Image: dark curly hair

I Had Planned a Midlife Hair Makeover— Then Covid Showed Up

Still, with my youngest child then a high school senior applying to colleges and my 50th birthday approaching I engaged in multiple mental fantasies. Would I have a lavish party? Nah. Too self indulgent. Would I have an affair? Someone else’s fantasy. Would I take a trip? Maybe, but we had just travelled out of the country. Would I buy a piece of jewelry? Nah, too banal. How about getting high for the first time? Piercings? A tattoo? Too uptight and straitlaced an upbringing; I would need months of therapy just to allow myself. How about a tummy tuck or face lift or botox or lip injections? Nah. My body had done its job so far; why punish it? My wandering mind and musings each were a dead end.

Then it finally came to me: I would dye my hair! Not highlights. Not blonde. No, something funky, something colorful and bright to catch the light and be offset by my jet black hair. That would be my little gift to myself, my mid-life crisis, my stride into my sixth decade with a smirk, smile and panache. I began to have fun googling styles and colors and products. I interviewed several colorists. Never mind the ones who knew me guffawed. They each said it would need lots of upkeep. Never mind it would stain my pillow case. Never mind the cost. I had made up my mind. I would be a peacock for awhile, turn 50, and ‘act out’ of my dutiful character, if only temporarily…

Yeah, right.

Then came Covid. I got sick in mid-March. ) It was terrifying and awful but not the subject of this particular solipsistic exercise and fantasy. By the time I found my bearings and regained any semblance of mental focus or lung capacity it was near the end of May. I Marie Kondo-ed every cabinet and surface of the house. In the interim, the world was on lockdown, my roots were growing in, I hadn’t had my monthly haircut since February, hadn’t had one of the blowouts I had slavishly scheduled for over a decade, and frankly, nobody—least of all myself—could give a shit! My daughters, son, and husband had stylists come to the driveway to cut their hair before Passover and the omer. I decided to abstain.

Pesach, the omer, Shavuot, each came and went. My hair grew longer. My megawatt blow drier and flat iron remained in the bathroom cabinet. Hair salons reopened. My hair grew. I started to read about care for curly hair. Black Lives Matter pierced the national consciousness and my own. As with every Martin Luther King Day, Jews of Color came to the foreground of my consciousness as a Persian Jew and president of a Mizrahi nonprofit. I started to embrace my curls as part and parcel of my core identities from before wife, suburban mom, professional, community leader came to the fore. Maybe I could inhabit these roles and still be wavy-haired? Maybe my curls mean Persian Mizrahi Jew. Maybe they mean I finally break from the conformity of all the years I tried to ‘pass,’ whatever that even means. Maybe my curls and waves mean I am tired of spending so much time guarding my hair from the elements and worrying about frizz.

Maybe wavy hair means I would rather spend  money on something else.

I turned 50 over the summer and celebrated— socially distanced—with close family and friends in my backyard. (It was sweet.) I didn’t end up with my planned peacock ombre hairstyle.

But my lack of concern for frizz and humidity, and the time and money reclaimed from the stylist’s chair, feel like a liberating rebellion nevertheless. I know that my bucking hair conformity is not earthshattering. And, yeah, I know well just how it sounds to write about hair in the middle of a pandemic and at the onset the new year. I’m self-aware, I promise. In the meantime, as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fade into the past, I am grateful to have myself back, my hair flowing loosely, God-willing, into my sixth decade and beyond.