So here was I staring at myself on the Zoom screen. Much against my desire, it seems to be inevitable to scrutinize oneself (not to mention one’s background) in order to determine the appropriateness of what is being seen by the other. I am told it is a sign of vanity to keep viewing yourself in the mirror. Well, at least for us ladies, we check ourselves out as often as other’s of the creed check us out. Yes, it is right, I am told by a wise man in my life (and God knows that gender seems to be full of them, though I don’t let many share their wisdom with me) women check out other women more often than men check out other women. Irrespective of whether it is a majority of men or women who are occupying my screen space, I seem to still hold the same amount of scrutiny as far as my appearance is concerned.

Now, that it’s is limited to only the top 12 inches of your whole and sole existence, it is kinda unfair, especially for us lesser mortals who sit on their desks (and several of us acquired those during the course of the last 15 months, having spent the first 3 figuring out whether it was really required, especially if space- physical or metaphorical- was not a strong a point of your existence in a certain metro). I remember the time I had seen the photograph of a certain who’s-who who seemed to have the perfect ‘reading’ couch placed in front of sets of neatly (not to mention dust-free) placed books which seemed to follow the order that would put to shame the best of book stores in the country (aah! Another memory comes live to cause pain of a life once normal). Lighting perfect, décor impeccable, and looks- obviously, immaculate.

And here I was, barely managed to get past the morning chores which mostly included taking care of the ablutions and ensuring all others did the same in a timely manner – though most would tell you that my contribution to their punctuality is close to nil and it is mostly my own routine that I spend most of my stressful morning hours following. So between leaving the bed, after what would have seemed another can-do-better sleep episodes and ensuring the tea and newspaper formalities were complete, came the time to decide- was today the day you would shampoo your hair or not? Was there enough time to- you know, take care of what seems to be a big part of what makes up your confidence.

Why do I say that- coz you see- there are bad hair days- there are never bad saree or bad combo days. I mean wardrobe malfunctions are not part of our vocabulary. A mismatched scarf or a forgotten pair of earrings or perhaps, could-have-matched-the-bag-better are mostly the worst case scenarios that play out in the life of a 40-plus mother of one who is out to ensure that all runs like clockwork (I mean the intent exists) in the lives that are touched. But the challenge comes only with the crowning glory!

And believe me, I have not felt it more before the pandemic. You see, especially for those of us whose melanin gave way much earlier in life- blame it on the genes you may- but the truth is that question on whether I should color and what color should it be was never as critical a question for me until the pandemic happened. You see, bad hair or good hair days were not as much important when folks saw a few feet of you and not just less than 12 inches! Never before did I mind the frizzled, haywire locks as much as I did now. And it seemed no amount of filters (on the various online meeting tools) would help my case.

In fact, the time I tried experimenting with colours, seemed to show up so starkly that even the particular discussion which had several faces on the screen seemed to bother me as I felt the multiple shades (in no particular co-ordination) seemed to present a rainbow. I mean why could I not be among the women (and perhaps men) who seemed to show up perfectly on every picture that you saw on the screen. As if selfies were not bad enough to give a blow to your ego (because you could never get the angle, position, pout, right), here came the world of virtual meetings especially when one could not figure out the filters which were required to make you look as perfect as the whole world seemed to be!  I did reach out to my 12-year old to rescue me from the predicament of a particular virtual event I had been invited to be the speaker of, only to be reminded by her that the event was live and being recorded so it was best to go natural! I mean, I do belong to an era when natural was just fine, but it’s not fair when you see not an unsettled strand on the heads of all those who (seemingly) look at you with prying eyes, because the ceiling fan right above you, does incite a few strands to show that they have a mind of their own. In fact, several of them choose to go vertical or horizontal while you try to keep your hands off your head in order to control them.

I realized oiling is the best option to manage the unruly, undisciplined species that I have had the fortune of living with, only to the horror of the tween in the household who found me trying this newfound style (of course, to only look neat) in her online school event, smiling broadly at the teachers who of course were kind enough to not judge (I suppose). In fact, I ended up reminding her how life used to be in a convent school at her age with all of us girls dressed to perfection (by the convent standards) with not a strand out of its place for an entire day. In fact, I haven’t had enough of gawking at tweens who let their hair down for school!

But then when was letting my hair down a characteristic that was identified with me. Tweens or otherwise, perhaps like everything else, your hair is a reflection of who you are (and no, I am not taking this too far- it IS actually true). I have enough research to believe those with wonderful, think, lustrous, and bottomline- naturally enviable strands are definitely much more capable of letting their hair down than poor souls who’s hair, just like them, are still figuring out why the rest of the world seems to have good(hair) days!