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Photo of my granddaughter. She has the hair I wanted.

Aging Brought Me the Hair I’ve Always Wanted

The Powers of Genetics had gifted me with medium reddish-brown hair. Hair with a medium sort of wave. A medium bounce, going in a different direction than I wanted.

A Teenage Dream

How I pined for long blond hair. Straight and silky. Reaching down my back. Hair I could pin into a ponytail, high on my head. Hair that I could flip back with a sod-off look of disdain. It would drape my shoulders, accessorizing my slinky little black dress.

In the meantime, there was school and student life and no money to change my hair color.

“You want to do what?” my mother had asked, her mouth a perfect oh — her gray curls lifting in agreement. Or shock.

“If you want it to shine more, rinse it in vinegar,” she said.

“I thought one used lemon juice,” I countered. “That’s for blond hair,” Mom said.

It goes without saying that I immediately mixed fresh lemon juice and hot water for my rinse. And great was my disappointment when nothing happened.

This insignificant problem, aka lack of funds, resulted in short reddish-brown hair for several years.

Time passed, and with parental approval and funding behind me, I entered the workforce.


The Goldilocks dream resurfaced

My paltry earnings stretched to a haircut, not a dye job. But somewhere, I’d read that peroxide and sunlight did a pretty good job.

I lived in a boarding house. There were seven of us, poor as dirt, but the place offered two free meals a day. Spurred on by my fellow lodgers, I waited for a sunny Sunday morning. After liberally applying 100% peroxide, I stretched out in the sun, waiting for nature to do its magic. I was going to be a blond, a golden blond.

My fellow lodgers sat around, commenting, chatting, and waiting for the results. The chatting grew quieter — the comments less. The result evident after several hours.

My hair was a yellow mop with reddish-brown streaks where I’d missed the peroxide. My head looked like one of those yellow floor squeegees with dirt in places.

It was Sunday afternoon.

There was no way I could go to work like that the following day. I could shave my head or find some hair rinse somewhere. I remembered I knew a lass who worked in the local pharmacy. I called and cried and begged. And she came and unlocked the pharmacy so I could get a tube of reddish-brown Clairol rinse.

But the seed had been sewn. I saved and scrimped, and when I had enough for a professional dye job, I made an appointment.

Call it Karma. Call it a lesson. Call it stupidity

The hairdresser applied a paste too strong for my scalp and burnt my entire head. I was sobbing and crying, asking her to wash it off. After she told me what a baby I was, she rinsed it, took my money, and showed me the door.

Evidently, if the dear Lord wanted me to be blond, I would’ve been born a blond. Still, the dream lingered.

. . .

Highlight Rescue

My brother was blond. My sister was blond. Why was I inflicted with boring reddish-brown hair?

It was the blond sister who said, “Ever thought about highlights?”

And there it was.

I would and could have highlights. The tight cap would prevent any paste from getting onto my poor, tender scalp. And I could have as many highlights as I wanted.

I was in my early twenties then and never again faced an unruly mop of wavy out-of-control reddish-brown hair. The highlights straightened the waves, and through the years, it became more highlights than natural color, but never did I go back to a full-dye job.

. . .

This was the era of Mary Quant’s clothes and Twiggy hairstyles. I worshipped at the shrine of both. It was a great and grand time to be young. Life was still affordable, and with little money, one could dress well and have a glorious time.

My hair got shorter and shorter. Twiggy retired. I flirted briefly with the Jamie Lee -Curtis look but realized I’d never look like her and abandoned all efforts. Plus, I was working hard in my new career and did not have time to waste in front of the looking glass.

One fine day at work, I mumbled to my young co-worker that I should really have my highlights touched up. He looked at me and said, “Why?”

“Because of the brown and the gray,” I said.

“There’s nothing,” came the reply.

I took off for the restroom and fiddled with my hair. I searched for signs indicating a new set of highlights was required, but yes, there was nothing.

While life went on its merry way, I had turned into a silver fox.

I now sported a skull cap of thick silver hair — no gray, not a sign of gray or brown. I could wait six weeks to have it cut and styled to look like something.

And then the saga took a turn that left me gobsmacked.


Retirement

We retired and started traveling on our boat. Up and down the East Coast and into Canada. Stopping over here and there and having fun. Haircuts were problematic. It was hit-and-miss with more of the latter.

It’s remarkable what damage a pair of scissors can inflict. Desperate for a haircut, my husband and I marched into a salon with a red and white barber pole outside.

I asked whether they cut women’s hair, and the two young ladies assured us it was no problem.

Ten dollars and ten minutes a piece later, we stood on the sidewalk and collapsed laughing. If ever a saying of “you get what you pay for” was true, this was it.

But after a while, funny was no longer funny. Ten dollars became fifty dollars and up.

“That’s it,” I fumed when I got home after one trip. “I’m paying a lot of money for bad haircuts.”

My hairdresser shrugged. “Then don’t cut your hair.” Now this woman is gold. Newbies wait six weeks to get in with her. When she talks, you listen.

I froze. What a novel idea. I hadn’t had long hair in forever — as in never!

It’s a year now since I cut my hair, and I love it. I love the texture, and I love the natural curl. I only knew I had curly hair once it got to be shoulder-length. I get many compliments, except for my family. My husband still favors the Pixie Cut. Go figure.

My hairdresser back home told me to leave in the conditioner. It counteracts the frizz and humidity. Being me, I couldn’t take a little, water it down and leave it in the ends. Oh no, I massaged a thick blob into my hair, onto my scalp.

I’d forgotten about that sensitive scalp in my twenties.

. . .

It took about four days to take its revenge.

I’m itching and scratching, rubbing in cortisone cream and something called Parker’s Potion — a homeopathic salve infused with wild-crafted herbs and oils created for a little boy sensitive to insect bites. I don’t care, it works, plus it smells terrific.

In the future, I will try and remember to think before acting.

Thanks for reading! And if you have hair horror stories to share, please do.

Ida Adams

 is a Christian, wife, and mom to three rescue dogs. She shares lessons hidden in her messy, yet amazing journey. A dollop of humor now and then.