If England’s King Richard III had been alive during the 2020 pandemic, two things are certain. He would have tweeted “A plague on both your houses” to Shakespeare and his cast for ruining his reputation, and, at some point, he would have offered his kingdom for a haircut.
Yes, I realize I’m five months late making that joke. The vogue for pandemic haircut humor lasted about two days in April, and by now, most everyone has been back in the sanitized barber chair. But since I was unable to write columns in April, I’ve been bursting with haircut-deprivation material for 20 weeks.
Long before COVID-19 hit, I had a running joke with Dianne, the woman who has cut my hair since I moved to Searcy in 2003. Whenever I call to schedule my monthly trim, I will make some outrageous new claim about the state of my coiffure.
A sample: “Hey, Dianne, I think I need a haircut. A bird landed on my head the other day and took up housekeeping.” Or, “I had to cut a sun-roof in my Toyota to make room for my hair.” Or, “Rapunzel called this morning and wanted to talk shop.” I am sure these dad jokes are the highlight of her month.
When the local hair salons opened back up in April, I did not need to make up quips about the overgrown pile on top of my head. Like everyone else forced to shelter in place while the follicles went wild, I looked in the mirror each morning with dismay. My sideburns started growing sideburns of their own. AT&T offered me a second phone line for my hair. A neighbor asked if I was planning on getting the Beatles back together.
By the time Dianne had finished cutting, she was ankle deep in blonde clippings and even found a pair of reading glasses up there that I had been missing since March. Instead of a broom and dustpan to sweep up the debris, she brought in a leaf blower and a Hefty bag. A local wig company offered $12 for the whole pile.
That was not my only hair-razing adventure of the year, though. When I went home to Georgia for the summer, one of my jobs was to take my mother to the hairdresser every Friday. Earlier this spring, her stylist started working at a new salon, which meant that I had a whole new audience to hear my jokes. But as it turns out, one of the women beat me to the punchline.
You see, at this new place, Fridays are senior citizen days. All of the ladies who come for their perms are Mom’s age or older. So, the first day I brought her, I sat down to wait, trying to keep out of the traffic and stay 6 feet away from everyone. After a few minutes, Peggy came over on her way to the shampoo station.
Peggy owns the salon. She is a classic Southern beautician — with a huge Dolly Parton hairdo and a sassy grin. She’s been cutting hair for half a century. As she watched me trying to dodge the seniors who were shuffling from the dryers to the chairs, she leaned over and delivered a line that I could not top.
“I’m sorry, hon,” she said, “but we can’t let you in here without a walker.”
Mom and I laughed about that all the way back home. Though Mom would want it on the record that she does not use a walker at the beauty shop.
The year 2020 has definitely expanded our definition of essential personnel. So much has been said in praise of nurses, teachers and postal workers, and rightly so. But surely the hairdresser is essential, too. Try going two months without a trim and set and see how your morale holds up. Not to mention your curls.
Scripture tells us that the hairs on our head are numbered. All I know is that God has fewer of mine to keep track of each year. But while there are still waves to comb, I’m raising a bottle of hairspray for Dianne and every other hard-working pro in the business. She knows all my secrets and gives advice on all my problems. Part beautician and part therapist, hairdressers are the great multi-taskers of the American economy.
Plus, anyone who can put up with my corny jokes for 17 years deserves a medal. Which reminds me: I need to call for an appointment. Even with social distancing, people keep tripping over my bangs.