Octo Observations: A Matter of Roots

Once again I washed my too long tresses this morning as I do every other day… most faithfully. After nearly four months of no hair cut or color or highlights, reality smack-dabbed me in the face! No denying it…..There is a weird color perniciously invading my hair, and one that simply doesn’t fit into the color image I envision. A plight almost worse than our 13 weeks of semi-quarantine which I take seriously as a significantly senior citizen. And it ravages my well-being!

As a 27 year-old-pregnant-with-third child mom lo those 55 years ago, I visited my beautiful, stylish Ohio born and bred mother one July week. I was invited to be a bridesmaid in a dear friend’s wedding, but because of my  advanced pregnancy (ladies with baby bumps were not acceptable to grace a church aisle), I was demoted to monitoring the guest book. Equipped with a stunning new maternity outfit, thanks to my generous mother, I felt pretty spiffy. However, no sooner had I walked through the front door of my beloved parents’ home when mother looked at me in utter horror. “JOY, why are you putting that awful dark brown rinse on your hair? It looks dreadful!”

Unprepared for her reaction, I was shocked. But  being a lady of strong convictions, my mother never minced words. She said what she thought and she believed what she said. I knew I was in trouble. Truth be told, with each pregnancy my once light  brown hair grew darker and darker. Of course I was too busy with motherhood and life to notice or really care. Figured it was nature at work and a sign of maturity. 

“We must do something about this.” So, before another day passed, my mother marched me to the hair-color section of the local drug store. Lady Clairol was the product of choice in 1965. Maybe it still is. Anyway, after perusing the products showing matching color swatches, we settled on Blonde Jonquil #5. With great ceremony we came home, and mother converted the kitchen into a temporary beauty shop. One hour later I was a NEW ME! I was about to find out if “blondes did indeed have more fun!”

Probably the most humorous aspect of the entire adventure with my make-over occurred when my husband, who drove to Cleveland from Maine, arrived late to my friend’s wedding just as the reception began. A few friends whispered, “John is looking for you, but he can’t find you.” Hahaha. He did not recognize his wife with her “new look.” At first he was totally startled, but pretty soon a smile crept across his face, and he gave me giant hug. Since that day I have never been a brunette.

As the years went by, and we made many more corporate moves, I adjusted to various cultures. In Mobile, Alabama it became obvious that women spent a lot of time on their looks. They dressed up to go to the Piggly Wiggly, and I remember thinking, “Oh my golly, how can I go grocery shopping without my gold hoop earrings?” Women always looked nice, and they spent time and money on their appearances. I started going to the beauty shop to have my hair colored and eventually highlighted. 

Taking a snippet of our youngest child’s sun streaked hair, I asked my hairdresser if she thought she could match it. She laughed but was delighted with the challenge. Those were the days of the skull cap color job. A tight rubber thing was scrunched onto our heads, and with a crochet hook, strands of hair were pulled through holes and slathered with color. It hurt worse than Chinese water torture. “Pride must abide.” So I suffered silently and survived. Loved the finished look, and hence forth I have never looked back. (Thank heavens for the invention of foil wrapped color application!)

Until now. We each experience moments of prescient clarity. And I realize more than ever how important so very many other aspects of life really are. Hair is just hair. We are lucky to have it if we want it. These days “bald is also beautiful.” I can deal with the longer length. It isn’t so bad. A few self-administered snips these past few months have helped. I  thank God to be alive, to have glorious family and friends, to live in a wonderful retirement community where we are carefully protected, well fed and are comforted by knowing health care  is accessible to us with the pull of a cord. Our director and all his staff have worked tirelessly to keep us safe. They have eradicated, for now, the mild outbreak of Covid-19 cases in our health care unit….and they have done all they can to keep spirits of us old folks positive and appreciative.

As I sit at my computer, I realize that it is impossible to write an innocuous story about hair today without commenting, at least for a minute, on the history making headlines of this past week.

The tragic events in Minneapolis have left most of  us horrified. To think that any law enforcement officer would maliciously choke a handcuffed man to death while fellow officers either contributed to Mr. Floyd’s suffering or stood like statues, watching, makes our blood boil. Justice must be served. Justice must also punish those who have pilfered, pillaged and burned businesses of innocent hard-working Americans. The riots in so many cities, including where we live, must be quelled permanently. Those people who selfishly ignore social distancing restrictions as they roam the streets are to be vilified. All of this ugliness makes my heart sink. My sense of right and wrong erupts like a volcano.

America is the Land of the Free, but we are also a land founded on solid values and laws. How we handle difficult times, how we adjust to unforeseen events, and how we behave in a manner our youngsters can emulate with pride is the responsibility of every single adult in this country. It is okay to be sidetracked now and then by how we look or how our self-image is clouded, but it is not okay NOT to do all we can to be the BEST POSSIBLE human beings we can be, especially during times of crisis and hardship for so very many people.

Lately I find myself standing on a veritable soap box. At my age I have become increasingly conscious of my husband’s and my own inevitable mortality. I  feel  passionately that our lives are held together by a thread. You might say, ‘Our lives are held together by a mere strand of hair.” One nasty act of violence, one thoughtless word can snap that thread or that strand of hair. Each day is precious. Each person we meet deserves our respect and our kindness. 

Hair-color can obliterate outgrowth of gray hair, but nothing can erase the images of any person alive being killed in broad daylight with his hands tied behind his back. We Americans have serious work to do. Scientists will find a vaccine for Covid-19, but will citizens of this glorious country find a way to grow stronger and wiser from such abject inhumanity and disregard of personal property? I pray we do.

“It is the fragility of life that we discover our true inner strength.” Shefali Dang

“Respect for the fragility of and importance of an individual life is still the mark of an educated man.” Norman Cousins

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.

Top photo: Bigstock