Chelsea’s Review: Warning! You will laugh loudly, so keep that in mind if you’re reading this in public…and then share it with the person giving you a funny look!
I drove around the block three times in frustration before I noticed a narrow driveway between the building I was seeking and the one next to it. I carefully guided my car between the brick structures and found a small parking lot with available spaces. I felt as though I had won the lottery. Free parking on the south slope! I scanned for indications of the illegality of my stopping there: the hidden payment sign with scan-able apps I didn’t have and any hint of cruel towing procedures that might follow. I just wanted to get my hair cut. It had been 18 months and a different salon since my last professional coiffure. I felt the city of Asheville owed me some free parking.
Even after the 2020 easing of the pandemic lockdown occurred, I was still shy about trying to make an appointment. Then my hairdresser Crain stated they would no longer be working at the salon close to my house with the free parking lot. I was, at first, okay with that. I could wait. When Crain opened a new studio on the south slope of downtown Asheville, I thought I would wait a bit longer—until we both had been vaccinated. After my vaccination, I escaped the confines of my house to meet with friends, eat at restaurants and shop at real stores. My needed haircut got shoved to the end of the to-do list until I realized just how long my hair had grown. And how much it was bugging me.
My hair had not been so long since 1990. Pre-pandemic I got my hair cut every six to eight weeks because that kept it short and fuss free, and I did not ever have to think about it. Sans a timely cut, as strands of wayward hair crept over my ears, I simply tucked them back, out of my way. They just as simply fell forward again any time I moved or breathed. Hair grows. Annoyingly so. I labeled this initial period as “The Awakening.” It was the time when bangs began to appear and the expensively applied highlights started slipping downward from the top of my head. My natural hair color appeared at the part line. At this point, so early in pandemic history, I wasn’t going anywhere and relied on the obscuring view of my computer camera to keep my secrets safe on Zoom.
I started cutting my bangs out of desperately needing to see what I was binge watching on tv and to find my way to the refrigerator. As my hair continued to obscure my view and tickle my neck, I entered into the “Hair Band” period. Big, wide, brightly colored hair bands were invented to tame those wayward mid-growth locks, cover up all flaws and drag one’s ass back to a 1940’s Rosie the Riveter look. I adopted them with zeal. They kept my head and ears warm throughout the winter without resorting to donning a turban or ski cap. My hair stuck out all over behind that head band in ways I considered bohemian trendy but retrospectively had more of a shaken chicken vibe. The clerks at the grocery store suffered a bit of shock at seeing someone who looked like Hannibal Lecter in that head band and mask combo.
By the time I was fully vaccinated in May of this year, my hair required more efficient constraint without making my head sweat in the heat. I invested in a dozen Scünci snap clips. I was surprised to find them in the local CVS since my memory of hairclips, bobby pins and other long hair accoutrements dates back to the early 70’s. I applied them to my implacable tresses during the period of “OMG This is Driving Me Crazy.” For three solid months, I attached clips to every corner of my head. Since my hair was long enough in the back, I started to braid it and clip it to the back of my head like some deranged geriatric version of Heidi. Since I live in the mountains, this felt like an appropriate look for a while.
The toil of daily combing, braiding and fastening of hair to my head reminded me how happy I had been with a really short pixie cut. I was close to losing my mind over how awful it felt when I came out of the shower with a sopping wet mop of hair dripping all over my shoulders. The highlighted bits were now closer to the end of the strands creating what looked like a pitiful attempt at ombre. I started covering the whole shebang with my Friends of West Asheville Library baseball cap whenever I left the house. By the time I finally capitulated and chose to make an appointment with Crain, they were booked up for three weeks. Those were the longest three weeks in hair history. Then my day arrived and I drove to the new salon, tucked away in an arts complex so far down the south slope it was in danger of being located in the next town.
Once I was securely, if nervously parked, I had to walk back down that narrow alleyway to the street, all the while sending up prayers that a car would not be wanting to travel through from either direction. When I reached the street, I found the building was locked! Some people exiting let me in and I arrived in the building’s lobby only to be accosted by a tiny lady keeping vigil at the entrance. “Did you call ahead?” began the interrogation. I asked her to point me in the direction of Crain, but she continued with her thread of inquiry. “Does Crain know you’re coming?” “Do you have an appointment?” This approach at building security ratcheted up my level of anxiety to the point that I wanted to flee back down the narrow passageway to my car.
I fumbled with getting my phone out of my backpack and, with a shaky finger, punched in a text to Crain. “Help! Fran Lebowitz is in your lobby vetting me with all the scrutiny of a prison security guard!” Crain, probably used to the scrappy woman’s tactics and my quirky sense of humor, texted me to wait a couple minutes. I informed the sentry that Crain would come get me. She softened at this news and invited me to visit the art display in the lobby. I was relieved at having passed muster and, as suggested, started to peruse the artwork. It was the largest collection of vagina paintings I had ever experienced. I briefly entertained the notion that the building gatekeeper was there primarily to protect all the vaginas hanging on the walls from being violated in some way. I rejected the idea that I looked in any way like an abuser (or stealer) of vagina pictures. Crain came to rescue me from an excess of estrogen and the watchdog in charge of it.
Eighteen months after last seeing Crain, we picked up our conversation as if our separation had been a mere blink. New studio, new love (Crain’s, not mine, although I did mention salted caramel ice cream) and life in still pandemic-y Asheville. When it came to the actual haircut, I placed all of my confidence in this one person’s opinion and ability. I sighed in relief as the hair came tumbling down the cape and silently drifted to the floor. My head felt lighter as did my mood. This was a moment when I experienced some semblance of normalcy returning after a long hiatus. I forgave the cranky lady safeguarding the honor of womanhood. I knew in my heart that my car would not get towed. I was confident I could find my way back home. Then Crain informed me that they only took cash, Pay-pal or Venmo, none of which I could cough up. I was granted permission to pay later. I took my pixie-headed self back to the parking lot, happy that the new place was called Trust Studio.
May you always be comfortably coiffed,
I’m never afraid to give Guest Editor Chelsea the truly controversial topics. Hair is a very personal thing and you can’t give that story to just anybody. This editing was easier on me than getting a haircut!