For a time when I was growing up, my mom went to the hair salon every Saturday morning to get her hair styled. A set and comb out she would say. Regular color and perm. I would imagine it was as much a social event as anything else.
Then, during the following week she would spray her hair nightly and wrap toilet tissue around her head while she slept to keep the hair in perfect shape. I can’t imagine that it – any of it – was very comfortable.
She certainly didn’t do this her whole life. I think that weekly set and comb-out stage took place mainly during the 60s. During that period of time, I think most women got their hair styled weekly at the salon. For much of Mom’s life she kept her hair shortish, but took care of it herself with a simple hair dryer, hot rollers and maybe a curling iron.
Her hair never became very gray. It’s hard to know what would have happened in her later life because she died at the young age of 68, but up until she died, she kept her hair perfectly coiffed in a soft, simple style. What gray she had looked like highlights – very pretty.
I thought about Mom the other day, as I often do, while I was getting my hair cut. I wear my hair very short and get it cut every five weeks. It’s one of the high points of my month. I’m not sure why. I love the feel of the cut itself and get a sort of strange satisfaction as I watch the gray hair fall to the ground, as if all of the gray is being cut off and when I look in the mirror, I’m going to look just like Amy Adams or Jennifer Garner. Or someone else without gray hair. Instead, my hair is still gray, only shorter than it was 15 minutes earlier.
For a time I had myself convinced that my hair was like my mom’s – you know, the gray looked like highlights. My grandkids called me on that, as they have kept me honest about a lot of things in my life. I recently applied one of those temporary colors to my hair, sort of getting my feet wet before I take any big steps. I still had gray hair, but maybe a little less. I don’t know. I can’t decide if I should worry about it at all. Am I just self-absorbed?
My hair stylist is somewhere in her early 20s with a hairstyle that includes a partially shaved head and a nose ring but kind of an old soul. I like her because she always tells me she thinks my hair color is pretty. I’m quite certain she would tell me that no matter what my hair looked like because she wants me to leave a tip and come back again. She uses only a razor to cut my hair, but, unlike the hair stylist who yanked at my hair with a dull razor when I was a small child – usually leaving me in tears — I think she actually uses sharp razors. No yanking. No tears.
I might continue to experiment with the temporary color, but I am going to have to work to convince myself to do anything permanent. The last time I permanently colored my hair was in high school when I used a product called “Summer Blonde.” It was supposed to gently lighten your hair just as if you had spent a day in the sun. That’s what Seventeen Magazine said. Instead, it turned my hair a brassy yellow, and every time my hair would grow, I would reapply in an effort to color the roots. Do you remember the episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show when Laura Petrie bleached her hair because she thought Rob was growing bored with her? That’s how I looked. “Oh Rob.” (If you don’t understand what that means, you’re not a baby boomer.)
I’m not the only one thinking about haircuts these days. On Sunday, three of my granddaughters – Addie, Dagny, and Magnolia – all showed up with haircuts. Maggie got a couple of inches trimmed and Addie added some bangs.
Dagny, my friends, went all in. Cute as hell.