Goddess mug shot The Goddess Speaks

Emma Howard

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Not everyone wants
to color their world

What is the fixation that people in Hawaii have for covering their gray hair?

I am 52 years old with nearly all gray hair that started turning when I was in my early 20s. It is something that I have inherited from both sides of my family. It never bothered me until I left California to move back to the islands four years ago.

Santa Barbara, Calif., is very upscale and sophisticated, and filled with gray-haired men and women. They lounge around cafes and shop, never seeming to give a second thought about their natural silver hair.

In Hawaii I'm finding a sea of people in all ages and shapes with dyed hair. There are kids with bleached orange hair or red on black, and elderly with matte caps of black-brown combinations or a blanket of one-shade blond. Is my new mantra to be "Sunshine, beaches and eternally youthful hair"?

I have considered handing a printed card to every cashier saying, "I am not a senior citizen; please don't ask if I need The Discount."

Several stores offer The Discount to give the elderly a break from high prices. Daiei store in Kailua has its senior day on Tuesdays. "Down to Earth" health-food stores also give senior discounts: Tuesdays in Kailua and Wednesdays in Honolulu. It takes so much energy for me to tell the cashiers that I am not a senior citizen that I have stopped shopping there on their senior days.

One Wednesday, I handed the Down to Earth cashier my Vegetarian Society discount card. He smiled and said I didn't need it because it was senior discount day. I turned to the customer behind me in line and asked, nearly in tears, "Do I look like I'm 65 years old?"

He assured me I did not. But the cashier's assumption still stung.

Yesterday, using Photoshop on my computer, I manipulated a recent photograph to see what I would like with dyed hair. I didn't like the result, feeling it took away my hair's magical quality. I love the way my streaks of white hair play up my hazel eyes and rosy, tanned skin.

I'm a textile designer, so I think I know something about color and its power to enhance, magnify, dramatize or diminish, depending on the effect desired.

I decided that in spite of what others believe, I am happy with my looks. I don't want to change my hair color, so my big decision now is what color to use on my new calling card.

Emma Howard is a textile designer and mother of four who lives in Kailua.

The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and
about women. If you have something to say, write
"The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813;
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