Every morning I wake up and stand in front of the mirror. For a brief moment, I am unrecognizable to myself. Then I realize that that woman in the reflection is me, a Covid-era version of me. Locks of hair hang like a straw curtain of blonde ombre that even when thrown into a ponytail stick straight out like crispy bits of platinum. In addition, the stress of the summer brought on a spout of eczema that I have contained yet not eradicated, and my toes are naked and left to fend for themselves; badly in need of cuticle treatments. Needless to say, I have not patronized the beauty establishments that once were regular appointments on my calendar.
Even in the midst of long hospitalizations with my son, Jordan, I still found time to get my hair done, if not regularly, at least within a three-month span. Seven months is painful. I’ve resisted using the bleach kit that sits under my bathroom sink. Luckily, I’ve book a hairdresser’s appointment for this weekend or else I might snap and paint the purple strips along my scalp. I feel both elation that large swaths of hair will be lying on the ground and trepidation at having to sit with another human being for two whole hours. She is a “new” hairdresser, although I have known her for years as a friend of my sister. One of the reasons that I’ve changed hairdressers is that she is in a solo room in one of those studio locales thus reducing exposure to other people. These are the new considerations to be taken.
Things that were once easy, now come with a heavy burden. I have to coordinate the appointment with my husband’s busy work schedule as we don’t have alternate child care. And I chose someone that I know will take precautions and be responsive to any requests I have regarding those precautions. And then there is just the question of whether the excursion is necessary? It this trip to the hairdressers worth the risk?
This question can be expounded to all areas of my life. Every action takes deliberation and strategic planning. For groceries or most things we purchase, we order delivery and wipe each foodstuff, clothing, etc. down with alcohol. If we order take-out, we make sure we can put it in the oven a few minutes to kill germs. To satisfy the travel bug we visit a local lake community with plenty of individual homes to rent; we can avoid airports, rest stops, and gas stations on the short drive there. On occasion we physically visit church, but mostly watch services on Youtube.
When considering the question of beauty appointment, I get bogged down in the Orthodox Christian perspective of seeking greater humility and lessening our attachment to material things. Nuns cover their hair, and both nuns and monks wear the same black cassocks every day, truly rejecting the cultural standards of beauty of which we all engage.
Yet, as a non-monastic and as a woman, I have my vanity. I do. I like to look decent; have a haircut and color, a facial, a wax. I want to feel put together. It is part of how I coped with the world. Others are out doing all of these things without a second thought. But I struggle with the idea of putting myself and family at risk for beauty. My husband is not bothered by my unpolished appearance. Certainly, my daughter doesn’t care as long as I am ready to play with dinosaurs and hand her a juice box.
But the bottom line is this: I have to choose a little sanity. The dirty blonde of my natural color makes me feel old and dowdy. It always has. In addition, part of the appeal of the beauty salon is that someone else is taking care of you. I may slather on lotions and try at-home peels, but my aesthetician spends an hour prodding and massaging my face. The time is dedicated to only what I need. With the hairdresser, it will be just me sitting in the chair having someone pay an extraordinary amount of attention to my scalp. No rushing through a shower just to throw my hair into another ponytail before diving into caring for my daughter. With an appointment, that time is sequestered and sacred.
At times I struggle with the validity of my desires—that what I want matters. That struggle is made even harder when I have to consider the ramifications of possible exposure to illness. But I’ve waited seven long months and the mirror is a bit of a torture right now. And in the end, I need to be taken care of. Just a little, all by myself.