Pandemic takes toll on hair

While I don’t have much hair to cut, I have often wondered during the coronavirus pandemic how long what I do have would grow. Barbers and hairstylists had to stop working March 24 because of the stay-at-home order, and they aren’t allowed to visit homes to continue their work.

Some folks are taking it upon themselves to cut their own hair or have a friend or someone in their family do it. The Advocate interviewed some professionals to see how they were handling their own hair.

The Tuesday story reminded me of an experience I had in the U.S. Army during my two-year tour of duty (1955-57). Al Crowe, a friend of mine, and I decided to cut one another’s hair as a way to save a few bucks.

Crowe was always willing to try something new in order to save money. Once, he decided he could dry his fatigues in his oven during a rainstorm. They caught fire and he had to buy some new ones.

I asked Crowe to let me cut his hair first, and he agreed. After I trimmed one side with clippers, I switched to the other side. When I had finished, I realized I had cut it too short, and switched back to the other side. Unfortunately, the same thing happened on that side, and I decided to quit the experiment.

“Al, I’m not going to let you cut my hair,” I told him, and he didn’t argue about it. I haven’t tried to cut anyone’s hair since then.

Carol Ter Haar, a Southeastern Louisiana University supervisor, told The Advocate about her attempt to cut her own hair with a pair of kitchen scissors. She said she had watched her stylist do it and tried to trim her bangs.

“It was really bad,” she said. “Of course, using kitchen scissors probably isn’t the right thing. It was sort of oily and greasy to start with. I guess I didn’t clean it off very good from using it for the vegetables.”

The newspaper said the absence of professionals meant hair edges have disappeared, natural roots emerged, and artificial color washed out. Some women started wearing close-fitting caps people hadn’t seen in decades.

Morgan Miguez, a hairstylist said, “You gash yourself, or you wait and you look like a mop.”

Two of the four children of Chelsea and Cody Salomone decided to cut each other’s hair, which explained the hair covering the floor of their kitchen. The 7- and 5-year-olds decided to cut their hair again and lost their scissor privileges. They had been using those scissors for a school project.

“They’re looking OK right now, and the good news is we don’t have to go anywhere with them,” Cody said.

Cody decided to trim his own hair, and Chelsea filmed the procedure. She sent the video to her hairdresser. Cody said he is considering just letting it grow a little bit longer, which he said might be his last opportunity to grow out some hair before he loses it all.

Professionals told the newspaper they warned amateurs about using artificial coloring. Miguez, the hairstylist, explained what happened when a friend of hers tried to dye her hair with a store-bought product.

“Her hair literally looks like an exploded strawberry,” Miguez said. “It looks like she touched the electric socket and red was sprayed at her. She fried it. It looks like Chucky almost.”

Hair professionals are urging their customers to be patient as they hope restrictions will ease at the end of the month. Steve Young, executive director of the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology, told The Advocate salons could reopen with hairdressers wearing masks and gloves. A limited number of customers would be inside and disinfecting equipment could be used between every client.

“We’re asking possibly that we’d be able to open with one person coming in at a prescribed time, not just people lined up or piled up in there,” Young said. “A very simple procedure that will allow us to do a very clean and healthy service.”

My wife has been undergoing rehabilitation in a local nursing and rehabilitation center since March 19 and was in the hospital eight days before that because of a fall. A weekly trip to her hairdresser has been a routine for as long as I can remember.

Jo Ann has always been particular about how her hair looks, and I know she isn’t happy about her present predicament. She and many other senior citizens like her are without question anxiously awaiting an end to this coronavirus pandemic.

Ter Haar, the Southeastern supervisor, said she hopes to return to her hairdresser soon. Meanwhile, she said she looks at herself and says, “My God, you’re old. I high-five myself in the mirror, and I move on.”

After reading The Advocate story, I felt some good news would be welcomed while we continue trying to deal with this terrible invisible enemy. The coronavirus may have changed our lives for a long time to come.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-515-8871 or beam column