Going gray: the author embraces her hair’s changing color.
E S S AY
My 50 Shades of Gray A local writer examines what her hair has meant to her.
BY DOROTHY RICE
ike many women, my relationship with my hair is complicated. I’ve loved and hated it, often in the same day, and spent a small fortune trying to tame it. My hair’s natural state is blah brown, and so curly/ frizzy it gains more width than length as it grows—what a friend once called “pyramid hair.” I grew up in San Francisco’s Sunset District in the ’50s and ’60s, and as every curly-headed girl knows, moisture is not our friend. What the city’s signature fog did to my mop earned me the childhood nicknames Brillo Pad and Bozo (as in Bozo the Clown). I yearned for long, straight hair the way other girls dream of owning a horse. Hair like my younger sister’s. Hair like all the popular girls at school. Hair like the chick on “The Mod Squad.” To wear it down, in a ponytail, pigtails or braids. That was the impossible dream. If I had hair that could do all that, I could be anyone, do anything. Mostly, Mom cut mine short. At the kitchen table, with blunt scissors, using a bowl as a guide. What she called a pixie cut. During the ’60s and ’70s, the hairscape improved, margina nita scharf
ally. I had natural hippie hair and was sometimes called Jimi (after Jimi Hendrix, with his loose Afro). Not a look I’d aspired to, but loads better than Bozo. At least Jimi was cool. In the ’80s, during my David Bowie phase, I rocked what I hoped was an edgy punk hairdo. Short and spiky on top, long enough in the back to wrangle an actual braid—a pencil-thin one, but still. Photos now reveal it for what it really was: a mullet. At 35, after the birth of my second child, gray hairs began sprouting in earnest. It never occurred to me not to cover the gray; altering my hair’s natural state was second nature. This was in the ’90s. I was in a bad marriage and struggling at work. To escape reality and boost my confidence, I spent long hours at a salon a few blocks from Sacramento’s state Capitol. Reverting to idols of younger years (Stevie Nicks, Rapunzel, a dash of Farrah Fawcett), I cultivated long, beachy waves, the furthest I could get from what my hair did on the natural. This meant double and triple processing, plus marathon, arm-numbing blowouts twice a week. One lunch break, I crossed Capitol Park to the salon, enjoying SACMAG.COM August 2020
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