Green, but Not With Envy
OpinionChana's Corner

Green, but Not With Envy

It has taken a few generations, but hair no longer needs the natural look.

Chana Shapiro

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Granddaughter Miriam isn't quite sporting a turquoise hairdo this summer.
Granddaughter Miriam isn't quite sporting a turquoise hairdo this summer.

At a wedding reception, I sat next to a woman who wore a beautiful Bukhari kippah. I told Leah that I admired her head covering, but I really wanted to know about her hair, which was lavender.

“I bought the kippah to go with my hair,” she said. “I’m a teacher, and my students get a kick out of the color. I change it all the time.”

“What about the other teachers? What about your family?” I wondered.

“My hair doesn’t affect my parenting ability or my pedagogic effectiveness. In fact, my hair probably enhances both!” she said with a laugh.

I wasn’t so sure.

A few months later, I attended a funeral. Among the mourners was a pretty young woman with a thick, baby-blue mane. I spent a few minutes talking with her and her parents and discovered that she had just been hired for a prestigious research position at the National Institutes of Health outside Washington.

“Your hair’s pretty spectacular!” I noted. “Did you dye it before or after you got the job?”

“This is nothing!” she said. “My hair was crimson red when I was hired, which was interesting because the man who interviewed me had saffron-tinged hair that was obviously not his natural color. It’s not a big deal.”

Well, it was a big deal to me.

A long time ago when I lived in the Old Country (St. Louis), the only way I could afford admission to the neighborhood pool was to be a day camp morning swimming instructor. I was a terrible swimmer, but in spite of my ineptitude, I was entrusted with five preschoolers. My job was to get in the water and encourage them to paddle around without fear. My reward was an all-summer swimming pass.

Except for my fortunate friend Judy, whose mother dyed the hair of all the females in their family, my girlfriends and I used peroxide to lighten our hair, which was intended to emphasize our summer tans.

By June, most of us had impressive platinum-blond streaks and highlights. With our hair adequately lightened, we spent every afternoon poolside, working on our tans. (Yes, yes, that was a very bad idea. Blame Coppertone, not me.)

Remember, now, that my mornings were spent with my head in the water. After a couple of weeks, I began to notice a change in my pristine platinum streaks. They were turning green. In fact, the rest of my hair was following suit.

I had signed an agreement, and I was stuck. I started to wear a swimming cap during lessons to keep my peroxided hair away from the chlorine. Not attractive.

Even worse, my creepy tresses elicited the opposite response from teen boys from the one I had planned. I hated my green hair.

Unfortunately, I was born two generations too early.

Our granddaughter, Miriam, always looks forward to summer, when she is free from school rules. She planned to spend a month at sleepaway camp with a full head of turquoise hair.

Her mother, our daughter, Sara, had used Kool-Aid to dye the hair of some of her own friends with excellent results. It was time to use her skill at home.

After a few preparatory steps and a false start or two, Miriam went to camp as a not-exactly-turquoise- but-more-lime-green-haired camper. In spite of my unfortunate personal experience (see above), I admit that it looks, well, Kool.

On the first day, the camp posted online photos of the crowds of arriving campers, and we searched for Miriam in the gatherings. Other grandparents may have found it difficult to locate their grandchildren in the group shots, but it was a breeze for us.

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