My White Hair is the Silver Lining to this Awful Year * CoveyClub

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Beauty & Wellness

My White Hair is the Silver Lining to this Awful Year

COVID-19 forced me to embrace my hair color. Now, I’m letting my freak flag fly

By Carol Tannenhauser

I’m letting my hair go white. I made the decision around the same time I realized there might not be an “after the pandemic” for me.

Right now, my hair looks like I got caught in a light snowfall; it has a dusting on top. But the white really emanates from down below, from my roots, which have been growing untouched-up, since the lockdown began in mid-March.

That amount of time between dye jobs was pre-pandemically unheard of; I was on a strict three-week, lifetime plan. I thought I’d go to my grave with light-brown hair: die dyeing.

Then something miraculous happened: my hair didn’t come in the muddy gray I had always expected and feared; it came in white. At 71¾ years old, I had never once considered that possibility, in my rush to get rid of my dreaded roots. What did they represent that I kept those appointments more religiously than ones to clean my teeth (which is making me uncomfortable to admit)?

And now I find out, my hair is white.

My mother let her hair go white, but she was in her 90s. I hadn’t seen her for a while, and my first sight of her white hair brought delight. Such a soft change from the undefinable color, shiny with hair spray, I had become accustomed to over the decades. I loved her spirit. Then, at a weekly “beauty parlor” appointment, she forgot and dyed her hair back to its previous undefinable color. We joked about it, but I thought it was too bad.

Now, it’s my turn. I’ve made my decision, but what will be the ramifications?

The mirror: what will I see? Depends on the mirror, the lighting, and the mood. In terms of mood, it’s chicken and egg. No question, when I think I look good, I feel better. Lately, I’ve been liking the white wave that has established itself above my left eyebrow, but not so much the ravages of age below it: the bags, the wrinkles, the dry and dark spots, which are apparently also permanent. It’s better to socially distance from your mirror, too, I’ve decided. 

The mirror in other people’s eyes: in my characteristic manner, I’ve asked everyone I could think of what they think of white hair in general, and on me. I’ve taken countless selfies documenting the process, and shared them, in addition to showing off my new look on FaceTime and Zoom. Most of my friends voted for brown. One even bought me my color in the drugstore and offered to leave it at my door.

My husband is knows-better-than-to-be-honest neutral. But, of course, I know what he really thinks. “How about professionally?” he asked me. “Will people take you seriously?” I know this is an issue for women in their 50s and 60s, but I’m nearing 72, and my work as a writer requires burying my head in a computer screen, most of the time. The correct answer was, “You’ll be beautiful in my eyes no matter what color your hair is,” but that wasn’t forthcoming. “He missed that memo?” a friend joked. Another said, “You’re going to have to do this on your own, girlfriend.”

Hey, Siri! Play “Almost Cut My Hair,” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

The day I made my decision to go white, I stood in front of my HomePod and asked for a song by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young that has stayed with me since 1970, the year I graduated from college. I sang along with it, then as now, at the top of my off-key voice. If you don’t know it, google it. It’s an anthem to freedom.

Almost cut my hair
It happened just the other day
It was gettin’ kinda long
I could-a said it was in my way
But I didn’t and I wonder why
I feel like letting my freak flag fly
Yes I feel like I owe it to someone

But to whom? My mother? My daughter? All the other first-wave female Boomers who are facing the same decision, or could be? My first grandbaby, arriving in November? Myself? It’s freeing: making a decision contrary to convention, taking a chance, letting my freak flag fly. And it’s a long time coming.

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