Thursday, September 13, 2007

only my hairdresser knows for sure

When I was growing up, I never liked my hair, and it seemed like my mother didn't either. Before I left for school every morning, she would brush it back and braid it so tightly that I cried as she worked. She would get angry, then, and, let's just say, my days didn't start off well. When she tired of that, she got my hair all cut off in the "pixie" style that was so popular in the late 50s. Photos show me smiling happily with my new short haircut, and I'm sure I was delighted to have my daily hair-pulling at an end.

As I got a little older, however, my mother decided to put my hair up in pincurls every Saturday night so that it would look "nice" for church on Sunday mornings. I hated that. Once again my mother pulled my hair to make the pincurls and poked my head with the hairpins as she worked. Then I had to try to sleep on the bobby pins that encircled my head. I guess my hair didn't look "nice" enough, though, because I was taken to the beauty salon for a perm. And taken back again because the first perm didn't "take" to her satisfaction.

Then there was the color of my hair - a light brown that became lighter in the summer, but was darker the rest of the year. The terms my mother used for it were less than flattering: "dirty blonde" or "dishwater blonde." So, no, I didn't like the color of it, either. I always thought my brothers had nicer hair than I did. Thomas' hair was so thick and dark and wavy, and Bill had beautiful red curls that stood up all over his head when he was little.

In the 60s, when I was in junior high, I let my hair grow out. I longed for it to be straight, like the Yardley's of London girl, but it always fell in unattractive bumps and waves. Still, I let it grow and grow, all through my high school years, and my mother threatened to cut a big chunk of my hair away as I slept so that I would have to get the rest of it cut. When I lived in the dorm, every night I pulled my hair into a loose pony tail on top of my head and rolled it on three huge rollers so that it wouldn't wrap around my neck as I slept.

The first time I colored my hair I was a sophomore in college. My friend, Gloria, and I streaked each other's hair with blonde one Saturday night in the communal bathroom of our dorm. I loved it. For the next ten years, my hair was always streaked with blonde, at first Ben doing it for me, and later I had it done professionally. Eventually, I went all blonde, and I stayed that way for many years.

A couple of years ago, I felt ready for a change. I still loved the color of Bill's hair, and believed myself to have a redhead's fair complexion. So I became a redhead myself, with fiery red hair that caught the sunlight. I have to say, I really liked it. I thought it suited me, and so did most of the people who knew me. I never thought of myself as a redhead, however, and was genuinely startled when an elderly woman at an antique show complimented me on my "beautiful" hair color.

I have always been afraid of becoming one of those women like my Aunt Joanne, who doesn't know how to age gracefully, and began to feel that it was time for me to let the gray hairs, which I knew were there, show through. My friend, Kathy, who is a month older than me, stopped coloring her hair several years ago, and she looks fantastic (and much younger) with her salt-and-pepper hair. Well, she would look fantastic no matter what, but thanks to her, I felt ready to take a peek after all these years, at what my natural hair color had become.

My hairdresser and my manicurist and all the other sweet young things - still in their twenties - at my salon dissuaded me for a while, but when I left my job, I knew I wanted a radical change. "Cut it off," I said. "And let's start getting it back to my natural color." So right now, I guess you could say my hair color is in transition. It is two shades of brown with some blonde highlights, but I am done with having it colored for now, and, hopefully, soon the brown and gray that I see in my roots will be the new color of my hair. And, you know, I think I'll like it. I think I'm ready for it.


Kristy said...

You know, they say that women sometimes change their hair in drastic ways after life transforming experiences. I think the all-natural thing fits in with what you're doing now that you're no longer getting your soul-sucked out of you daily.

anne mancine said...

I just wanted to get shed of anything that related to that job in any way - even the way I looked while I worked there.

And, you know, I like having my soul stay inside my, er, self, where it belongs.