My mother is a lifelong hair color addict. Though her years of natural hue have long gone, she remains a tried and true, permanent redhead. Despite that old advertising slogan, Only her hairdresser knows for sure, you can pretty much bet your lowlights that at her age, the whole world would attest that there ain’t no more original roots left in her roots.
But for my mom (as for generations of women), just going to the neighborhood salon served the soul as much as coiffing her hair. For two luxurious hours, while men and babies waited back at home, gaggles of ladies could sit still under hot hair dryers, reading up on the newest celebrity styles in slightly old periodicals. More than gossip floated between blotted-lipsticked mouths; women-tribes bound by their love of foil and ammonia shared their troubles and secret heartaches. In America, a hair salon is as sacred as any church’s confessional booth.
Aside from the typical teenage Sun-In obsession, I first followed in my mother’s coloring footsteps at the age of 15 when I auditioned for our community theater’s production of “The King and I”. To effectively transform my suburban blonde image so I’d match my (landed) role as one of the King’s concubines, I had to dye my hair jet-black. The box color was cheap and temporary, so for weeks even after that final curtain call, my stained pillowcase looked as if Casper the Friendly Ghost sat on it with diarrhea.
And so it’s been for me every six weeks for 30 years: color, cover-up and carry on. But you know what? No more! I’m a grown woman now, surely nobody’s concubine, and I don’t play roles anymore. I see clearly who I am and who I’m not. I know and honor myself, and I put my money where my mouth is.
Yes! That’s why I’ve decided to take the brave first steps – to allow my hair to go fully grey! I’m now defining my own standard of beauty; I feel empowered by my gentle progression in time’s forward march. And I can tell you without whining what caused each grey hair: Many impossible-to-love men, bratty children and all those stressful “Lord, I-need-a-Xanax!” jobs.
My close inspection shows me that some strands of my just-liberated grey are looking downright quite glittery – and they make me feel magical in an extraordinarily ordinary way. Feria and L’Oreal could be Tinkerbell’s BFF’s, not real women, with names like those. Me? I’m way past mythological: I’m legendary! And friends, I have a plan: I’m gonna lead a Grey Crone Revolution!
When I’ve saved up hundreds of dollars by my chemical-free resistance, I’m gonna take all my friends to IHOP, my treat — come as you are! in all your shades of fade-to-grey, and crack open your greasy menus spread with full-color photographs of tall stacks, omelets slathered in Hollandaise sauce, concentrated orange juice in tumblers and cold ice tea!
Our waitress will grin big and call us all “Honey.” Maybe Joni Mitchell will pipe in with the muzak and somebody’s baby will lean over into our booth and drool down our shoulders. We’ll take a moment to make the obligatory coo and then get back to our cool huddle. You see, we’ll have world dominance work to get to.
I tell you, our Grey Crone Revolution will catch on like wildfire and outlast any latest hair fashion fad. The fierce matriarchs of our movement will be Jamie Lee Curtis, Diane Keaton and Helen Mirren. Forget boring Mt. Rushmore! A new face – like Emmylou Harris – will appear carved into some regal old mountain, her cascading hair white with flecks of pure crystal and gemstone. And move over, Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington: It’s high time Blythe Danner and Olympia Dukakis grace our currency, their white hair stoic and un-dyed!
Let the guys keep their Just for Men – with its male model on the box looking doused with globs from the latest Exxon oil spill, its name implying a bunch of fussy old dudes who wash each other’s hair in some tree house where no girls are allowed.
Meanwhile, our dignified and defiant white-haired warriors will henceforth step out of our mothers’ salons… and into the blinding sunlight.