Nope, I’ve never met the 83-year-old actress and activist*, whose first movie came out in 1960 and who has dual Oscars; a fistful of Golden Globes, and enough lifetime achievement awards to fill a couple of mantels.
But scrolling YouTube a few weeks ago, I caught a recent Zoom chat between Ellen DeGeneres and the still sassy and still stunning Fonda.
Right off, DeGeneres mentioned how beautiful Fonda’s nearly collar length, silver locks are looking these days.
“I’m so happy I let it go gray,” she replied. “Enough already! So much time wasted, so much money spent, so many chemicals!” Then, sliding a finger from one end of her throat to the other, Fonda said, “I’m through with that!”
I watched the exchange two more times.
Then came my epiphany to do the same.
Longtime friends, especially my California hairdresser, are no doubt astonished to hear about this hard turn.
That’s because they know that for decades, I’ve had my hair professionally colored once every month. Years ago, the cost was $35; the price tag today has nearly doubled. Still, it was never not worth it because I always felt prettier and more confident when I left the salon.
Eventually, there was another reason: I was sure these visits made me look much younger than my actual birthdate.
But of course, the cycle was never-ending.
I’d see those first gray roots peeking out two to three weeks after a session at the salon. So, having already booked
an appointment my last time in the chair, I’d return with checkbook in hand. I joked that my hair might be gray, or
it might not.
In any case, no one was ever going to find out.
When COVID-19 required my salon to close last March, I knew one thing: I wasn’t going to stop coloring my hair. Instead, I trotted to the nearest drugstore to buy over-the-counter hair dye for the first time ever, playing it safe with a name brand in dark brown.
Then I recruited the Very Reluctant Hubster to do the deed.
With our bright dining room light directly above me and a few old towels draped over my shoulders, I’d hoist myself up on the swiveling stool that he had once used to sing at weddings, fundraisers and community get-togethers.
Now he had another job.
Pulling on the thin plastic gloves that came with the tint, my spouse sighed deeply and covered my entire scalp, and sometimes a cheek, with the dark goo. I’d pile the mess into a ponytail and wait 25 minutes, and then jump in the shower to shampoo it out.
It looked good.
But, perhaps because I also saw him cringe whenever I mentioned it was once again time for the tall chair, I began weighing other options.
Months had gone by, and I’d found a new hairdresser who took masking to the next level. She worked by herself in a stand-alone salon her husband had built on their property, allowing only one client in at a time. My spouse immediately said this was a great idea.
However, I realize now that I’d already been thinking about going gray.
That might be because I’d recently heard of something called color correction, the technique that makes Jane Fonda’s hair look so terrific.
Here’s what it means.
First and foremost, this isn’t a one-and-done situation. Instead, it’s a two-year commitment.
The process starts with letting the gray roots grow out two to three inches. Then, my hairdresser will do something called stripping, which lifts the dyed color out. Once stripped, the hair is lighter and therefore more evenly matches the emerging gray on top. Another stripping appointment comes soon after, perhaps in a few days or if my hair isn’t as healthy as it needs to be, a few months.
As more hair grows, small “baby” highlights are applied to the darkest parts of the hair, which ensures that the overall color will be evenly toned. There might be several of these sessions, but this relaxed schedule also means the chances for breakage and dryness are greatly reduced. In-between, I’ll use a sulfate-free, purple or blue-hued shampoo to prevent brassiness, and also have regular trims to eliminate split ends.
Because the process is so exact and purposeful, the final look is nuanced and beautiful.
Also, it’s not only Jane Fonda’s hair that’s looking terrific these days.
Eighty-one-year-old Ali McGraw boasts a long ponytail streaked with shades of light and dark silver. Seventysomethings Helen Mirren, Glenn Close and Meryl Streep are rocking the look as well, as well as many other Hollywood celebrities.
Sooner than later, I’ll be in their ranks.
I can’t wait.
* I did shake her father’s hand once, though. He was taller than I expected.