GRAND Magazine - July/August 2018 - 10
What I learned from my gray hair experiment
BY WENDY SCHUMAN
ast spring, I decided it was time. I would no longer color my
hair. I vowed that after my youngest child's wedding in April,
I was going to let it go silver. I'd had auburn hair since childhood and had been touching up the gray for about 15 years. I
used to be able to go five weeks between color appointments.
But recently the roots were showing within a week or two. On
my next birthday I would turn 70, and it seemed wrong to fight
nature. After all, I wasn't someone who would go for a facelift or
even a smidge of Botox. I was a child of the '60s, for God's sakes!
And, I would save so much money and time, especially when I
added in the cost of highlights every few months.
I boldly announced my decision to everyone I knew, including my hairdresser, Michelle. "I think you're making a mistake,"
she shook her head sadly. But she had skin in the game.
My husband's reaction was a shock. I expected he'd be perfectly fine with this kind of change, but no. It turns out he was
not only married to me for 48 years, he was also wedded to my
hair. "I love your hair color," he objected.
"But it's not mine anymore-it hasn't been for a long time."
"I'll go along with whatever you do. But since you asked, I'm
not in favor."
Really? His hair was almost completely silver, yet I didn't
demand that he rush out for Grecian Formula. Truth was, he just
didn't want a gray-haired wife. Many of my women friends had
gone gray or silver, and some looked terrific. Others did look
considerably older, but I figured I could deal with that possibility. In my mind's eye I pictured myself looking like my folk music
heroes-Judy Collins with her mane of pure white, or Joan Baez
The Millennium turned and so did
my hair color... the touchups began.
MAY JUNE 2018
with a stunning silver-streaked bob. I had first grown my hair long
and straight like theirs in the '60s (also taking up guitar and singing ballads in my quavering soprano), so they became models to
me of graceful aging.
Unfortunately, my hair color was the main thing I really liked
about my looks. It was distinctive. My birth story, as told by my
mother, always started: "They handed me a skinny, yellow baby
with a full head of curly red hair." The jaundice went away, but the
hair remained copper-red. It was like copper wire, too, coarse
and thick, impossible to manage. My mother tried-I remember
the pain of the stiff-bristled brush. "It's like two heads of hair in
one," she would complain. She was frustrated that it didn't fall into
smooth waves, like the girl in the Breck ad. At age five, I looked
like a standard poodle with a barrette. At times she wrangled
my hair into a frizzy ponytail or braids that stuck out like Pippi
The saga of dealing with my hair parallels that of many girls
and women. Decade by decade, it is a story of control.
The late '50s: I went through the painful stages of learning
to set my hair at camp with spiky pink rollers that pressed into my
scalp or using beer-can sized rollers with actual beer as a setting
lotion. The hair came out stiff and smelled like a brewery, but it
did keep its perky flip or pageboy.
The '60s: I got my hair chemically straightened, a lengthy
and evil-smelling process that was performed twice a year by my
mother's hairdresser. I endured some horrible scalp burns and
sometimes patches of my hair broke off.
The early '70s: While living in South America in my early
twenties, I discover hair wrapping. A hairdresser in Buenos Aires
first wrapped my hair all around my head like a turban held in
place with big clips. I sat under the dryer for an hour. Then she
wrapped it in the other direction. Another hour under the dryer.
You had to have a lot of spare time for this kind of thing, but at
least no chemicals were involved.
The '70s and '80s: Thanks to Angela Davis, Afros were in and
so were Jewfros! I finally went natural. With my hair wild and free,
Continued on next page
GRAND Magazine - July/August 2018
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of GRAND Magazine - July/August 2018
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