If a woman blow-dries her hair and nobody sees her, does she still look good?
What about make-up, deodorant, real clothes instead of pajamas, foundation garments—are they worth the trouble these days? For myself, so far I have answered in the affirmative, mostly because I don’t want to frighten myself every time I pass in front of a mirror. As for the effect of these decisions on my spouse of 50+ years, it would take an extraordinary gesture—such as shaving my head, say—for him to notice. And even then he might be too much of a gentleman to comment.
The advertisers who think they know all there is to know about me have been bombarding me lately with products designed to color gray hair at home. They’ve got the age bit right, and the graying bit, but they don’t know that I don’t color my hair– so much for their omniscience. It’s not that I have philosophical objections to covering up gray hair, but I have always worried that if I did, and then got sick and was unable to keep after the roots, etc. I would emerge from the ordeal suddenly an old woman, a brutal shock to my friends and family. I would rather accustom them gradually and gently to the ravages of time on my appearance.
Color aside, the hair issue looms greater with each passing day. My layers are growing out, and there are some weird bits at the back of my neck that stick out no matter what I do. It’s time for a haircut, but that’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future. Like many of my generation, for years I went to bed every night with twenty-seven brush rollers in my hair, and to this day I find it impossible to simply ignore the stuff that, virus or no virus, inexorably grows out of my scalp.
I considered shaving my head, but gave up the idea when I remembered Colette’s opinion that, like a ripe fruit, the mature visage benefits from a bit of foliage around it. After researching “dreadlocks for white girls” on Google, I abandoned that possibility because I might be accused of cultural appropriation, plus it looks labor intensive, and requires something called “hair wax.” Besides, judging from the photos, dreads on white people look best if the wearer’s chest and arms are covered in tattoos.
There remains the Buddhist choice: to let go, surrender, practice non-attachment to style and shape, and let my hair grow, in the words of the musical, “down to here, down to there, down to where it stops by itself.” But long hair, if given its freedom, can be an inconvenience and a safety hazard. Already it gets in my mouth when I play the recorder, dips into my soup, and gets tangled in my eyeglasses, hearing aids, and face masks. If it grows long enough, I risk getting it caught in doors or, biblically, in tree branches, like Absalom. Should I ever ride again in a convertible, it might strangle me, like Isadora Duncan’s scarf.
One option remains: braids—worn hanging down the back, schoolgirl-style; rolled into ear muffs, like Princess Leia; or pulled across the top of the head like a tiara. However, all these styles need really long hair. Will the corona era last that long? Who knows? But whenever it finally ends, we will emerge from our caves, dens, eyries, burrows, and lairs and cast our eyes over each other, and know what survival looks like.