Our county is in the early phase of reopening and I now have an appointment with my hair stylist for the 25th. I’m glad it’s several days out, that gives the salon time to get their new safety processes figured out a bit, and gives me time to decide as the date approaches if the reward still feels worth the risk. Right now I’m feeling like I would stand near an active volcano in order to have my roots fixed, and I hope you take that in the spirit it is intended: with hyperbole but also sincerity, and the acknowledgement that my stylist seems VERY excited to get back to work so hopefully this isn’t me putting essential workers in unnecessary danger for my own vain pursuits?

I guess fundamentally this is about being mutually willing to enter into a situation of accepted risk but is it really willingness when my stylist needs to get back to the work she loves to do but also has to do because it is her livelihood? I assume there will be lots of protective measures in place but it still feels complicated, like the times when I confess I have run to the store for something that wasn’t super necessary and wondered while waiting in the checkout line if my desire for chocolate chips (not even for a recipe, but to be consumed directly from the bag later) was worth exposing the grocery clerk to my masked but germy meatbag self.

I do worry about someone in my family getting sick, it’s impossible not to read about the youngish healthy people this virus has taken down — and that upsetting new inflammatory syndrome linked with COVID-19 and children — and not feel fear, despite the statistics. I worry more about unwittingly spreading the disease to someone else, though: it’s awful to think of potentially deadly consequences I could bring about by my own actions.

John and I go back and forth on this. His opinion, generally, is that the virus is out there, inevitable in many ways, and that we all individually have to decide what we’re willing to deal with exposure-wise, and that those who are high risk need to take the strongest isolation measures and the rest of us need to get on with our lives.

I agree that this largely comes down to “Are you willing to go back into the world in some way or are you going to huddle inside until there’s a vaccine?” but I also believe we all have responsibilities to try and keep each other safe as best we can, which of course is a hugely subjective goal and there are multiple unsafe outcomes we’re all trying to avoid: disease, economic ruin, psychological damage.

I’m so sick of the phrase “in these uncertain times” but that is certainly the defining aspect of this whole slow-motion disaster: UNCERTAINTY. In the very best of times I am rarely certain about my choices and now that actual life or death is on the table I feel extremely unqualified to navigate what’s next.


18 Responses to “The joy/existential dread of a hair appointment”

  1. Maris on May 16th, 2020 2:24 pm

    You and John are me and my SO. This describes the sentiment of almost every conversation we have had for the past two weeks:

    “John and I go back and forth on this. His opinion, generally, is that the virus is out there, inevitable in many ways, and that we all individually have to decide what we’re willing to deal with exposure-wise, and that those who are high risk need to take the strongest isolation measures and the rest of us need to get on with our lives.

    I agree that this largely comes down to “Are you willing to go back into the world in some way or are you going to huddle inside until there’s a vaccine?” but I also believe we all have responsibilities to try and keep each other safe as best we can, which of course is a hugely subjective goal and there are multiple unsafe outcomes we’re all trying to avoid: disease, economic ruin, psychological damage.”

  2. amy on May 16th, 2020 3:03 pm

    I was scheduled for next week and when my stylist called, I asked her flat out how she felt about it. She said, “I like the safety we are implementing but I feel like we are being sent out as the guinea pigs.” I agreed with her. She said she was totally fine no matter how I decided and I opted to forego my appointment because I’m not sure how I feel yet. After we hung up, I texted to ask her for her preferred method of payment (Venmo,etc) and chose to pay her anyway (I was just getting a haircut). It made me feel better about my choice, since I was self-employed for 10+ years.

  3. Erin in CA on May 16th, 2020 3:26 pm

    We are in SoCal, which really isn’t opening up yet, but lots of our friends are starting to break the rules more and more, and I honestly feel more stress about making these decisions than anything else right now! Especially for my two teens, who are both extroverts and desperately missing their friends after EIGHT WEEKS. It’s just another sucky level of stress to add on to this whole shitshow. We are being more conservative (i.e. mostly following the rules) than most of our friends, and I worry it’s going to affect our relationships. Gah. It effing sucks.

  4. Pam on May 16th, 2020 4:53 pm

    My hair appointment is scheduled for early next month… I am thinking of leaving a bigger tip than normal. Is that appropriate though? I want to be thankful and appreciative, but I’m worried it could come off as insulting?

