To spice up the desperate days of lockdown, I told Nate to “meet me in the kitchen—”and that I’d be “wearing a plastic garbage bag.” How was he to know that by “spice up” I meant “please help me cover my roots; the salons are closed?”
These days are dark and strange, and for Nate, even stranger when the flirty invitation above was accompanied by hair coloring tools that were scattered about the kitchen counter. I bought them on the last day that non-essential stores were allowed to be open. While the rest of the world ransacked the national stockpile of toilet paper and strapped themselves to Charmin trucks, I threw myself into the arms of the first Sally Beauty supply store clerk I could find. She helped me select my color, and I bought two boxes. (I am not a hoarder.) Then, I decided that Nate would be the best person in the world to help me color my hair, based on one very important rule that I have:
–Don’t let anyone touch your hair unless that person is a licensed beautician. OR: If a licensed beautician cannot be found, look for someone you know really well—perhaps someone who may have some artistic ability (Nate).
[Insert shocking example/statistic here]: A friend of mine on a study-abroad trip learned this rule the hard way. He decided to get his hair cut at “any” barber shop he happened to pass along the way as he was walking through the streets. When he showed up to class the next day, it looked like he had saved a cat from drowning by placing it on his head and then running it through the shredder. I had never laughed so hard in my entire life. Obviously, he didn’t have access to an artist. (Actually, the haircut grew out quite nicely over time, and he was a really good sport.)
So, I figured that Nate would be a safe choice, who could just figure this whole thing out. However, even though I had the correct supplies and vague stories of what I had experienced in professional salons throughout the years, Nate wanted to watch tons of instructional videos first. (Mostly, he wanted to see if wearing garbage bags in salons was normal.) We binge-watched hours and hours of instructional videos. I would include some links here, but I’m so confused, I can’t remember which ones we watched. At the same time, Nate was watching videos on how to cut hair because he was going to cut Alex’s hair, and then Alex was going to cut his. I thought he was joking. But he was not. He was not joking at all.
“My baby!” I cried, when I heard the news. “Please don’t hurt the baby!”
(Our “baby” is 17 years old, but still, one day he will have to leave the house to get groceries or something, and I don’t want people saying, “What a nice young man, to be saving drowning cats during a pandemic like this. Look how he lets them sit on his head!”)
Yet, my “baby” could change Nate’s entire appearance with one bad haircut as well. (Never mind the fact that Nate likes to wear a shirt that says, “Hot. Sriracha Hot” everywhere he goes. A haircut won’t help that, but with the wrong hair shaping or technique, that look could get a whole lot worse.) Nate will be home a lot more often from now on, so I can’t burst into fits of laughter every time I see him. Neither one of us would get any work done. Also, I made a wedding vow, and mine included not laughing for more than maybe 20 minutes if Nate got a bad haircut.
After watching all of the videos, I decided that I would shampoo my hair and let it “rest” overnight. We could color it in the morning. Also, I contacted a mom of one of Alex’s friends. She is a licensed beautician, and she said she was willing to Skype with us while she walked Nate through the hair coloring steps.
“She could help you with your haircuts too,” I suggested.
“Nope,” Nate courageously said. “I’ve watched enough videos. I know what I want: A high and tight.”
I didn’t know what a “high and tight” was, but it sounded bad—like it should be washed on high heat in the laundry.
Before I could scream, “No, please no!” Nate had the clippers—and Alex was seated in a chair before the mirror in the master bathroom.
But I couldn’t watch. I heard the sound of the clippers buzz, and then I got on the exercise bike and pedaled away to Daddy Yankee tunes. When I was finished, Alex’s haircut wasn’t bad at all. I texted a picture to my family. The responses were “Handsome” and “Looks great.” Then, Nate handed Alex the clippers and I decided to do another 20-minute workout of squats, planks, and light weightlifting to take the edge off of the terror and panic I was feeling. After 20 minutes, they still weren’t done—and I heard disturbing whispers. I could only make out a few words, but they went something like this: “Okay, okay. We can fix this. Just cut it a little closer this time. Maybe that will help.”
Meanwhile, my family was texting. They wanted to know about Nate’s haircut. I had to tell them something, so I told them the truth: “I don’t think Nate’s haircut is going as well as Alex’s . . .”
Five minutes later: “I think Nate is in triage.”
Still unable to calm my nerves, I did 30 minutes of yoga. Then, Nate came out of the bathroom. Alex’s face was pale with fright, because Nate still has to go into work at least once a week in person. Would he be sending his dad back to work with stupid-looking hair?
No. No he wouldn’t. It was definitely a close cut, and there maybe two “railroad tracks” on the side of the scalp, if anyone really wanted to pay attention to that, but I didn’t think I’d be distracted by laughing fits any time soon.
In fact, I felt confident enough to send my family a picture. My brother texted back: “Nate looks hot. Sriracha hot.”
The next day, it was my turn. Nate brushed up on a few more videos, and we met each other in the kitchen wearing garbage bags for protection. We had the hair color, the brush, the developer, a mixing bowl, shampoo, conditioner, gloves, and petroleum jelly because all of the videos we watched said that petroleum jelly, around the face, prevents the dye from staining the face and neck.
Then, Alex called up his friend’s mom and she joined us via Skype. (I’ll call her “Tina,” though that’s not her real name.)
Me: Oh, hi, Tina! I was just getting ready to put petroleum jelly on my face.
Me: Because all of the videos we watched said that it helps prevent the dye from staining the face.
Tina: Okay? That’s not something I would normally do. Just use conditioner.
And, at that moment, I was so relieved that Tina agreed to join us through Skype. I would have made a huge mistake by slathering petroleum jelly all over my face. I could have emerged from quarantine in a dreadful state. Nothing screams “awkward 40s stage” like blotches of hair dye AND acne on the face. I’d have to lock myself in the bedroom screaming, “No one will take me to the dance now! I hate everyone!”
Tina deftly walked Nate through the mixing of the color and the application. We needed clips to section off the hair, but we improvised with chip clips, so there’s that tip if you ever need it.
Nate worked as quickly as he could to get the dye onto my hair. I sat for another 20 minutes or so, and then, it was time to rinse the color out. I climbed onto the kitchen counter and draped my head into the kitchen sink, while Nate washed and rinsed my hair. I thought about all of the times that I’ve been to a professional hair salon and never wondered why they didn’t just let their clients lie down on a countertop. In “Nate’s salon,” the hair washing part was not exactly relaxing, but a lot of love went into the entire process. I’m such a lucky lady. And I know now, that when the furloughing days are done, this is how we’ll survive, gathered around the kitchen sink: Love in the time of Covid-19.
Your Turn: Are you learning any new skills you never thought you’d learn?