So, I finally took the plunge and got my hair cut. I had been putting this off for months, even after hair salons reopened under Phase I here in Massachusetts. Indeed, I rescheduled at least twice, because I was just too nervous about the pandemic risks.
Then the heat wave hit. It’s July, it’s really hot, even for me, and my hair not only resembled Albert Einstein’s, but also was just compounding my sense of overheating. I rarely perspire, but sweat was streaming down my forehead and into my eyes.
I tried a stopgap with hair combs and clips, which worked up to a point. It was kind of fun to be able to play around with my hair again after wearing it short for decades. But not fun enough to make it worthwhile for the long haul that this pandemic surely is.
My salon is in Boston, worth the trip for the talent—my March haircut lasted at least two months before it went haywire. I called ahead to double-check what precautions they were taking and was very pleased that they not only were following the strictest protocols, but also that my stylist wears a face shield over her safety glasses and mask. If she’s being that careful (which she needs to, because she’s at greater risk than I am from so many contacts during the day), then I figured I’d be in good hands. And I knew I could wait another two months before returning.
Even still, I was nervous before leaving the house last Tuesday. What if I was making a huge mistake? What if I got Covid and had a really serious case, given my high-risk status with scleroderma, all for the sake of vanity? I shared this fear with Al that morning, and he was clear that I was neither (a) doing something stupid nor (b) vain. This helped.
I made it into Boston in under an hour (pandemic = no traffic) and found street parking. So far, so good, no need to touch the meter because of my parking app. Most people were wearing masks, as I was, and the sidewalks were not overly crowded, so I could stay six feet or more away from others. I had hoped the salon door would be open, but it wasn’t; I was prepared, and put on a rubber glove to pull it open, so no contact there.
The receptionists were courteous, took my temperature with a forehead scan, then handed me a salon robe. My stylist greeted me soon after and asked if I wanted my hair washed or just spritzed with water for the cut. I was glad to have the option and chose the latter. She sanitized her hands and set to work.
Forty-five minutes later, there was a lot of hair on the floor, and I looked like myself again. She did a wonderful job. I had prepaid online, so there was no need to handle my credit card for the cut or a tip. I sanitized my hands and left feeling great.
Still doubts lingered. For the next few days, I found myself second-guessing any tiny change in my health—a sneeze, a cough, an odd tingling in my tongue (this, I realized, was due to something in a takeout pizza we consumed for dinner that must have been an irritant). But I also was certain that I’d know if I were sick. I am very attuned to my body, and whenever I’m coming down with something, I immediately feel off-kilter. As I write a week after my haircut, I still feel fine, thank goodness.
Getting my hair cut was about more than just wanting to feel cooler in the heat and wanting to look my best, although those were certainly motivating factors. It was also about reclaiming a piece of normal. It was about overcoming my fears of what this pandemic has wrought and taking a carefully calculated risk. It was about supporting my stylist so that she could continue to make ends meet.
My hair is one of the very few things I can control about my appearance, ever since I contracted scleroderma. When it looks good, I feel good, and when I feel good, I have more energy and confidence. And I can be more present and supportive of others. Well worth it.
Image: Ugur Peker