My last post received a comment from Esther Newton, who said she was surprised to hear that I had ever dyed my hair. Today I will explain how that came to be.
When I met Sylvia in 1997, she was working as a tech writer. It’s a young field. In order to get jobs you have to look like a kid, at least age 14 but no older than 35. Sylvia was 44 and in her family people tend to get gray early, so she colored her hair. I was 53 and hadn’t considered hitting the dye bottle.
We got married in 1998. Some time within the next year or so, Sylvia had some minor surgery. We were hanging out in one of the hospital hallways, her in a wheelchair because they were required to transport her that way, and me standing by her side. A middle-aged woman came by and addressed her: “Isn’t it nice that your mother is here with you!”
That woman really needs new glasses,I thought. But then another woman came down the hall and said the same thing. Hey, I’m only nine and a half years older than Sylvia! I sure didn’t get pregnant at eight and a half. “That does it!” I declared. “The minute we get out of here, it’s Miss Clairol for me.”
And so it was. I had the hairdresser match the dark brown I was born with, since my job involved doing research for an expert witness on personal injury cases, and I wanted to look respectable, even conservative, for the times I had to testify in court. After we moved to Oregon and I was sure I wouldn’t have to appear in a California courtroom again (the attorneys wouldn’t want to pay my air fare), I added a streak of dark purple. Nobody objected—until my sister invited me to her son’s bar mitzvah. She was quite distressed when she picked me up at Newark airport and insisted that I re-dye it before the event. We did that in her bathroom. Once again I had to look respectable. Sigh. Perhaps she should have been grateful that I am really conservative when it comes to my body, and didn’t show up with tattoos or piercings.