Balancing Act: Pandemic isn’t something to dye for
A couple of decades ago, in the belief that blondes have more fun, I became one.
I had an assist in this decision from my youngest, who at 13, was embarrassed that her mother was older than most of her girlfriends’.
Her father weighed in, too. “Looks great!” he said about my new blonde do. “Don’t ever change.”
I liked it myself and kept it up long after his death despite my daughter’s change of heart after she’d grown up and moved to Oregon.
“You really don’t have to keep doing this,” she said. “Those chemicals can’t be good for you.”
Besides, she implied, in Oregon all the thinking older women let their hair go gray.
To this I have had a standard response. “It’s one thing if you’re Helen Mirren or Jamie Lee Curtis. But it wouldn’t work for me.”
This typically became the segue for my mini-lecture on ageism and our culture and, these female role models aside, how men benefit from the “Clooney” silver fox effect while women tend to be dismissed as simply old.
She developed her own standard response: “Whatever. It’s your hair.” And gave me the stink-eye.
Admittedly, I was tempted to take a shortcut to trying it. For a while, I toyed with the idea of trying on a gray wig, just to see how I’d look. But then I felt embarrassed to notice that wig shops were primarily in business to help women undergoing chemotherapy – not perfectly healthy women debating a cultural agenda.
And then, as if to prove that there was a tad of vanity driving the boat here, I worried about the awkward process of growing out hair from blonde to gray. I somehow imagined a two-toned zebra effect as if, underneath it all, I was raven-haired.
“I just don’t think I could stand that look,” I told friends, who rushed in with assurances that my unnatural color looked “completely natural.”
Then a year ago, voila! The pandemic came to the rescue. At that point, I wasn’t even willing to enter a salon, much less extend the time by waiting for color to process. The idea of coloring it myself brought back memories of my mother giving me a Toni home permanent.
“Looks great!” she always said. But I still have the pictures.
So I entered the pandemic au naturel, and each month, whacking around the edges with my newly acquired barber kit, I’d check the roots. Not that much different, I told myself. And the skinflint in me was tallying up all the money I was saving by not coloring.
“Maybe when we go back, I’ll just do it every few months,” I told a friend, who said she’d made the same money-saving discovery. I started banking the money saved for fantasy trips I could not yet take.
By the time eight months had passed, with a bit of golden glow remaining, I’d half convinced myself that what turned out to be white was actually the new “white blonde,” reported to be “borderline rebellious, but very sophisticated.”
White blondes apparently include Taylor Swift, Elle Fanning and the Kardashians. It is – ahem – a “rising color trend” that normally requires a lot of bleaching and moisturizing. Not, however, for lucky me.
With two vaccinations behind me and feeling bolder about entering buildings that are not my own, I recently ventured into a salon and revisited the hair-color decision – this time with an assist from my salon-owner daughter-in-law.
“I would not have thought so,” she said, “but the white actually looks good on you.”
I’m not sure if this is gospel or something one says to a mother-in-law. But either way, my new white blonde is starting to feel like a pandemic accomplishment I don’t want to undo – a sort of souvenir.
To color it over now to ordinary blonde seems almost like erasing a hard-earned part of my life. I think I’ll keep it.
Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a Beechwold resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Read her work at patsnyderonline.com