Of all the little pleasures forsaken over the past year, the most obvious might be the haircut. Suddenly, it seems, everyone in America has very long hair: men, women, pleasantly androgynous children. The question is whether regular haircuts will become a thing of the past, like jeans and handshakes, or if – post-pandemic and on par with rapidly rebounding businesses like movie theatres – hairdressers experience a boom.
My money’s on the latter. While some men can get away with a mop-top look – for a few months, at least – in my friendship circle of women, very long hair has become equated with split ends and a certain witchy effect. I knew something had to change for me when I could no longer convincingly wear my hair “up”, because there was simply too much of it. Washing it became a whole-day affair, something to be tackled in bursts between Zoom meetings. In the winter months, it was like a kitchen-sink sponge: never fully dry.
So I finally made an appointment with one of the many enterprising hairdressers who have pivoted to at-home cuts. I wondered if I would miss the accoutrements of the salon: the slippery black robe, fashion magazines from three seasons ago, a chorus of hairdryers and the question, “So, doing anything fun tonight?”
I did miss all of this as hairdresser Vivian and I positioned ourselves on various pieces of lawn furniture in the baking hot sun. (“If I cut it outside, you don’t need to clean it up,” she had explained.) But there were other things about the salon I didn’t miss, like the weird feeling of stretching the back of your neck over porcelain for the wash, the hard sell of products on the way out and the staggering inefficiency of an afternoon spent sitting still in a revolving chair.
I had been dreading the conversation. Vivian seemed lovely, but it had been so long since I had interacted in person for an extended period with anyone outside my family. Small talk doesn’t come easy these days.
At a recent social gathering, the universal ice-breaker was “So, how was your pandemic?” The answers were heavy: people had lost relatives, jobs, a sense of security in the world. But to be forced to keep the chatter on a surface level was actually delightful: to glide over the weather and kids and travel plans, and to be touched and cared for while doing it.
It was a portable, weighted blanket, a ballast against tidal waves of terrible news and February’s freezing rain.
After the haircut, I sent Vivian her payment on Venmo and went back inside my house to do that thing every woman does after a chop: fuss over the new length, change the part, resolve to ask for a fringe next time.
As for what remained outside, I hope the birds make nests out of it. Their little fluffy babies love the big tree in our front yard. Waddling around, unable to fly, they looked so helpless that I investigated whether I ought to do anything to protect them. The answer, according to the local wildlife authorities, was to do nothing: mothers are likely nearby. Their message? Leave nature alone.