It seems like ages ago when we first went to CVS to buy face masks, gloves and a case of soap, which I had read was the best way to kill germs. The stores were crowded and solemn, customers like confused deer caught in the headlights of the news of Covid 19. The supermarkets were quickly out of paper goods being hoarded so by the next time I went back to CVS – wearing one of those masks, with V in the car because he refused to wear one – it was for TP, paper towels – miraculously still in stock – and a 6 pack of cotton headbands. Haircuts, unlike liquor, were nonessential and so I would be spending the rest of the Spring and who knows how much longer in need of a cut.
I know a haircut didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things when we really needed to be focusing on our health and that as someone who wore my mask as advised by public health officials rather than elected leaders I was doing the right thing, but I couldn’t wait to get it shorn as it grew longer and more unruly, with thick misbehaving curls sticking out behind those damn headbands. I faced what was ahead and tried to remember it was a minor annoyance but by June I was ready to burn the headbands and almost wished I had taken T up on his offer to give me a buzzcut like V had, and by the time of the haircut this week I practically shed tears of gratitude to get rid of them.
I followed my former haircutter from cut rate to high end salon; when she left for even higher grounds and still offered house visits to her regulars at the same low price from the first salon I felt very lucky. Then she flaked out, I don’t know what happened but she stopped answering texts or calls and I told myself not to take it personally and just hoped she was okay.
So when I heard hair salons could open in the end of June I asked my friend C for a recommendation at the place I knew she liked. She texted back “Her name is Addie. I love her.” I love her too! I thought and my heartbeat quickened at the thought that someone named Addie, like my late beloved aunt, would cut my hair, and decided it was worth the splurge after 5 months. How could I resist meeting another Addie? Despite being such a beautiful name I didn’t know anyone else who shared it.
So I went in, with my mask, with my hair sticking up several inches, and met young Addie at her hip popular salon. After being introduced my first questions were about her name. Are you Addie or Adelaide? Just Addie. She concurred she didn’t know many people with her name (as I with mine. It’s for old film stars and unlike many old-fashioned names has not seen a resurgence in popularity) and both agreed it was time for a comeback for Addie. She had lots of tattoos and two toned hair and was lovely and cool without trying, a winning combination, and she attacked my hair with great skill, spending about an hour with her shears taming the unruly mass on my head into something sleek yet soft, something that almost no one else would see but I could appreciate.
It was harder to chat much with us both wearing masks but the fact is my conversational skills have been woefully underutilized. Is it weird, I asked her? To have customers spread out in time and space? I imagined the salon usually felt very different at peak times like this. It’s slower, but there’s something nice about not going non-stop. I didn’t ask how she had managed the past four months but she seemed to have survived intact, telling me about her recent move and having time to set up her new home. Then I ran out of conversation and just sat back and watched her work, a sense of satisfaction and relief filling me with each click of her scissors. I’m sitting here with Addie and instead of a tuna sandwich or matzoh ball soup she’s giving me a haircut. Aunt Addie was so good at caring for others, her children and neighbors and nieces and nephews and cousins it didn’t matter what relation or none at all, we felt her easy hospitality, her graciousness. This Addie had her own grace, and I let her tend to me with her cutting gear beside her and no one on either side due to social distancing requirements. It felt wonderfully indulgent.
Self care is so important I hear all the time but I am so sick of caring for others I don’t want to care for myself, I want someone else to do it for me. And so I savored every moment sitting in a chair leaning back – with screens between myself and the next customer – as a woman washed and massaged my hair before my cut. Between the wash and the cut it was over an hour with others caring for me. I realized it was the longest I’ve been out on my own since this all started and I reveled in a sense of freedom. When she was done I thanked her and left a good tip, then walked to the falafel stand up the street and celebrated with falafel and grape leaves to bring home and share. Except for the face coverings and the instructions to wait outside for my order with social distance from the other customers, it almost felt normal.
The haircut itself will barely be noticed, in my occasional outings to Shoprite or CVS or the nearby nature preserve no one will take notice of my appearance, I’m just another person in a mask filled with dread about the future. Still confined and constrained in many ways, but a sliver of light in our mostly homebound tunnel, and thanks to Addie at last free from headbands.