Okay, so my hair is orange.

June 4, 2011 | My Jottings

I have been a medium ash blonde most of my life. If you had asked me to define that term when I was young I couldn’t have done it. But now I can proudly say that I’m able to explain this to anyone who asks, even though no one does:  ash blondes have cooler blonde shades to their hair, often with a grayish cast to it, hence the word ash. Someone can be a very light ash blonde, like many Scandinavians are naturally. And someone can be a dark ash blonde, which is what my hair grew to be after I started having children in 1977. I have no idea how the uterus signals the hair follicles on the head to start producing darker hair once a child has been born, but it does, take my word for it. This covert utero/follicular communication has taken place in many women I know who’ve had children, and most don’t appreciate it. If we wanted our hair to get darker, we would dye it darker.

After a few years of having dark ash blonde (aka light brown) hair, two of the first friends I made when I moved to Minnesota, Kathy Harju and Connie Lippitt, talked me into having my hair frosted. In fact, they were willing to do it for me. Frosting consists of putting a plastic cap with tiny holes all over it, securely on your head, pulling tiny strands of hair through said holes with a toothpick-sized metal crochet hook, smearing hair bleach all over those pulled-through strands, and then washing it all out when the desired result is achieved. One of the benefits of frosting one’s hair is that only some of your hair becomes damaged and crispy, rather than all of it when one uses an at-home system from a bottle. I was surprisingly pleased with the result of having my hair first lightly frosted in 1983, and kept having it done every six months for years. It made my hair look closer to the shade it had been before my uterus started blabbing to my scalp.

But apparently in the new millennium, frosted hair became passé. Warmer, golden blonde hair became the trend, not the cooler, grayer, ash blonde. My three grown daughters would occasionally diplomatically drop hints about how it was time for me to come into the 21st century and stop frosting my hair, and that I should have my stylist put some warm tones in the highlights the next time I had it done, etc. They said that when my hair was frosted, it looked light blondish gray, not light grayish blonde.

I’m 53 years old and had grown a small streak of real, silvery gray in the front of my hair, and I kind of liked it. I didn’t like it enough to let my whole head look like that, but I didn’t mind a little silver at my temples when the months between visits to the salon went by.

Anyway, before I get to the tremendously tragic point of this post, I just want to say that I’m pretty sure most of you know what I’m talking about when I say ash blonde versus golden blonde, but just in case you’re one of my Taiwanese or Estonian readers (yes), here’s the difference between the two:

Ash blonde hair

Golden blonde hair










So yesterday I went for my three times a year visit to the salon. I told my lovely and experienced stylist Bobbie that my three daughters had reached a consensus, and they had agreed not to do an intervention on me if I would try some warmer highlights in my hair. That last sentence is only partly false. Evidently at one time my daughters actually talked amongst themselves about staging a hair intervention on me! Can you believe that? The mother who labored and birthed them in pain and travail with no pain medication whatsoever, the one who nursed each of them almost until they went to kindergarten, and now they’re conspiring against my frosted hair! These are nervy girls, I’ll tell you.

The strange thing is, I think Bobbie agreed with my daughters. She smiled and nodded and acted like she really approved, and proceeded to pile up strips of foil, brought out some bowls and brushes and began mixing colors. No more cap and crochet hook for me.

Two hours later I drove home with a very short cut (I’ll save the reason I keep opting for short hair for another post) and what I thought was now stylish, more in vogue, golden blonde hair.

Imagine my stupefaction when I turned on the downstairs bathroom light to peer in the mirror and found that my hair was now orange. Not orangey red like Anne Shirley of Prince Edward Island. But a light, bright-ish orange.

The first thing I thought of was this:

As I looked in the mirror I called out to Michael, “My hair is orange. It looks like the color of a fox.” He came in to look and I asked him, “Don’t you think my hair is the color of a fox?” Michael inspected carefully and then answered, “A little.”

I then texted this message to all three of my daughters at once:

“My hair is orange.”

Sara texted back, “Oh dear! I’m on my way home.” No doubt she was preparing how to best encourage me how to have it fixed, trying to think of the words to reassure me that it didn’t look that bad, etc.

Sharon texted back her sympathy and asked if I was certain it was orange. Yes, I said. It’s orange.

Like the skin of an apricot:

Like a tangerine. Like an Orange Julius. Like a chewable Vitamin C.

Like the color of a Creamsicle.

Sharon texted back that she was positive it wasn’t like that, that the solution to my problem was finding better lighting.

I was undeterred. I texted my children and told them their mother now had hair the color of a tiger:

(And the expression on my face wasn’t too far off from this either.)

So I took a photo of my hair with my cell phone and sent it on, and was assured by my daughters that there was nothing wrong with my hair color, the problem was with my eyes. Carolyn came over yesterday and said she didn’t think my hair was orange but that she did think I was a bit crazy. The girls think my hair is now “warm, bright, golden blonde,” but when I look in the mirror I still see orange. Pink and orange, as a matter of fact. Skin that’s porcine pink and hair that’s light orange. And they clash.

