Spectator by Seema Goswami: Hair today, gone tomorrow

You know what I miss most about my pre-Coronavirus life? No, it’s not going on holiday, or eating out in restaurants (though, of course, I long to do that too). What I miss the most is visiting my hairdresser.

In the days before Covid struck, I would visit my neighbourhood salon at least once a week. Sometimes it was to get a trim, at other times a root touch-up, at others it was to put in a few highlights, or even sneak in a quick manicure or pedicure. Most often, though, I headed there to get a shampoo and blowout – my one indulgence, as I frequently told myself, as I tried to justify how much I was spending – leaving with an extra bounce to both my hair and my step.

Nothing feels quite as luxurious as having somebody else wash and condition your hair, and have a professional blow-dry it, leaving you with a sleek style that no amount of mussing and fussing can spoil. And over the years, I must confess I got addicted to this luxury.

And then came the lockdown. Now, not only did I have to wash and blow-dry my own hair, I also had to colour it every month and trim my fringe every few weeks.

After six months of this, you would think that I have become a dab hand at this sort of thing. And you would be entirely wrong.

My hair is now an overgrown mess, because I am too scared to even venture out for a trim. Having experimented with various shades of dye over the months, my head currently sports at least three different shades of brown (and that’s not counting the auburn highlights that still linger on a few strands). And my fringe is now growing out messily, after I decided to give up on that particular battle, and let nature take its course.

Does this bother me every time I catch sight of myself in the mirror? Well, truth be told, it bothers me less and less with every passing week. And that may well be because I have finally come to terms with my new reality.

And that new reality is that vanity is so last year. Or, shall we say, so pre-pandemic.

Now, as we try to navigate a world in which we have to co-exist with a virus that could easily kill us, it seems silly, even downright frivolous, to worry about how we look. And in any case, how do appearances even matter in a world in which everyone has to wear masks when they venture out into the world?

Yes, I know there are those pesky Zoom calls that are the plague of our existence. And you do have to comb your hair and slap on some make-up for them so that people don’t realise how feral you have become. (Though if you frame yourself just right, you still don’t need to wear trousers for these video encounters.)

But for the rest of the time, you can slob around in the house. You can stay in your pyjamas all day if you like, or just wear a tatty T-shirt with shorts. You don’t need to bother with lipstick (though a dash of eyeliner may be a good idea if you are venturing out in a mask and want to look pulled-together). You don’t even need to brush out your hair; just pull it into a ponytail or a messy bun.

In one sense, it’s a relief to not to obsess about how you look, or even worry about what other people make of your appearance.

And yet, whenever I think of what I would do if the virus vanished tomorrow – maybe thanks to that ‘miracle’ that Donald Trump keeps promising us – the first thing I can think of is a visit to my hair salon. I dream of settling down on a squishy armchair, trashy glossy magazine in my lap, as my hair is cut, coloured, coddled and polished to a high gloss.

So, I guess there is some vanity left in me, after all. It’s just lying in wait for when normal services can be resumed. Let’s hope that’s soon.

The views expressed by the columnist are personal

From HT Brunch, September 21, 2020

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