With non-essential businesses shuttered in Maryland for the foreseeable future, some of us are taking matters into our own hands.
Matters of hair, anyway.
In the scheme of the COVID-19 crisis, being unable to get a trim is certainly small potatoes. Like most of us, I’ve been more concerned with finding toilet paper and bananas than any matter of grooming. (Don’t even get me started on trying to find “PAW Patrol” mac-and-cheese cups for my picky children.)
Generally speaking, I’m pretty low-maintenance. Though I’ve considered coloring my hair many times, I haven’t bitten the bullet yet to cover up the grays. My nails are plain, unadorned. I get an occasional pedicure, but that’s an easy one to go without.
When I decide I need a haircut, though, I need a haircut. Do not pass go. Do not ignore the need to chop.
That’s been my M.O. throughout adulthood: let it grow until it annoys me, then go in for the chop. My wavy, frizzy locks recently extended well past my shoulders. I’ve often thought about combing out my hair and trimming it myself. How hard could it be? Save myself $40. Be done with it.
My sincere apologies to the stylists of the world.
Last Saturday, I woke up with that itchy I need my hair cut feeling. I could have ignored it; this is a time of sacrifice, after all. I haven’t seen my family in six weeks. I “met” my sister’s new baby through FaceTime. I submit to a daily temperature check and wear a mask all day at my hospital P.R. job. I’ve been walking around with a pit of dread in my stomach since early March, worrying that I’m risking my health and that of my family each time I leave for said job. And I can’t even freakin’ wander the aisles of Target to relax.
So I wanted my hair cut. I just did.
With apologies for the sappiness, my husband is something of a renaissance man. There isn’t much he can’t do when he focuses on it and studies up. Of course, these tasks are usually in the realm of building custom-made flag boxes, repairing busted pipes, or solving the mysteries of life and the universe as a physicist . . . still.
I first floated the idea like a joke. “What would you think if I asked you to cut my hair?” I asked.
Spencer’s eyes widened.
“Just a trim,” I added. “Nothing complicated. I just really, really want it cut.”
I’ve asked a lot of the man over the years. Perhaps I’d now asked too much.
Still, I wanted the idea to percolate. I went to take a shower.
Twenty minutes later, I combed out my messy locks and eyed myself in the mirror. Yes, it was time.
I texted my husband from upstairs. Calling down would have alerted our children to my presence. They would immediately run in and paw through my cosmetics, inadvertently snapping jewelry and scattering beads like confetti. The kids don’t mean to be destructive, exactly, but they’re … busy. Creative. Relentless. Five-year-old Oliver, in particular, is the very definition of bull in a china closet.
Sooo what do you think about cutting my hair? I texted. Is that crazy?
My husband had apparently been downstairs looking up at-home haircut tutorials on YouTube. He found one of an adorable curly-haired woman who made it look easy-peasy.
I think I can, he wrote.
Dripping with confidence, then, Spence and the kids piled upstairs.
I started to chicken out when my husband grabbed the scissors usually reserved for his beard-trimming. I can’t say they were particularly sharp. Spence pulled up the YouTube video for me. It did look fairly simple … when someone else was doing it, anyway.
“Is this a good idea?” I asked, grimacing.
Spence shrugged. “It’s totally up to you. I mean, I’m willing to try it.”
“But do you feel good about it?” I pressed.
He gave me a look.
Well. We’d made it that far.
I offered my one piece of advice — fateful advice, as it turned out: just not too short.
We worked on getting my now half-dry hair damp with a spray bottle. Hadley and Oliver sprinted into our closet — usually an off-limits zone — to begin wreaking havoc. I sat on the edge of the bathtub with my back to my husband, who tentatively combed out my wild waves.
In hindsight, I really wasn’t nervous — and I probably should have been. The man is just so calm in a crisis, you know? I have never doubted that Spencer could build, repair, or transform his way out of any challenge.
But can he cut hair?
