventually gave up, wear a purple shirt, and went to work. The strangest part was that the surprisingly responses from my co-workers: everybody loved it. My manager, whose response I had worried about, pronounced it”cool.” Maybe this would prove to be a great thing after all.
My mom was not thrilled with my casual new color, but did not hold me after all, I had been going for something entirely different colour, more of a dark reddish than shocking violet. “It will not last,” she advised upon seeing it. Mother has coloured her hair for as long as I can recall, but always a decent shade of Clairol blonde, mimicking her once-natural colour. In his article”True Colors,” Malcolm Gladwell explains the achievement of Clairol’s famous ad campaign (“Does she or does not she? For the first time, it was becoming acceptable for respectable wives and moms to colour their hair – a practice that had previously been associated only with”fast” girls – but just as long as it was not obvious. “The question’Does she or does not she?’ Was not just about how nobody could ever really understand what you’re doing. It was about how nobody could ever really know who you’re… It really meant,’Is she a contented homemaker or a feminist?'”
For women, hair is more than an attachment: it is an extension of individuality, a door to a world of different possibilities and personas. This may be taken at least two ways: women might decide to alter the colour or style of the hair in preparation for (or response to) major life changes like getting married or divorced, changing or leaving work, etc.. But there is also the transformative effect resulting from the hair change itself: you may feel like another person, and also feel free to behave like one.
Despite being faithful to several of the exact brands of toothpaste and paper towels and laundry detergent which my mother preferred, for fifteen years I always used L’Oreal to attain my variety of brown-reds. In contrast to the healthy blonde girl-next-door kinds that Clairol constantly featured, L’Oreal girls were coolly sophisticated brunettes. And, with time, it became increasingly apparent that individuals would use the colour of my hair as a fast and effortless gauge to make assumptions about the sort of person I need to be. So on a whim I deviated from L’Oreal for the first time, purchasing a box of punk dye which turned my hair, my bathroom sink, and many floor tiles the colour of maraschino cherries. I loved it, my students loved it, I got compliments from my colleagues and strangers in the shop. I was proud of doing something adventurous and glimpsing this new side of myself; how a number of other ways could you get a new facet of your individuality for $10.99? My mom, however, hated it. “You had such a gorgeous natural color before.” I reminded her that my lovely, natural colour also came from a box, which did not appear to make a difference to her. As months went by and my glowing red faded into a brassy orange, mother continued to worry I was risking my job, my relationships, and my public picture in a late-blooming act of adolescent rebellion.
Mother’s response was just the worry typical of a mother, or a gap in personal aesthetics. She was expressing the ingrained attitudes and social conventions of her generation, the baby boomers who’d grown up with Doris Day and Kim Novak as ideals of”nice woman” beauty. Though they may be”bottle blondes,” they took care to use colors that could pass as natural – like the harmful temptresses like Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield. It was not so much the colour itself – after all, I teased her, blond has long been associated with promiscuity, from early Greeks prostitutes wearing yellow wigs to Renaissance paintings depicting Eve from the Garden with flowing golden locks.
Meanwhile, the longer it faded, the more I enjoyed it, especially as my salt-and-pepper roots grew out; my hair was now three or four distinct colors, and all these colors appeared to represent a part of my character. Wouldn’t another even-braver step be to quit coloring it entirely, stop spending so much time and money covering up my”naturals” (as my hairstylist diplomatically referred to my glistening roots) and be free?
Since I did not have the patience to await my own colour to grow to shoulder-length, a little bit of online research and a number of trips to the beauty-supply store yielded a mild ash-blonde, which I shortly toned to a deep purple. And my mom is now quite delighted with my new colour, though it’s every bit as artificial as the previous one (and her own); it seems natural, so we’re both satisfied. It’s about to get a nice long rest from any sort of treatment or processing. This is a good resting point for all three people: my mother, my hair, and me. Mother even wonders aloud about creating her own transition into gray – with a little help from a jar, of course.


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