SEEING RED

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My mom hated to have her hair touched. It prompted her to enroll in beauty school for the sole purpose of learning the best way to style and care for her own thick, black, naturally curly locks. I still have the leather bound 1930s textbook from her beauty school days that she abandoned upon deciding to coil her hair and pin it atop her head like a crown of glory. It was very attractive, even enviable, and she never fashioned her hair differently from then on until the day she died, decades later, three weeks shy of age ninety-three

     I suppose that’s why it came as no surprise in the summer of 1958 — when I was still eleven with shades of natural auburn and blonde streaking throughout my wispy thin, straight as straw, mostly mousey brown hair — that mom suggested I choose one of the three colors and dye it.

     I chose auburn; Clairol’s Sparkling Sherry to be exact. It perfectly matched my auburn undertones and duplicated the color my older sister, Sue, chose to dye her hair a year earlier. It cost 85¢ for a glass bottle of the dye and another 25¢ for a bottle of peroxide. You mixed them before applying, waited 45 minutes, and then washed the residue out with Halo shampoo before rinsing with diluted Heinz red cider vinegar.

     “The dye coats each strand. It doubles the thickness of your hair,” Mom promised.

     “Do I still use vinegar?” I questioned, even though I already knew it untangled wet hair and kept it glossy.

     “It prevents the color from looking unnatural.”

     That fall I began the seventh grade as a redhead, just as Sue had the year before me. Whenever anyone asked us why our brother, Michael, had black hair we’d confess, “He dyes his.”

     The new school was larger with thousands of students. None of the kids I knew in elementary were in my classes, nor friends of mine in junior high. Consequently, everyone  I met from then and since has known me only as a redhead.

     That includes me.

     Because, even though Clariol has changed the names of their colors, I’ve remained true to those streaks of natural auburn chosen as a child and have never sought to discover the adult dominant color of my hair. Through junior and senior high and college, a stint as a kosher camp drama counselor, New York City careers, a Florida business,  and wherever I traveled or settled on living — once every month I’ve found a place to be alone for an hour for the solitary purpose of denial in dyeing.

     I’m 70 now. I have never let my hair grow out, but if I did, it would be an all-over silver — the same as it is at my temples — which I leave untouched so the age of my face won’t drastically contrast my crown, sporting a hairstyle I haven’t changed in decades.

     I am my mother’s daughter.

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Marguerite Quantaine © 2016
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I’m all eyes and heart.

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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2016
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available on AMAZON, in paperback and Kindle.
Please choose LOOK INSIDE for a FREE
read of several chapters.

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17 thoughts on “SEEING RED

  1. Sharon McCarty Brown

    I just love your writing and your memories stir up some of my own.I love the way your words paint the pictures and your descriptions evoke see such warm feelings. You are a rare and precious gift!

    Reply
  2. sue

    ‘Seeing red’ made me laugh with delight as you painted such a great revisitation to the past for me! I was ‘red’ for decades before going blond. Yes, we told people our brother dyed his hair!! HAHAHAHA!!!! Wonderfully written! THANK YOU, SISTER!! You are gifted! xxxxxxxxxsue (the older sister)

    Reply
  3. Mary Anne

    As a very small child I had blonde ringlets but as I got older and it grew my hair turned to brown. My mother liked long hair on me so until I was nine she left it long and went to the trouble of putting it in finger curls. As soon as she let me I had it cut short and have worn it short ever since. I started to go gray at 18 and had a turning point at forty and dyed it blonde. (I learned that blondes didn’t really have more fun.) When I retired I figured what the hey and let it go natural. I like the white and so does my girl. She particularly likes the fact that it gets quite curly when it gets longer and needs to be cut. My hair now suits me to a “T”. As long as we’re happy with it who cares what the rest of the world thinks. Long live “Sparkling Sherry”!!!

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      My late kid sister, Kate, and older brother, Michael, got my mom’s curly hair — and I envied it — while my two other brothers have nice, dense, wavy manes. Only Sue and I got stuck with hair from hell, although we learned to adapt. I’m the only one in the family with freckles, so who’s to say the auburn wouldn’t have become dominant? But the thinness is undeniable, so coating it, was (is) a saving grace. I cannot even imagine not being a redhead. Just as yours suits you, Mary Anne, mine suits me.

      Reply
  4. Ginger Conway

    Once again you’ve opened your heart and brought a smile to minexpensive. I am so very blessed to call you friend. You excite my imagination, and warm my soul with your stories of life, love, humor and truth. I look forward to each and every word you write with joyful anticipation. Be well my friend, you are sunshine in a bottle!!

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      GINGERSNAPS! Hearing from you is always such a delight. I swear, if I was famous you’d be my entourage. That’s right. Just you! BTW, you reminded me of the other color I had to choose from — Red Ginger.

      Reply
  5. margueritequantaine Post author

    I gotta agree with you on that, Mercedes. I have a redhead personality – or so I’ve been told. And I feel it from my nose to my toes. Love ya back, even if I don’t know how to make a heart icon on this foreign-to-me-machine. xxx

    Reply
  6. Jen Daniele

    When I was a little kid, I used to admire my grandmother’s salt and pepper curls. I’d look at my own straight-with-occasional-squiggles mop and wonder why I had to suffer the double-indignity of it also being the color of a streaked mouse. I spent my late teens and early twenties being every shade of red – including your signature 45R Sparkling Sherry – before letting it all grow out by 30. And then something magical happened. As my hair began to sprout a little salt, the mousy locks darkened, and it began to curl. And curl. And curl. At 45, I now have my grandmother’s hair. Alas, it looked better on her!

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      Pshaw, Bootsie! You have beautiful hair. Why-y, I’d give my upper plate to have a mop like yours. BTW, I bet you looked dynamite as a Spatking Sherry sister. Whipersnap competition that you are.

      Reply
      1. Jen Daniele

        Aw, Toots, you flatter me, but I couldn’t hold a candle to you if my hands were crazy glued on and ya know it! You should know, too, that Sparking Sherry is also my skin tone, so my whole head was indeed quite red. ❤

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