Janice at the beach.JPGI guess everyone is having a bad hair day lately. For me it’s not much of a bother since my great hairdresser, Adrian, cuts my hair ‘short and sassy’ although now long overdue the regular five- week mark for a trim.  Friends and acquaintances who dye their hair have complained about the white/gray roots showing through their flaming red/dirty blond/brunette scalps. Some may have even resorted to home color, but that’s just a guess.

Ladies, I’ve been where you are and I want to tell you this is an opportune time to liberate yourself and go au natural.

As a child and young adult my hair was mousy brown.  When I was a sophomore in college I had it dyed red, not bright flaming red, a subtle auburn, which did get lighter in the summer sun, and had a golden sheen when I walked down the aisle four years later in 1962. It was my custom, something I learned from my mother, to go to the beauty parlor every week, a habit I learned from my mother.

I remember accompanying Mommy to the beauty parlor where her beautician, peermanent wave machine.jpgwearing a white smock, and white oxfords on her feet, curled the hair into ringlets and fastened them into place with bobby pins protruding from her mouth.  I could never figure out how she didn’t swallow them. When all the ringlets were in place, a course black hairnet covered Mommy’s head, and she sat down under a loud dome-shaped dryer.  Most of the time Mommy put out her hands to a manicurist, who filed her nails, clipped the cuticles, and put colorless polish on her nails—my mother NEVER had colored nails. After about a half-hour, her hair dry, the nails done, Mommy sat back in the hairdresser’s chair in front of the mirror, the net taken off, the bobby pins removed, and her hair was brushed out, teased with a comb, and sprayed.

Every two or three months Mommy went for a permanent.  This necessitated an even longer time in the beauty salon because first her hair had to be sectioned off, thin rods placed all over them, and then sit under a machine with electric wires hanging down. Periodically the hairdresser dabbed the rods with rotten egg smelling lotion so the perm would ‘take’ better. Eventually, machine permanents were replaced by cold waves and more civil ways of permanently curling hair. Even then, my mother’s routine of weekly trips to the beauty parlor continued.

The model rubbed off on me. Starting with my college years, weekly trips to the beauty parlor were part of my schedule, usually on Friday afternoons, so I’d look good on the weekends if I had a date, which in those days was a rare occasion. I dyed my hair red/auburn in the middle of the week, an unusual occurrence.  It was a whim, and the job completed, I walked across the street to my parent’s store.

I passed my dad getting into his car and he didn’t give me a second glance.  I was disappointed. Mom, on the other hand, sitting in her upstairs in her office, where she could look over all the action above the opening of her desk said, “Very pretty.”

It felt good since compliments from my mother were rare. From then on, all through my adult life, I was a redhead. Getting my hair dyed regularly became part of a routine every five or six weeks.  The year we went to live in Israel a panic set in, “How was I going to get my hair dyed.”

Steve, my hairdresser came to the rescue, “Here’s the formula,” he said, as he handed me a little card and a package with some bottles.  “This should get you through for the next few months, Marv can do it.”

We tried it in our kitchen in Ramat HaSharon one night.  Marv blended the dye and the peroxide in a long-nosed bottle, took a comb, separated my hair into small sections, and gently applied the cool liquid to my scalp. Forty-five minutes later I placed my head under the faucet of the kitchen sink, and there in the cold running water, were waves of pink and red. “Uh, oh,” said Marv, “Maybe we didn’t wait long enough.”

One try was enough to call my cousin and ask for a recommendation for her hair salon.

Twelve years later we were off to live in Melbourne, Australia.  Now in my mid-sixties, the roots turned from mousy brown to white and the appointments for color and cut seemed closer together. I started to resent the time sitting around and gabbing with the other ladies or thumbing through People Magazine and decided my hair should just grow in. I announced my intention to Marv.

“You can’t do that,” he said, “you interviewed as a redhead, and you should go as a redhead.” As usual, he made perfect sense. A few days before departure I made visit to the beauty salon for a color and cut, which would give me some time to locate a colorist after arrival.

A month after we settled into our apartment in Melbourne, I had a ten-day consulting trip to Sydney.  The gray roots of my head were a sharp contrast to the dark auburn. With time to spare one afternoon, I located a nearby hairdresser recommended by the host of my B&B. Ada, an Israeli, with whom I immediately bonded as we spoke in Hebrew, assured me she would match the color. Two hours later I emerged with pink hair. I believe that is the ONLY time I ever had a bad hair day.

Once back in Melbourne, walking up and down Chapel Street with its cool restaurants, coffee brewers, and boutique clothing stores with clothes for women size zero, a plethora of hairdressers were squeezed between them and many more on the side streets. I found Nick, thank goodness.

For six months, Nick regaled me with all the events of Melbourne’s Gay community and wonderful menus for dinner parties as he colored and cut my hair. However, despite the great job he did, I’d had it with the red, and besides, I was off on a six-week business trip with the knowledge that my ‘healthy’ hair would sprout a white mass within three weeks and what was I to do?

“Let’s highlight it, cut it short, and see what happens,” he said. “We may have to repeat this in six months.”

From Marvin Orenstein's party, Sept. 2012

In the mirror, he took locks of hair onto tin foil, covered them with a whitish sludge, rolled up the foil, and went on to the next section. My head almost resembled my mother’s machine perms from the last century, but thank goodness, I didn’t have to sit under the noisy dryer or the fake electrodes. As I waited for the color to ‘take,’ Nick gave me a recipe for strawberry lamingtons, which I hastily wrote down on a piece of paper from my purse. When the color was ready, off came the foil wraps, hair washed, cut short, and voila, a short and sassy almost white-haired woman.  Less than six months later my hair grew into the snowy white it is today. I call it my liberated hair and I love it.




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