Sunday, April 19, 2020

Who Notices Gorillas, Basketball, and Choco-Plum Hair?

(Somewhere between the 2019 holidays, rescuing two dogs (one a puppy who is sort of house trained after 2 months and little sleep–for me), and COVID-19, I got off track with Miss Mabel. Still, humor is a needed at a time like this so I delved into my essay book and thought I’d share one of my more popular columns with you.) 


“I have purple hair.”

“It makes you look younger,” Elizabeth said.

I stared in the mirror. Purple hair doesn’t make anyone look younger unless you have an arm tattoo and nose ring. And the purple would need to be a bright, neon purple, not dark purple.

I ignored Elizabeth and looked at Angeline, the person who turned my hair purple. “I have purple hair. Do something.”

“I should never have picked up that last bottle,” she murmured. “Not to worry, it’s semi-permanent color. We’ll wash it out.”

She washed. 

And washed. 

And washed. 

Then said, “Hmmmmmm.”  

I followed her back to the styling chair and looked in the mirror. “My hair’s still purple.” I could hear panic creeping into my voice. 

“Washing should have cut the intensity.” Angeline studied my head, weighed her options, then disappeared into her laboratory of bottled dreams. A few minutes later she emerged with another foaming concoction. 
“This should tone it down a bit,” she promised.

Like a lamb led to the sacrificial altar, I followed her back to the shampoo bowl. Within ten minutes, I had choco-plum hair and a raw scalp. 

Angeline dried my hair, fluffing, curling, promising. “Once it’s dry, it’ll be a little lighter.”

Fact: choco-plum is choco-plum wet or dry. Wet, it is dark choco-plum. Dry, it is light choco-plum. Best guess,  a nanosecond of color intensity separates the two. 

“Remember, it’s semi-permanent color.” Angeline spritzed hair spray on my choco-plum head. “It washes out. What I want you to do is wash it tomorrow with Tide detergent.”


Angeline nodded. “Detergent strips color. And then call me and tell me if it helps. I can fix this, I just need time to think of what to do. If I can’t work you in tomorrow, I know I can fix it on Thursday.”

Two days. Forty-eight hours as a choco-plum. I had no real plans for the next couple of days because I was working on a newsletter I write for a local company. I could hide out in my  home office for two days. After I ran some errands today.
Four quick stops stood between me and safety. First, I dropped off a news clipping at a friend’s business. He wasn’t there. I opted for a quick breezy visit, hoping his secretary wouldn’t notice the head of salt and pepper hair she had seen the previous week was now choco-plum. She didn’t say anything.

Next came the copy center. A strange look, but no comment by an employee who sees me often. Then the credit union. No odd looks, no comments. Finally, the post office. 

Now these people know me well. I spend so much at the post office, I should buy stock in it. But the postal clerk smiled a greeting and completed the transaction without even looking at my hair. Hmmmmmm. Maybe something I heard discussed on National Public Radio is accurate: People aren’t very observant.

It seems this university researcher decided to test how observant humans are. He set up a situation where two teams of three people each pass a basketball around. The subject watching the game is told to count how many times the team wearing the white shirt have the ball. 

The timer goes off and the players start tossing the ball around. About a minute into the test, a man dressed in a gorilla costume weaves his way through the players who continue to pass the ball around him. He disappears. The players continue tossing the ball, the subject is still counting how many times the team wearing white gets the ball. After the timer signals an end to the experiment, the subject is asked if he/she saw a gorilla during the game. About 60% of the people tested don’t see the gorilla!

As I drove home, I thought how well my experience reflected this research. People don’t notice the obvious, like a person with purple hair. 

When I got home, Bob took one look at my choco-plum hair and said, “What happened to your hair?”  

No gorilla could join his basketball game and go unnoticed.
No choco-plum haired wife can show up in his house without comment. 

“Don’t worry,” I hurried to placate him. “Angeline is working on it. Two days tops as a choco-plum.”

Early the next morning, I washed my hair with Tide. As soon as Angeline got to work, I called her. “My hair is still purple.”

“I had a cancellation. Can you be here at 11?”

Three hours later I was back in the familiar chair looking in the familiar mirror while Angeline shared her brain storm with me.

“I’m going to lift the color out.”

Hmmmmmm. That sounded good. I’d be salt and pepper haired within an hour. 

After she smeared goop all over my raw scalp, I found out that “lifting color” does not mean the choco-plum will disappear and leave my natural hair color in its place. It means the dark stuff will be lifted, but a reddish blonde color will remain. 

When she whipped the towel off my head, I stared into the mirror. Even without my glasses I could tell what color my hair was. “Angeline, my hair is red.”

“Strawberry blonde. And don’t worry, Elizabeth gave me a great idea.”

One hour later my red hair had been streaked with brown-blonde highlighting. In all truth, the results were lovely. Had I been a person remotely able to have blonde hair, it would have been great. But that’s the problem, changing your hair color doesn’t change your skin tone, or eyebrows, or eyelashes.

Blessed with black eyebrows, going blonde had never occurred to me. And I soon found out why. Blonde gives my complexion an odd hue that can only be toned down by wearing navy or black. I can’t wear any of my favorite colors such as hot pink, fuchsia, or red. But the hair color itself looks great. 

After Angeline turned me into a blonde bombshell, I went home. Bob was waiting to see the results. He took one look, shook his head, and said, “I don’t know why women go through all that. I like you the way you were.”  

Surprisingly, I agree. I never thought I’d want to be gray, but after looking at this weird blonde with black eyebrows several weeks, gray doesn’t seem too bad. 

Gray with a little dash of highlights to brighten my fading locks. Make them shinier, less drab. Whoops, that’s where we were headed when Angeline picked up one bottle too many. Hmmmmmm. I wonder what my hair would look like if she hadn’t picked up that last bottle?  

But now I know only Bob and 40% of my friends and acquaintances will notice, no matter what we do to my hair.