A Look On The Lighter Side: Some straight talk about hair

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It’s time to talk about hair and what happens to it during a global pandemic.

I was in a Zoom discussion group last week with women I’ve had coffee with every month for more than 20 years. And even though we’ve all been cooped up for two months or more, away from any kind of salon or beauty shop, most of us looked more or less like the folks I remember from better days.

But I found myself completely distracted by one woman in the corner of the montage, who had a shock of wild, unruly hair. Didn’t she own a comb? Didn’t she have a mirror? Didn’t she know what she looked like?

I put my glasses on to figure out who she was. So did she.

Uh oh — that woman was me!

In my defense, I will say that I have never been all that interested in my own appearance. (And don’t say “It shows!”) Yes, I own a mirror, but I look into it as seldom as possible — mostly to make sure there’s nothing stuck in my teeth before I go out of the house. And since I haven’t left the house in one and a half geological epochs, I haven’t bothered much with the mirror.

On top of which, I am not used to seeing myself on Zoom — or any kind of video, really. It’s not as if I were some sort of Kardashian, for heaven’s sake!

But the crowning glory — or crowning blow — of my Zoom experience was realizing how much of my hair has gone gray.

I knew that some graying would happen: I’m not an idiot. The appearance of a respectable silvering of the hair at my temples has always been my signal to get back to the beauty parlor.

Which now, of course, is impossible.

I assumed that at some point a stripe of gray hair would appear at the top of my head, growing wider as the weeks went by. Eventually, we’d be able to measure the number of weeks in lockdown by the growing width of that stripe — like annual rings on a tree stump.

What I didn’t bargain for was all the rest of my hair lightening, too, as the color gradually washed out of it. Even the best of shampoos take something with them…and I’m gradually fading away to a shadow of my former self. Like a color photograph from the Sixties.

I also didn’t realize that sooner or later my hair would reach that awkward in-between stage, where it’s too long to look good without effort (that’s why I keep it short), but too short to tie back yet.

Hence the unruly mop.

But here’s the worst part: I completely forgot about my eyebrows. They are going gray, too — but not soon enough. Right now, I can still see enough of them to realize that each individual hair has its own idea of which direction to grow.

In fact, it was my eyebrows that convinced me to start coloring my hair at all.

It was back at the time of my first son’s bar mitzvah. I hadn’t even realized I was going gray, until the woman giving my son his bar mitzvah haircut asked me if I wouldn’t like a little “touch-up.”

For the record, “touch-up” is a terrific phrase. It could mean anything from having your eyebrows dyed to having major surgery. I stop short of anything requiring stitches.

“Sure, I guess so,” I said. So she mixed up a potion, colored my hair, and then asked if I wanted her to do my eyebrows as well.

“My eyebrows?” I replied, raising them as if to show her where they lived on my face.

“Exactly,” she said. So she lathered me up and I looked and felt ridiculous, with one white foam caterpillar sitting above each eye.

But when it came time for the big reveal, that’s when I got my surprise. “Oh — my face is back!” I exclaimed.

I had been feeling vaguely unhappy with how I looked, without knowing why. It wasn’t until my eyebrows were visible once again that I realized how much I had missed them.

So now I’m fading away again, slowly, in front of my own eyes. But at least now I know to run and get out an eyebrow pencil, before I disappear altogether.

As for the shock of gray hair — well, I’m getting used to it. I hope the Moms Coffee group is, too.

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