What a Purple Streak Really Means

Elizabeth Talmadge Art

By Atlanta artist Elizabeth Talmadge.

“I’m getting a purple streak in my hair,” I told my oldest son, some 577 miles away in Florida.

“You wouldn’t let me get green hair when I was nine!” he accused.

At that time (more than 20 years ago) my son had a friend whose hair was midnight blue. This friend had a cool mother. My son did not.

“You’ve worn me down,” I apologized. “You can dye your hair green now. You have my permission.”

Both of my grandmothers, who had heavy hands in raising me, hated purple. Purple denoted “whore ladies,” or worse, hippies (read: my parents). Instead of saying “I don’t like the color purple,” my grandmothers turned it around and made it a collective decision for me: “We don’t like the color purple.” It wasn’t left for me to choose—it was in my DNA.

My grandmothers were young women in the 1930s and had their children around and during WWII. They styled themselves after women like Katherine Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, tailored and conservative—you know, ladylike. Puritan work ethic mixed with good-girl values. For instance, since I wasn’t allowed to wear much makeup as a teenager, I never picked up the habit when it was time to wear it as a part of my womanly work uniform.

So what made me get the purple streaks? A Creative Friend suggested it in passing, and I honestly didn’t think about it until I was making my regular hair appointment the next day.  My stylist, Maurice Webb at Salon Red in downtown Decatur, liked the idea, no big deal.

It’s unlikely I’d ever have hatched the idea on my own. And I almost backed out when Maurice was in the back room, mixing stuff up, as I sat there in the salon chair and looked in the mirror, noting that the person staring back at me was not some giggly college student nor an aging rock star.

Later, I recounted my son’s “green hair” reaction to my Creative Friend, adding my son reminded had me how hard he and his brother had to fight for permission even to grow rat tails.

“I’m not sure what it says,” I mused. “Maybe that I’m old enough that I don’t have to answer to anybody?”

The linguine-thin purple streaks of hair are pretty close in color to the existing dark brown, hidden away under layers, easily disguised in a bun or with a flip of the wrist.

What does it mean? Creative Friend told me: I don’t care what you think.

Certainly, that’s the practice.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Jan Rabinowitz

    You look fantastic Sibley!! Can’t wait to read your blog posts!

    • Sibley

      Jan, thank you so much! Can’t wait to catch up!

  • Elizabeth W

    Sib – congrats on your joy found in grandmotherhood! Love that you are blogging again. Yes I feel the same way about my teenage son, who lights up my life and lets me look at the world with new eyes..

    • Sibley

      Thank you for your support Elizabeth! I’m thinking Conner shouldn’t be a teenager though–isn’t there a way to stop that? 🙂

  • Evita

    I love reading this as it brings me back to the time we met. OK you did not have purple hair but you looked amazing and young and fresh. I loved your enthusiasm and hope you never lost it. I can see in this article that you didn’t and I am glad. I have found you back and I hope the 30 years in between did not hurt you much but enlightened you in a way to know now what life was about and we where so full of beans . I wish we could meet some day again. Love and best wishes to you and congratulations to your beautiful grandson <3
    Evita , Ireland , west Cork

    • Sibley


      I’m so glad to be back in touch with you! Thank you for the kind words. I can’t wait to Skype chat and see your face!


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