I hadn’t even heard the term before July. And then, during a routine trim shortly after my forty-fifth birthday, there it was: “Have you ever considered lowlights?”
“Umm, what?” I asked the overcoiffed twenty-something standing behind me holding scissors.
“We could work them in with highlights, and you wouldn’t even be able to tell.”
I tried not to look completely baffled as I put my expertise in antonyms to work. “You mean…some darker, and some lighter?”
She nodded, and flipped her wrist in a hand-shrug to express how simple it was. The scissors glinted menacingly. “And you’d only have to get it redone like every six months. It would hide some of this….”
Her cheerful voice trailed off as she fingered my part.
“The gray?” I asked, feeling like we were discussing the Voldemort of the hair world: That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named.
“It would look really pretty!”
Several months later, I had almost exactly the same conversation with another young woman wielding scissors. I told her what I’d told the first one: “You know, I actually like my hair.”
It’s an unpopular sentiment, but it’s true: I like my hair. Except for the fact that it’s nastily staticky right now, and I never make time to style it properly, which results in my trapping it unflatteringly in ponytail each morning and my mother-in-law asking me repeatedly if I’ve ever considered bangs, I like my hair. It’s brown. I’m lucky that it’s about fifty shades of brown, and so the gray that’s been creeping in had always been mistaken for just another shade of brown. But in the past two years, maybe because of bots or maybe because I’m halfway to ninety, the increasing population of non-brown hairs can be positively identified as one of the fifty shades of gray.
My mother edged toward the cliffs of gray hair at about my age, maybe a little younger. She took it upon herself to fight it the way everyone fought it in the eighties. It wasn’t called lowlighting then, it was called L’Oreal. My adolescent siblings and I made ruthless fun of her at the dinner table the day she finally admitted to doctoring her ‘do. She stood her ground, refusing to give us the pleasure of knowing exactly how and when she made her magic.
Not long after, though, she stopped. I’m not sure why, and hesitate to guess, because I’d probably be wrong. She eased naturally into salt-and-pepper, then steel gray, then a lovely silver.
As far as lowlights, I don’t know which way I’ll go. I don’t want to look older than I am, although if I really wanted to look younger, I’d get a tattoo. I don’t want to appear any more unkept than I already do. I also don’t want to come off as a suburban matron grasping to look like what she’s not. I didn’t always like my hair. And I won’t always. But for now, I like my hair. So I’ll go with Nolighting today.