“Just a trim,” I said, over and over — an incantation, a prayer. “Just a trim. Don’t go crazy.”
How bad could it be?
I tilted my head forward, just as my longtime hairdresser would have instructed at my first cut-and-style at Nancy’s Beauty Shop circa 1994. I dug deep into my limited knowledge — reminding Spence to work in sections, checking to see if it was even.
The one thing I failed to mention? The critical information that my husband, having never cut hair before, had no way of knowing? Wavy hair shrinks as it dries.
As the snip, snip, snip of the scissors began in earnest, I did feel lighter. My hair is heavy and constantly in my face. When I’m busy or stressed, pulling my hair up is my first act to regain control. As it’s been growing, I’ve found myself depending more and more on the ol’ mom bun to just get it out of my eyes.
I couldn’t see anything while Spencer was working. If I had, I would have noticed one child strutting around naked in my boots (wha?), and the other buttoned up in about 10 dress shirts with a necklace as a belt. Hangers were tossed with abandon, along with my tops and sweaters. I peeked out a few times just to see a cackling kid striking a pose, walking foal-like in high heels. They fought. The hollering was deafening, as usual.
Through this chaos, Spence kept his focus. He was done within minutes. “Don’t look yet,” he cautioned, brushing hair off my back. “Let me just … ”
With eager fingers, I reached up to touch my hair.
And … there was none.
Well, OK — that’s clearly not true. There was some hair. But my “just a trim”? “Shoulder-length”?
I had a bob.
I have a bob.
Fighting the panic that was causing me to nervous-chuckle, I kept a smile on my face. Though I shouldn’t have been, maybe, I was truly shocked. My hair was in dark piles all over the bathroom floor. I hadn’t gone for a chop this severe since I went for the standard I’m-going-to-be-a-mom utilitarian cut shortly before my first child was born. I barely recognized myself.
When the kids rounded the corner again (still nude, in one case), they literally froze. “Mommy!” Hadley shrieked, again and again. “Your hair! Look at your hair!”
“Don’t worry — I’ll share growth potion,” offered Ollie, referring to a “salon” app on his tablet that lets you try new looks … with hilarious results.
Like mine, apparently.
“It’s OK, guys. I like it!” I chirped, meeting my frightened husband’s eyes in the mirror. “It’s … different! I feel lighter. It’s good! It’s all good.”
Spencer looked genuinely scared.
“It’s fine!” I soothed, now feeling badly that I’d put him in that position. “Really. I like it. I just … not too short, I said.”
“I didn’t think I was cutting it short! I was using your shoulders as a guide … or the base of your neck. What … happened? It was so much longer wet.”
“Curly hair shrinks,” I added weakly. “I thought you … I didn’t realize you didn’t know that. I guess it’s just something I’ve never not known, and I’ve never had to explain it before.”
I thought Spence was going to puke.
“Guess I missed that part in cosmetology school,” he joked.
As the day went on, it seemed to get shorter. I kept catching a glimpse of myself and remembering all over again.
I loved the way it felt, but not necessarily the way it looked. Much of that has to do with my own longtime hang-ups about my face looking plumper with short hair — more of an emphasis on full cheeks, a full chin.
But I’ve worked hard to get past that nonsense. And you know what? Hair grows.
At a time when everyone is beginning to rock luscious locks and turning to DIY hair color, I thought about warning my coworkers before I strolled in Monday morning. The change was … dramatic. And since I was still trying to accept it myself, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give everyone a heads-up.
I forgot, though — until I walked in to find my boss at her desk early the next day. She looked up and gasped.
I’ve heard that quite a bit this week. And I’ve told this story, in part, quite a bit this week.
I’m calling it my #COVIDCut. Or #CoronaCut. I’m not alone.
A friend said I look like a flapper, and I dug that — whether or not it’s even half true.
The Roaring Twenties … 2020s version.
Well, the decade certainly is off to a memorable start.