November 12, 2021

Scenes from a Salon: Unsolicited Advice from my Hair Stylist on Aging & those Damn Gray Hairs.

hair stylist

“The amount of maintenance involving hair is genuinely overwhelming. Sometimes, I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.” ~ Nora Ephron


Many years ago, I was lucky enough to meet and briefly chat with Nora Ephron at a Q&A event at a theater in Stamford, Connecticut.

Her book I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman appealed to me even then, and I cherish her autograph in its frontmatter.

Now that I am 45 years old, her musings resonate with me even more.

I have good hair. Some may even say I have great hair because it is so full. I am lucky; I inherited my hair from my mother, who still rocks some seriously lustrous locks and braids that would make a young Anne of Green Gables envious.

The downside of having so much hair is that it gets strewn about the house. Not only does it take a good 20 minutes to tame this mane every morning, but I then spend eons sweeping up the tumbleweeds of hair that invariably end up all over the floor.

I could make a “Cousin It” effigy doll from it all.

My hirsute pursuits include regular haircuts and highlights at my favorite salon. Now, I know I am no longer in my 20s and accept this fact. What is harder to come to terms with is the aging process in general.

This is not unique to me, of course. But I have to say that my hair has been slow to turn gray. I’ve counted maybe four such random hairs on the crown of my head.

Are there more hiding in this hair helmet? Possibly. But I have never really worried about it…until now.

When I went to the salon recently, I sat down in the familiar chair and asked my stylist to touch up my highlights and cut a thicker bang. Oh, and to snip some off the ends. Pretty standard fare.

“Touching up the highlights is a great idea. It really helps with the grays,” she responded.

What’s that, now?

I was stunned silent, like that time I realized Morgan Freeman was an original cast member of “The Electric Company.”

Not only was I not expecting her comment (and had never received such feedback from any stylist there), but I also hadn’t even brought up any concerns about them. But I gave her a mental pass, since she was young and meant well.

Perhaps, sensing my displeasure with her remark by the constipated look on my face, she suddenly blurted out this gem, “You are blessed; you hardly have any gray hair at all.”

“Thanks,” I replied weakly, suddenly imagining making an effigy doll of her with all my hair clippings.

Why did she feel the need to comment at all? Exactly how old did she think I was?

This experience reminded me of the recent media storm surrounding Sarah Jessica Parker’s audacity at sporting gray hair in the new “Sex and the City” reboot, “And Just Like That.”

She was quoted in the December issue of Vogue as saying, “It almost feels as if people don’t want us to be perfectly okay with where we are, as if they almost enjoy us being pained by who we are today, whether we choose to age naturally and not look perfect, or whether you do something if that makes you feel better.”

For common folks like me, it is basically the same sentiment.

Now, I know it’s a hairstylist’s job to offer suggestions about our hair and work with us to get what we want. But in my case, I never even asked for advice about gray hairs, since, as I mentioned already, I wasn’t particularly concerned about them.

As my stylist continued to add foils to my hair, I asked her if she could add highlights around my temples this time, for some extra brightness around my face. All she needed to do was say “yes.” Instead, she responded with, “But you don’t have any gray hairs around your temples. You can get away with not doing that.”

I wanted to respond with, “Girl, do I look like Lillian Gish?”

But instead, I quietly vomited, “I. know. I. Just. Want. Some. Brighter. Pieces. Around. My. Face.”

In the end, I got what I wanted.

Listen, I am all for aging gracefully. There is power in that, and if we are lucky to live long enough to get there, we should be proud of that. The takeaway? Even if you’re a hairstylist, please don’t comment on another woman’s gray hair unless she asks for your advice or is concerned about it.

The comments made me feel bad at first, and a woman pays good money at the salon for the exact opposite feeling.

As for my four gray hairs? I prefer to think of them as merely visitors on their way to a better place or refugees from Sam Elliot’s moustache.

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