Split Ends: A Woman's Life with Her Hair by Richard Stein

When I Went Gray Over My Summer Vacation
Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer

hough I don't put any store in astrology, the fact is that I'm a Gemini so that it probably wouldn't surprise some people that I might have two sides to particular issues.

Part of me is what I like to call a "kibbutznik," which resulted from having worked on a kibbutz when I was living in Israel as a young woman. That side of me abhors wearing make-up or wasting time styling my hair or picking out the right outfit. The "kibbutznik" in me feels that looks take second place to what feels comfortable.

Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer

The other side of me is what I call my "Pierre-ish" look. When I first became Dr. Ruth, my minister of communications, Pierre Lehu, used to ask me what I was wearing or whether I'd gone to the beauty parlor before giving an interview. At first I thought he was crazy for asking such questions, bit I soon got used to the fancy clothes and having people fussing about my head, styling my hair and covering my face with what I still refer to as "that gunk." I had come to the conclusion that if my face was going to be seen by millions of people, even I, the "kibbutznik" retained enough vanity to want to look my best.

Having been turned blond by my hair stylists in the past, even though I hated the coloring process, I continued to put myself through it because I had an image to maintain. But during the summer of 1997 I came to a different conclusion.

My husband had passed away in April. I had two grandchildren with a third on the way. I had a new book about grandparents coming out in the Fall. I spent the summer in Israel, the land of the kibbutz, as well as Russia and Uzbekistan, working on a documentary about grandparents. I was full of energy and very busy and just didn't want to have to worry about going to the hair dresser. I made the decision to go gray.

I loved being gray. This was the real me. Just as being blond hadn't really made me any younger, being gray didn't make me any older. I retained the same old zip and if I still left people half my age dragging along after me, why did I need to dye my hair?

Now I knew that when I returned I would take some flak. First of all, there were my children. And then, there was Pierre. But even if they complained, and they did, I knew I could handle them. The one person who causes me the most concern, however, was my hair stylist, Richard Stein.

Since I don't pay that much attention to the way I look, I rely very heavily on the experts whom I allow to take charge of these matters. If Richard had said to me, "Ruth, you can't be seen on the streets of New York looking like this," I probably would have given in. I would have been a little sad, but I'd been blond for the last dozen years, so it wouldn't have been a total stranger looking back at me in the mirror.

But rather than disparage my new look, Richard was very supportive. Of course he couldn't wait to get his hands on my head in order to cut and style those silver and gray strands of mine, which he ordered me to call "platinum," but he immediately sensed how happy my natural look made me and didn't even try to convince me to color my hair.

Now I don't really know if Richard's attitude was based more on his skills as a psychologist than on his aesthetic views, but I have no intention of delving into his psyche to try to find out. Iím just thrilled that I can walk into his salon as often as I want to have my hair styled without fear of reproach.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer has written 18 books. They include Dr. Ruthís Encyclopedia of Sex, Dr. Ruthís Pregnancy Guide for Couples, The Art of Arousal, Dr. Ruth Talks to Kids and Rekindling Romance for Dummies.

Richard Stein Hair Salon, New York City

Book Contents Richard Stein Hair Home To Next Essay