So today I clicked the button on the Photobooth application on my iMac so you could see my new tigerish look:

Tell me you don’t see the pink and the orange.

The good thing is that my hair grows quite fast, and I really am fine with waiting for it to grow out. I have too many other things going on in my life to actually worry about it.

Years ago when I was a younger wife and mother I started to grow a small horn out of the top of my head. You think I jest? I do not. After the “subcutaneous horn” started peeking through my hair I had it surgically removed, and during the following months about a third of my hair fell out and never made a return appearance. Someday I’ll do a post about the family jokes that were spoken over someone in the house sprouting a horn — I’ve often wondered if this phenomenon explained a lot of things, but I’ll share about that another day.  🙂

Anyway, I’ve learned to flex, adjust, and be matter-of-fact about my hair. It used to be long and lustrous. Then it used to be ash blonde and shoulder length. Then it used to be frosted.

Now it’s very short. And is a foxtailish, apricoty, tigerish orange.



  1. Christy says:

    Oh my goodness…..this was one of your funniest blogs. I also “frosted” my hair (the very same way) for decades ! Sometimes it turned out great and sometimes terrible.I am familiar with every word you used, every feeling you described and every hair description. My hair adventures began when I was 15 and I began streaking my hair with pure peroxide. Every time my parents went somewhere, I would walk to the “Coronet” dime store at the bottom of the street and buy a 15 cent bottle of peroxide and dab a little on the front part of my hair. Of course I knew my parents would never know this…..(?) Was I thinking only my school friends would notice the orange streaking in my hair? To sum it up…..I not only had orange hair, I had orange stubble as the hair broke off and disappeared. At 15…..devastating. Today I am quite content with my brown hair and silver highlights (although I have been known to frequently ask Larry if these natural streaks on the sides look grey or blonde). And by the way (I know…..never start a sentence with AND) but…..your hair looks fantastic! I don’t see any orange at all!

  2. Just Julie says:

    Christy – you should write a blog. You always make ME laugh. “Orange stubble”!!! That one hit my funny bone, especially since you were not the kind of person who wanted to be the center of attention. I like the way your hair looks very much…. and only a loving friend and sister-in-law would tell her friend and sister-in-law that her orange hair looks fantastic. Thank you….

  3. Sharon says:

    1. It’s not orange. I work with color professionally, OK? I teach workshops on color. If I don’t know what orange is, we’re in trouble. Not orange.

    2. Even if it were orange, that would be better than ash. Ashen is used to describe things that are old. You should not be paying money to have someone make you look older.

    3. It’s not orange.

    4. You did not have ash blonde hair when you were young. Your hair in 1976 was warm and suited your complexion. What does ash do for you? Bring out the gray in your skin? Pink skin is alive. It has blood circulating. Gray skin is dead. Dead and ashen.

    5. Still not orange.

  4. Just Julie says:

    I wish you would learn to express yourself a little more forcefully, Sharon! I never quite know what you are thinking! 🙂

    It’s orange….

  5. Sharon says:

    I know, right?! I wish I could just form an opinion on SOMETHING. I’m working on it…

  6. Just Julie says:

    Well let me know when you reach this goal and we’ll go to Hanabi and celebrate. 🙂

  7. Sharon says:

    Don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know when a cohesive thought on the color of your hair forms!

  8. Just Julie says:


  9. Ganeida says:

    No, not orange. My hair goes orange when dyed. I think I should go witchlike with all black. Perhaps then the orange wouldn’t happen but I have my doubts. Oh, & my grey began with one pure white lock over my right eye. It gave me a real …ummm… shall we say *magical*? Fey? Wizardish? look. I was rather chuffed for a bit but the kids were horrified. They thought I was starting to look like something out of the books I like to read. lol Love the tiger look.

  10. sue raimo says:

    I like it.

  11. Ember says:

    Sharon’s right.

  12. Helen in Switzerland says:

    Actually Julie, I think it looks great!!! And no, it isn’t orange, it’s warm blonde. These changes do take a bit of getting used to though and I think in a week or two your hair will have settled down and you’ll probably love it (you should!!).

  13. Just Julie says:

    Thank you Sue, Ganeida, Ember and Helen! It’s so nice to receive hair comfort from all over the world, from old friends and new!

  14. Dorothy Sooter says:

    Julie, I love it and it is not orange. I started dying my hair just before I met your dad. I always did it myself and one night when he was working the night shift at Diablo Canyon I truly turned my hair orange. I went right back to the drug store and bought another color and put it right on top of the orange and got a suitable color so I could go to work the next day. I think I died my hair for about 15 years and then decided to let it grow out to my white hair that I have now. Last year I lost so much of my hair and bought a wig. It was amazing, my Pastor’s wife who has cut my hair for years did not realize I had a wig on. When I went to a family reunion, none of my family realized I had the wig on. It worked and my hair did come back and the wig is retired except on rare occasions. They have truly
    improved wigs, it did not make my head warm but the band around my head became very annoying and as soon as I walked in the house after work, the wig came off. I really, really like the cut and the color of your hair – stick with it and trust your daughter, she would never give you bad advice.

