REVERSE OMBRE -- LIFE EXPERIMENT
What happens to red hair in the aging process? This is a question about which I became curious as a young red-headed woman when I thought about what my aging might be like. Incidentally we redheads are referred to as "Gingers" in some parts of the world.
I was reminded recently of my red hair curiosity when a young woman associated with the first college I attended after high school included me among former students with whom she wanted to meet during a visit to our state. While we were chatting at a nearby restaurant a middle-aged couple stopped at our table saying they just had to compliment my companion on her beautiful long red hair. That attention to her red hair color brought to my mind the many times throughout my life such perfect strangers had given me similar compliments though I usually kept my hair cut short.
When I first began blogging over a decade ago I wrote about having decided I wanted my body to age naturally, including my hair. What prompted my hair view, when in my early twenties, was seeing an aged older neighbor with “red” hair. My older neighbor’s unnaturally-looking “red” hair was obviously dyed and just seemed not to be compatible with her quite aged state and wrinkled face.
This was in the day when attitudes about hair dying required the color must be so natural looking that no one could tell you dyed your hair, so if you did you wouldn’t admit it. You certainly didn’t want to let your natural color roots show, so had to keep that dye job touched up ‘cause your hair was constantly growing. Other neighbors who knew her said she had been a natural redhead but had begun using a henna rinse as her red hair lost its color. Frankly, I thought her hair color was most unbecoming and only accentuated the aging factor of her facial features.
I began to pay special attention to redheads in the following years as simply a matter of curiosity to see what happened to their hair color with aging, thus what might I expect? What I discovered was redheads’ hair color changes varied considerably with aging. Some turned a darker brown, others grayed even becoming white, and what I hoped for myself was to be among those who retained their red though less vibrant.
I recall a few years ago reading a blog (have forgotten the name) written by a middle-aged woman who apparently considered herself to be an authority purporting to be a redhead. She stated that redheads don’t turn gray, that our hair just turns an ugly dark plum or purple, as I recall, therefore she had to dye her hair. Hm-m-m!
Over a decade ago when I began blogging I first wrote “RedheadAging Naturally”. At that time I bemoaned the fact that first I had silver threads among my red gold -- years later, then darkened red gold threads among the silver. The silver or what I consider to have gone from gray to white my 86 year old hairdresser describes as blond. Who is she kidding?
I never wanted to be a blond, but have nothing against blonds – I married one, only to discover if he grew a beard it was red! Unfortunately for him, he lost most of the hair on his head prompting him to repeat what my brother always quipped when his hair disappeared, “You can’t have hair and brains both!”
Actually, the gray/white/blond has some of my now darkened red-brownish hair threads presenting me with several inches of this darkened hair at their far end. My granddaughter has told me this is actually a style some seek -- Reverse Ombre style. (Unable to find a picture of an older woman but this link gives you an idea of the two tone nature of the hair style.). I also wrote of my thick hair thinning slightly and that has continued which is most unwelcome.
My hair is no longer short. When I retired a few years ago I decided just for fun to allow my hair to grow. Also, I half-seriously thought, in the worst-case scenario, that if I lost more hair and what I grew got long enough, that maybe I could cut off what was left and have it made into a wig. I guess that’s pretty far-fetched.
My original longtime hairdresser, much younger than me, has since had to retire due to COPD. Prior to that she was frequently coloring her hair and it appeared so liked my hair color she began trying to come up with various matching dye mixes through some of my hair’s gradual changes. At one point she had one mix on her head that looked so good to me when I was lamenting the loss of my red that dyeing my hair was tempting. Then I thought of all the hassle I didn’t want. I also thought of this which I previously wrote with these slightly edited words:
“Yes, I gave some consideration to trying to recreate the red hair color through artificial means--hair dyes. I know others, men and women, make this choice and I respect their right to do so. However, I have seen those [in the hospital, skilled nursing, rehab] who have become incapacitated, also become distressed, demoralized, and depressed when they viewed their reflection in a mirror. Their self-image was visually shaken because of their personal appearance, not only from the effects of their illness, but the sight of their hair dye disappearing as their unwanted natural hair color emerged.”
“Those are some of the several factors that have kept me from trying to recreate the original shade of my red hair color. The primary factor is that I strongly believe in aging naturally. I'm curious to see what happens during the aging process from beginning to end, and in between, with all the possible variations in hair color, skin, body shape, whatever else. That's not to say I'll like all the changes, but I will accept them, for they are me at any given point in time.”
I view aging naturally, my choice to live in place in my home, as one grand experiment which I explain to my adult children. They sometimes become concerned about my coping with unexpected issues arising, wanting only the best for me, especially since they live across the country from me. Life is an adventure filled with risks and as long as I have my right mind I’ve chosen the challenge of adapting to this stage of life living and aging naturally.