One of the lesser consequences of the quarantine is the growing number of women who are becoming more aware of just how gray, or not gray, they really are. If, like me, you started covering the gray when those first few hairs sprouted, it may be years, even decades, since you’ve known, really known, what color your hair is now.
Back in the annals of hair history (say, the fifties and sixties), showing dark roots was considered tacky, slovenly. It went hand-in-hand with wearing matted, fuzzy slippers to the grocery store, a cigarette bobbing between lips smeared a garish orangey-pink. Then, that same look became an actual, sought-after hair style, sexy and young – the reverse ombré (well, minus the slippers and bobbing cig). Now, with the closure of hair salons due to the need for social distancing, a new take on the reverse ombré is having its day. Rather than dark roots on light, it’s light roots topping any shade under the sun.
Roots – the kind that grow from your scalp – are having their day. Call it skunk stripe, helmet of shame or crown of light – sporting a broadening band of gray/white/silver, and every shade in between, is a global phenomenon. A badge of honor? Why not. An intentional hairstyle, a choice? Again, why not.
Back in the annals of hair history (say, the fifties and sixties), showing dark roots was considered tacky, slovenly. It went hand-in-hand with wearing matted, fuzzy slippers to the grocery store, a cigarette bobbing between lips smeared a garish orangey-pink. Then, that same look became an actual, sought-after hair style, sexy and young – the reverse ombré (well, minus the slippers and bobbing cig).
Now, with the closure of hair salons due to the need for social distancing, a new take on the reverse ombré is having its day. Rather than dark roots on light, it’s light roots topping any shade under the sun.
These are stressful, frightening, out-of-our-comfort-zone times. It’s a time for reflection too – of the abundance we’ve taken for granted, our habits as consumers, the ways we use time and resources. For many women, roots, and what to do about them, may be up for reassessment too. Why not? Those bold stripes are asserting themselves more stridently day by day.
Why not give them a long close-up squint in the looking glass. Lean in. What tune is your band of unruly roots singing?
“Look at me!”
“Wee, I’ve grown!”
“See, I’m not so bad, am I?”
And, what will you say back to your glossy-glass visage?
“Hmm, the contrast isn’t so stark as I imagined it would be.”
“I actually kind of like the color.”
“Now that I’ve seen more, I’m kind of curious to see it through.”
Maybe some of that, with a splash of:
“Oh dear, Bill has no idea how gray I actually am.”
“Oh dear, Bill doesn’t even know I dye my hair.”
“Oh dear, Bill can be such a simpleton. I’m 82 for god’s sake.”
How you choose to answer the call of your new-found roots is, of course, up to you. It’s a choice. A cosmetic choice, to be sure, but still, a choice every woman surely has the right to make for herself. You may decide you’ve seen enough to know you’ll cover it up at the first opportunity. Or, you may be thinking, “It’s time.”
After all, it’s only hair, and lord knows there are more pressing matters to attend to.
Speaking of which, don’t abandon your loyal hair stylist, who is likely struggling with lost income. A skilled colorist can work wonders to ease the growing-out process, adding low-lights and high-lights to blend new growth with old, giving you a head-turning (in a good way), très au courant, reverse ombré.
Insert: Shameless plug for GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK, one woman’s (meaning me) memoir of coming to terms with age (hair, yo-yo dieting, binge eating, relationships – meaning sex – past sixty, etc.). It’s funny, timely, timeless, relatable and sometimes sad.
AND, the e-book is free on Kindle Unlimited or only $2.99 for non-subscribers. (The paperback – published by the awesome Otis Books, and distributed by equally-awesome Small Press Distribution – is currently out-of-print; second printing forth-coming, which is very cool indeed.)
Check out some of the reviews of GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK: A Memoir of Self- Acceptance – all good (not that I would likely post bad ones, well, that’s not true, I would).
Dorothy Rice is the author of the memoirs GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK (Otis Books, June 2019) and THE RELUCTANT ARTIST (Shanti Arts, 2015). Her personal essays and fiction have been published in journals and magazines including The Rumpus, Brain Child Magazine and Hippocampus. After raising five children and retiring from a career managing statewide environmental protection programs, Rice earned an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, Palm Desert, at 60. She also works for 916 Ink, a Sacramento youth literacy nonprofit. You can find Dorothy at dorothyriceauthor.com, and on twitter at @dorothyrowena.