This Is Us

A Self-Indulgent Ode to Old Lady Hair

Or, a meditation on accelerated aging

Manoush Zomorodi
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readNov 18, 2020

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Do you feel like you’ve aged exponentially this year? Or, better question: Do you look like you’ve aged exponentially this year? I do. And not just because of the pandemic, the recession, or the numerous existential crises facing our country.

I’ll start by rewinding to March.

The last thing I did in pre-Covid times was get my usual monthly root touch-up. Five days later, New York City went into lockdown and we decided to rent a house in NJ to be closer to my parents. Hospitals started filling up with sick patients. My lovely hairdresser texted all her clients, offering to leave doses of dye on her salon steps so we could cover our roots at home. I couldn’t be bothered. It felt vain and pathetic to be thinking about hair — and anyway, this whole thing would be over in another month, I figured.

A week later, she texted again. This time to say she was closing the salon for good, because the landlord wouldn’t give her a break. I was heartbroken — and not because of my hair. In the past decade, I’d spent more time with my stylist than with most of my friends. Weeks passed. The gray began seeping across my scalp. I told myself it was a symbol of my loyalty to my hairdresser. But maybe it was just denial? I’m not sure. Yes, I ordered a box of dye from CVS.com but, between the kids and meals and work, again, I couldn’t be bothered to use it. I started dodging mirrors. I tilted my Zoom camera upward, so that it cut off the top of my head on conference calls.

The grombre IG account

But hair really does grow about an inch a month and, by June, I had a new habit: After reading the news at night, I’d treat myself to the Instagram rabbithole known as the #grombre (gray + ombre) movement. Women embracing the two years it usually takes (shit. two years?) to grow out your natural color and cut off all the dyed ends. Thanks to the pandemic, their followers had swelled because of women like me. In 2018, Vox wrote about the trend, specifically the grombre Instagram account, marveling at its 29k followers. It now has 215k followers, a large percentage of us who never would have tried to accept how nature intended us to look, were it not for a pandemic. That is a sad but true statement.

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Manoush Zomorodi
Human Parts

Journalist, mom, Swiss-Persian New Yorker. Host of @NPR’s @TEDRadioHour + @ZigZagPod. Author of Bored+Brilliant. Media Entrepreneur-ish. ManoushZ.com/newsletter