Surviving the haircare crisis

Mary Thomas Watts - Contributing columnist

Raise your hand if you’re thinking a lot lately about your hairdresser.

My hairdresser, Janet Cole, has seen me through my mid-40s transition from bottled ash blonde to natural white, and the follicle wallop of six rounds of chemotherapy 11 years ago.

She’s given me every haircut I’ve had for almost three decades, except the time I was away from home for several weeks and learned the hard way never to patronize a cheap, walk-in place again.

Janet withheld judgement, as far as I could tell, and worked her magic on the mess someone else’s scissors had made.

I expect that level of compassion and skill is commonplace among beauty professionals, but I’m seeing some things online that cause me to shudder at what the pros are going to be up against once social distancing restrictions are lifted and salons are open again.

Take the viral Facebook and YouTube video of one Corkey Miller, whose running commentary, as she hacked away at her hair with a pair of new-with-dangling-tag craft scissors, in front of her bathroom mirror, was mighty funny. Watching her was so equally hilarious and cathartic, in fact, that you know darn well it’s given other cooped up souls license to go at their own raggedy hair with whatever instruments can get the job done.

It’s all fun and games until your hairdresser sees what you’ve done. I don’t care how prepared stylists think they are, if clients present themselves at their post-distancing appointments looking like Corkey Miller, with a bald spot over one ear and no two sections of hair anywhere near the same length, they’re gonna have a fit.

Same for coloring your own hair at home, if you don’t know what you’re doing. Like years ago, when a friend’s Tennessee stylist asked him what he’d done to his hair. He said he’d used some of his wife’s Miss Clairol. “Well, honey,” the stylist said, lifting and examining one lock, then another, “that stuff’s done gone green on you.”

I feel your pain. I’ve already missed one appointment and I’m coming up on the time for another. I stick with a pretty utilitarian style, short and layered, wash and go, minimal product required, and radically reliant on regular haircuts to stay presentable.

If you wear your hair long, really, what’s a few weeks without a trim? You have options: ponytails and braids, barrettes and clips. You’ve probably got drawers full of accessories. I’m saving my sympathy for other women with short to medium length hair who can’t do a thing with it and are this close to covering all the mirrors in the house and taping construction paper over the microwave door.

Like all bad times (and the good ones, as well, I’m afraid), this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, instead of seeking backchannel self-help haircare advice, see if your hairdresser has posted survival tips on social media, like Janet and her colleagues at The Cutting Room have in videos on their Facebook page.

It helped to see Janet’s own hair in an improv updo and hear her say, “When we do go back to work, I will be working seven days a week, probably twelve- to thirteen-, fourteen-hour days. That’s so I can get you all in as quickly as I possibly can. Please don’t stress out. We’re all probably going to look like, I don’t even want to say. (laughs) But it’ll be OK.”

Until you’re sitting in the salon chair again, hide the scissors, and send your stylist a check for the appointments you’ve missed.

It’s the least we can do for them, now that we can see exactly where we’d be without them.

Mary Thomas Watts lives and writes in Wilmington, Ohio. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. This column shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers.

Mary Thomas Watts

Contributing columnist