Turns out there’s a literal silver lining to a global pandemic.
But I’ve kept the evidence mostly hidden under my hat.
I have some cheerleaders. The stylists at my hair salon have endorsed it. My sister enthused about it after running her fingers through my strands of white that abruptly turn dark brown.
Even my dad, who went gray early and boasts a mane that has long earned him the nickname “Silver Fox,” shared Sally Susman’s Time magazine essay, filed under “Ideas. Covid-19.”
“I don’t know who wrote the rules of women’s hair, but I’ve obeyed them,” Susman wrote in her May 11 essay.
A Pfizer executive, Susman writes how she had previously considered rocking her gray. But her mom shrieked, “Not yet!”
In contrast, I haven’t run into resistance. Loving her own chin-length silver locks, my mother-in-law, Lucretia Finlay, recalled her first attempt to go gray.
She had gone to visit her newborn granddaughter, now a high school senior, in the Midwest. Growing her hair out and tired of the half-gray, half-red look, she had her daughter and son-in-law cut it to within a quarter-inch of her scalp. Sporting a mix of red stubble and white, she walked to a nearby pharmacy for a flu shot.
“What really put me off,” she recalled, “was the older nurse turned to the young nurse, who was going to give me the shot and said, ‘Now, when they’ve had chemo …’”
Finlay corrected the nurse, but, unnerved by the chemo comment, she kept dying her hair red.
Eventually she bought a white wig and started test-driving the look.
“I thought, ‘You know what, this is not harsh,” she said about the white frame around her face. “This is not fake looking.”
So she went all in.
“That was when I started feeling good about myself because I knew that was my hair,” she said. “I won’t lie. I think it took about three years for me to really get to that point before I became totally white. Then, once I had it, I loved it because it just freed me up. I mean, it’s total freedom.”
Freedom is the same word Barbara McPeak, 73, chooses to describe the change.
Like me, the pandemic pulled the trigger for McPeak, who works at Wyoming Outfitters.
Shut up at home for three months this spring, furloughed from work, not socializing and not coloring her hair, McPeak found the switch easier to make.
“I just felt like life was giving me the opportunity,” she said. “You know, when I was in my 50s I thought, well, maybe I’ll think about it in my 60s, so when I got my 60s I thought, maybe I’ll think about it when I’m in my 70s.”
She had two friends — one older and one younger — who joined her. Now she’s saving money and time, is free to style her hair however she likes.
When you color your hair and it starts to grow out, the silvery roots can actually make it look like a bald spot, something I, McPeak and Finlay all struggled to cover up with careful styling or frequent trips to the salon.
“I guess the biggest fear was it would make me look older,” McPeak said. “I don’t know what impression I’m giving other people, but when I look in the mirror it brightened me up.”
I’m still mostly hiding my new ’do under my hat in Zoom meetings and outings, but when I have the courage to take it off, like McPeak, I feel brighter, too.