With all that has been happening in the world since February, the discussion of hair grooming, seems to take up a great deal of time and space.
Six weeks after our life went into lockdown, my husband Larry was looking more and more like Bernie Sanders. Trips to the barber were not an option, and he had purchased through the internet electric hair clippers. Larry could easily get the front and sides, but I was responsible for the “back forty.” As I held the buzzing clippers in my shaking hands, visions of a Big Bang Theory episode in which Penny accidentally shaved a chunk out of Sheldon’s hair flashed in front of my eyes. Fortunately, the clippers were fairly idiot proof. Five minutes later, and the job was done. Larry looked more like himself.
Larry, along with many of his friends, have resorted to do-it-yourself grooming. Others have used this time to grow beards and ponytails. In our retirement community, grayer and balder versions of their long haired, bearded Sixties self are a badge of honor.
For my women friends, it is not so much a matter of length as a matter of color. More and more crowns betrayed the grey that years of Clairol had covered. The big question was not, “When will this pandemic end?” No, it was replaced by the more looming question: “Should I go natural? “When restrictions lifted in June, most women ran back to their hairdressers, begging them to do their magic. A few, however, used this opportunity to allow nature to take its course. One of my friends consulted “a Silver Foxy” Facebook page
Along with a number of less desirable traits, I did inherit my mother’s genes when it came to hair color. Frances Cohen maintained her dark hair into her seventies. One of her favorite stories was a bout a conversation her hairdresser had with another client. “I want the same color that Fran uses,” said the fifty-something from her perch in front of the mirror. “What Fran has doesn’t come in a bottle,” the hairdresser. Just before the pandemic, I decided to stop highlighting my hair and was surprised to see that my natural brown color had little to no gray. While I questioned my sanity for ‘blonde-that sometimes-looked grey’ treatments I had done for years, my friends just kept saying how lucky I was that I had not spent all the time and money many had expended for years to change my hair color.
In the meantime, another hair-raising adventure was happening in San Francisco. My grandson Sid was born in March with a head of fine brown hair. One month later, he lost all the hair on top, which matched his father’s own male pattern baldness. Unlike Adam, however, my grandson soon recouped the hair on top but lost it on the sides. At five months, he now sports a beautiful brown mohawk. This entire tonsilatory adventure is now captured in a series of pictures chronically the ups and downs of Sid’s hair length.
My grandson may not care about the way his hair looks, but that is not the case for my five-year-old granddaughter. Two weeks ago, Sylvie, who had not gotten more than a trim since March, asked her mother to cut her hair “short like Abigail,” a character from Spirit, her favorite animated show. Julie was hesitant as the last attempt at a shorter style resulted in meltdown. But apparently it made all the difference when it was Sylvie’s choice. Julie texted her relief soon after she lay down the scissors. “I cut it once and she made me cut it again even shorter. She’s very happy!”
Following the text was a picture of my granddaughter sitting in a laundry basket with a huge smile. It was a perfect haircut.
Less than twelve hours later, we heard the familiar ding of Julie’s text message sound. “Well crap. She loved her haircut so much and was so excited… she snuck in her room and cut more off. It was so short on one side I had to shape it into short bob/pixie cut. No pictures available as she is in tears right now.”
The tears continued the next morning through breakfast and through a sad walk to pre-school. After a twenty-minute discussion on the buildings steps, my granddaughter finally was ready to show her face and bob. Unbeknownst to Julie at the time, my son-in-law Sam promised a trip to the toy store after he picked her up that night. Sylvie returned home clutching a “wish list” unicorn that thankfully ended further tears.
A day later, we FaceTimed with my Colorado family and made sure to tell Sylvie how much we loved her short hair. When she commented that it was “too short,” we reassured her that her hair, unlike her Zayde’s and her Uncle Adam’s, DOES grow back.
Yes, between buzz cuts and bald spots and unplanned bobs, I will always remember all the hair raising adventures from this pandemic.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Jewish World News, a bi-weekly subscription-based newspaper in upstate New York, in the August 20, 2020, issue.