  15. Just Julie says:

    I am having a hard time picturing you with orange hair, Dorothy! *Smile* I think your hair looks wonderful the color it is – it really looks almost blonde. I think the girls will be glad to see your comments about their advice to me! Love you…..

  16. Carolyn says:

    You are a crazy person! It only looks orangey to you after being used to an ashier color all these years. I like it, and I think it will look GREAT in a week.

  17. Just Julie says:

    I noticed how you mixed telling me I’m crazy with telling me I’ll look great….mothers are in the know, you know. TY. LY. 🙂

  18. Sharon says:

    I think we should mark the calendar: Grandma Dorothy says to TRUST ME and that I would NEVER GIVE YOU BAD ADVICE. So stop worrying your BLONDE head about your non-existent orange hair.

  19. Diane Aro says:

    Julie, I know just how you feel. Once the mind latches on to a conviction (‘My hair is orange,’ ‘I have ugly toes,’ “This place is a dump’, etc) there’s no reasoning it away. It really doesn’t look orange from the picture, but it may have a slight orange “cast” to it…just a hint….just a peachy suggestion. It looks pretty and soft, and very natural, too.
    About a year ago I had my hair highlighted with a slightly lighter blond than usual. It looked great at first, but about a week later I noticed rust-colored streaks on one side. I couldn’t figure it out – it hadn’t been like that at first, so where did they come from? Then, the next time I washed my hair, I noticed red/rust in the rinse water…and on my fingers. Blood! I had somehow scraped my head – who knows how.
    This was a fabulous post, Julie! Thanks for the good humor!

  20. Just Julie says:

    Thank you for your words, Diane! That sounds like something I would do – be convinced that my hair was red when it was really bloody. 🙂 Talk to you soon….

  21. Jessica says:

    I was actually kind of disappointed in the LACK of orange in your hair!! I was bracing for something really dramatic!!!! There isn’t a speck of orange (or pink) in that picture. NONE! And I think it looks beautiful!!

  22. Just Julie says:

    You too, Jessica? I never thought you of all people would conspire against me with all these others! 🙂

    (Thank you…)

  23. Ember says:

    No, wait! I have looked again. Your hair is still not orange but it IS exactly the same colour as the tiger in the picture above . . . Hmmm . . .

  24. Just Julie says:

    Yes! That’s what I’ve been trying to say! Finally someone sees it! I have hair that is like a baby tiger! Thank you Ember.

  25. Kay says:

    Julie…when I color my hair, I have to wash it 2 or 3 times before I get the color I was hoping for.
    Also, I have to agree with the rest here…ITS NOT ORANGE.

  26. Just Julie says:

    It used to be like that when I’d have my hair frosted too, Kay. I’m hoping it will tone down a bit in a few days. 🙂

  27. Jessica says:

    Also, I did appreciate your detailed description of the various shades of blond. I have had blond hair my whole life and there are so many shades of blond coming out of my one head that I have no clue what to call it. Hmmm….

  28. Just Julie says:

    Whatever your many shades of blonde, you have one of the most beautiful heads of hair I’ve ever seen, Jessica!

  29. Deb says:

    I think it’s pretty! You look kinda “foxy”! “Copper tones” would be how I’d describe it!

  30. Just Julie says:

    Thank you Deb. I think I’m ready to dye my hair your color. 🙂

  31. Jessica says:

    Well Julie, if you ever find yourself in the market for a wig, I will donate the hair. I certainly have plenty.

  32. Just Julie says:

    Some people get all the blessings, Jessica! 🙂

  33. Carey says:

    Orange? You really think it looks orange? Not even close!! Just go and Google – Tony the Tiger. He’s the one who’s orange…not you. I saw your latest cut and color…it’s lovely and soft and even though it’s a lighter shade than you’re used to…I think you look bea-U-ti-ful!! 🙂

  34. Just Julie says:

    Thank you Carey. But I think you’re biased because you love me. Dear friends never see the color orange when looking at their dear friends. Did you know that?

  35. Savannah says:

    I have to agree with everyone else!
    It’s not orange, and it looks great. (Sharon’s right).
    I loved all your pictures, though. The one of the tiger made me chuckle.

    I feel like I need to do something with my hair too… it’s just… boring. Long, and boring. But I don’t want to cut it short… then it would be short, boring and horribly unflattering.

  36. Just Julie says:

    I love the color of your hair, Savannah. Long, healthy, blonde hair is never boring. 🙂

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