  5. sooboo on May 16th, 2020 6:35 pm

    Your county has 16 cases per 100k so I think going to get your hair done is pretty low risk where you are at this point in time. In Los Angeles it’s 360 cases per 100k so haircuts are a distant dream at this point. Like Erin, we are being very conservative in my house. The current numbers are just too high to risk get togethers, even masked ones. I see people who are doing it and I’ve been invited to small, outdoor meet ups but we’re not comfortable yet. My strategy is do what you’re told and it’ll be okay, go rogue and who knows.

  6. anne nahm on May 16th, 2020 6:48 pm

    General question: if you are getting hair done, do you wear a mask? Doesn’t it get in the way?

  7. Jules on May 16th, 2020 7:01 pm

    I get exactly what you’re saying. I’m in Canada, so living under a very different political errrrmmmm “regime”. I heard earlier tonight that a very dear friend is heading out to see fireworks at her sons house, we’ve social distanced for over 2 months. Haven’t seen my grandchildren in AGES. Selfishly I’m feeling like the only person in this hemisphere that’s following guidelines. I’m tired of all the mixed messages from ALL the powers that be and I need a fucking hair cut! Stay well and keep writing,

  8. Carla Hinkle on May 16th, 2020 8:27 pm

    I had a hair appt for May 19 that I just canceled (but I paid anyway). It was a complicated bargain with my spouse involving other activities (such as walking with friends), elderly parents that we see, and estimated risk. I tend more towards your husband’s philosophy but my husband is more towards yours. We have had many many conversations trying to assess risk of various activities. It’s exhausting. As a good will gesture I’ve been coloring my hair myself and we get all groceries delivered. Simple things are really complicated right now.

  9. Mert on May 17th, 2020 3:57 am

    My daughter (13) and I both went to hair appointments yesterday. We had to call when we arrived, only a few in at a time, no blow drying, etc. They were masked and so were we. They wiped down everything thoroughly after it was used. I even got my hair colored with a mask on- it wasn’t too bad. She could work around the ear loops and I wore a disposable one on purpose in case it got dye on it. I’m glad I went as we were both way over due (she got 12 inches cut off!). But it’s not something I would repeat super soon…now that it’s done, I’m good for another 6 months or so (super low maintenance over here – if the grays come back, they come back….). My high risk parents aren’t coming out yet, which I respect. I’m trying to balance doing what feels right with staying less exposed so I can continue to help them with groceries, etc. I have no plans for big store shopping, eating in a restaurant, big, busy towns, etc, but the hair appointment in my tiny town was a must for me!

  10. JMH on May 17th, 2020 6:25 am

    I tend to side with your husband, but I think that is based on where I live. In my rural county, we have only had 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 0 deaths. There have not been any new cases since the end of April. If I lived in a hot spot, my opinion would probably change. I have a hair appointment next week and I am definitely going to go. I will wear a mask and I trust my small, local salon will follow all of the necessary precautions.

  11. Courtney on May 17th, 2020 6:45 am

    I’m trying to minimize my exposure to others, and others exposure to me. I wear my mask, I don’t go near the couple random people without. The few places I go like the supermarket, and recently the local green house, have no mask no service policies. I don’t want to be that person who exposes 180 other people at a Mothers Day service (that was a larger gathering than was allowed). I’m not much of a talker during haircuts anyway, but since talking causes germs to spread farther than breathing, I won’t be talking much when I do go back.
    I went to the eye dr’s this week, they were only letting in one patient at a time. It felt safe.
    I think a hair salon where they were already a place with good cleanliness, and can truly limit the numbers will feel safe, but I am going to wait until mid June when I know they have their practices down pat.
    It will be a long time before I do dine-in eating. But I did curbside pickup yesterday, rolled down my passenger side window and they put it on the seat. I’m still tipping 20%, more when I get delivery.
    This is the balance I’m comfortable with. And I’m going to be avoiding the big box stores for a while, my Amazon Prime has been more worth it than previous years.

  12. Matte Blk on May 17th, 2020 10:42 am

    Not one soul will perish
    who puts their trust in Me.
    the Man,
    the God,
    the Steve-Martin-originator.

  13. Mackenna on May 17th, 2020 2:31 pm

    This lockdown has changed me in ways I didn’t see coming. The prospect of not having my hair highlighted, coloured and cut had me in a mild panic in March and now – four months overdue for all of the above, I’ve decided to let my grey hair come in and delay going in for a cut. At first I wondered if I was crazy, but I’m thinking this is the perfect time to make the transition to silver and when I go in they can work with that…low lights whatever. I’m not even bothering with root sprays. So either I’ve lost my mind and need an intervention or this is OK. I guess time will tell.

  14. Mackenna on May 17th, 2020 2:59 pm

    Questions I would have if I was going for a hair appointment.

    Are the brushes safe? How are brushes treated? In my salon, the brushes are used on multiple clients and they are not cleaned between clients.

    Is the number of staff restricted to maintain distancing. What happens if my stylist has been exposed and how would she know it? Ditto for the shampooist. If they are wearing gloves and masks to protect clients, this is probably less of an issue, but will they be?

    Then there is the embarrassment of asking probing questions…I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking these questions for seeming like a paranoid nutjob. I’m hoping my salon will provide all the info I need to make an informed decision when I eventually go in.

  15. Mary Clare on May 18th, 2020 8:44 am

    We are responsible for each other, IMHO. At least when it comes to doing our best for keeping germs to ourselves. My wearing a mask protects others. I need other people to wear a mask to protect me and my loved ones. It seems like a no-brainer. My husband’s coworkers (at a freaking hospital) don’t wear masks while in the office; they have a certain political persuasion, of course. At some stores, other customers are not wearing masks. Ugh. Everyone has to decide what is reasonable risk for themselves, but please protect me from your germs! No judgement on getting a haircut, for real. On the other hand, a not so great idea was my 82 year old dad, who lives in a virus hotzone, getting a haircut last week. My kid’s friend is having a socially distanced bday party soon and I’m a big MAYBE on that one. I appreciate the congenial tone you use. We’re all figuring this out.

  16. Shawna on May 19th, 2020 7:16 am

    The inevitability of people getting it is true to some extent: the quarantine was designed to spread out the infections so the hospitals could handle the load and treat all the sick people, thereby saving a lot more of them. It wasn’t expected to prevent everyone from being exposed, just exposed all at once. I heard an early model predict 70-80% of the population infected within… maybe two years?

    BUT that doesn’t mean that there is no responsibility for others and it should be everyone for themselves:d the problem with John’s point of view, IMO, “that those who are high risk need to take the strongest isolation measures and the rest of us need to get on with our lives” is that it ignores the fact that people who are getting on with their lives transmit to the high risk populations, who either have to venture out to get food, etc., or rely on those who are not high risk to bring things to them or provide services that they can’t do themselves. It also doesn’t take into account the fact that to many people “getting on with their lives” seems to include visits to grandma as part of that, and grandma isn’t really likely to turn away her grandkids, is she?

    Here I’m seeing people on Facebook who are all pissed off that stage one of reopening is opening some types of businesses, when they feel that the first priority should be allowing family to get together again. It shows that people don’t really understand, even now, even with all the information readily available about this situation by now – priorities around relaxing restrictions aren’t about fulfilling people’s strongest desires; they are and should be about starting with the lowest-risk activities and seeing how it goes. Giving the green light to visiting senior parents and grandparents should be one of the LAST things that happens, seeing as how they are the ones that are most likely to die if they get infected.

    Sorry, bit of a tangent there, but as you can tell, I’m getting frustrated. The situation is complex, but the individual actions can be very simple: stay away from other people when you can, protect yourself by washing your hands and not touching your face, and protect others by wearing a mask when you venture out anywhere you’re going to be around others. Why is this so hard?

  17. Anon for this on May 19th, 2020 9:15 am

    I am here for talking about spouses with differing views. My husband is just DONE with all of it and thinks that ultimately the cure (lockdown) was worse than the disease in terms of the impacts on mental health and the small businesses that it has destroyed. We’re in Canada and he feels like he was sold a bill of “flattening the curve” goods that some people now have changed to mean “no one at all gets sick”, but at a certain point we need to get on with it.

    I would love to go back to the office. I would love to send my kid back to daycare. But I don’t know that I want to live in an extended period of flinching every time the phone rings because it’s a contact tracer telling me another kid’s mom from daycare has COVID.

    Fortunately, our province is opening slowly-ish and a lot of these decisions are as yet out of our hands, but I spend a lot of emotional energy worrying about the decisions we are going to have to make not just for ourselves but our kids.

  18. Kristin on May 20th, 2020 4:20 pm

    Things have opened up a lot where I am. It’s been about 3 weeks now. Workers generally don’t act disgruntled towards me at all. They are glad to be back to work. At one place, only 8 workers were allowed to return at first, and the lady helping me said that the others were asking when they could come back. They had taken jobs in a warehouse until they could resume their original jobs.

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