Bad Hair Day

It took until this morning to realize it, but stress over a haircut is just about to send me over a literal edge.

Covid stress is nothing new, probably to every person on the planet, even those who believe it’s a hoax, but on top of political stress and strife and the part where decisions just aren’t my best thing, I feel completely maxed out and today am trying to figure out why I might want to leave the house to argue with faceless corporations, try to figure out how to keep the work roof from leaking, and make more damn decisions.

Yesterday a friend made fun of me for having unkempt hair. It’s still unkempt. It’s generally unkempt. It’s retreating from the top of my head, leaving these wispy twigs that refuse to lie down no matter what I do. But what I’ve lost up top I’m making up for on my neck, where I look like I’m turning into a werewolf. My sideburns are trailing clear to the back of my ears. It needs to be cut.

But my barber doesn’t require masks in his shop. So far, every time he’s cut my hair, he’s put a bandana on, but if there are others in the shop, they sit there unmasked. Just like he sits there up until the moment I get into his chair.

Through warmer weather I waited my turn outside, and then left his front door open. But it was 18 below (Fahrenheit, not that it matters at this temperature) this morning in Gunnison. I don’t want to sit in his shop without outside air coming in.

There’s another barber in town, but from what I’ve heard, conditions are the same in that shop. And there’s the part where my barber and I have been friends for a long, long time. Pre-covid, I stopped to see his parents on a regular basis. I’ve watched his kids grow up. Their mother, his second wife, was also a friend of mine back in high school. I knew the other women he has dated, even the one no one liked very much. I like the one he lives with now, which makes things easier. She used to work with Lynn at the post office.

Our politics have never been on the same page, but that didn’t matter before. I also don’t want to be captive in his chair if he’s going to tell me this virus still isn’t killing a meaningful number of people, the flu is more lethal, and wearing a mask is a feel-good proposition.

I don’t want to bite my tongue when he tells me business has been slow to keep from suggesting that he might regain more customers if he wore a mask and insisted his clients all do the same. If he had applied for the air purifiers the county offered for free, having personal services such as hair styling in mind when it made the offer.

There are lots of other hair stylists in town. I think about calling Lynn’s very high-priced salon. The owner has cut hair for a very long time, and if we quizzed her about her politics, I imagine they would come down to the right of mine. But she has put in place every safety protocol the county has recommended. She spaces out her clients, both in time and distance. She wipes all surfaces down. Everyone wears a mask. I just heard yesterday that she fired one of her stylists for not adhering to the mask requirements. She has a county-provided air purifier.

That should be a no-brainer, right? Even if I have to wait, because her customer demand is higher than supply?

But I have been friends with my barber for a long, long time. Every time I go past his shop, he is sitting in an empty space. He probably needs my business more than Lynn’s salon, even though he’s not taking any steps to earn my trust.

He’s always willing to give people haircuts in other places. Maybe I should see if he would come to me. But I don’t know who he’s been around, unmasked — and Gunnison County is seeing 40 positive covid cases each week these days.

I have a number of friends who caught covid early on, many of whom struggled, one of whom ended up on a ventilator. Lynn and I are going to physical therapy for her shoulder; her therapist lamented just the other day about the people here in the valley who still have awful symptoms, like nerve issues or brain problems, months after their bout of covid.

Probably at the end of this my barber, who will not have altered much about his lifestyle, although he seems adamant that his parents stay home, and he seems to have skipped Christmas with his children, will be one of those wondering why some of us made such a fuss about something when we could have lived our life in a normal, comfortable fashion. But I’m not willing to take that chance.

And so my hair remains uncut, for friends to make fun of. I’m sorry if it offends their sense of propriety; I’m even more sorry that not being able to make this decision is making me snappish and probably unpleasant to be around.

If it were the only decision I were wrestling with, that might make it easier (probably not), but when I’m contemplating making other changes, like in accounting, and woodworking, and credit cards, and in resolving my PPP loan for the business, and I don’t know what else to do about the ice building up on the roof at work, and it’s the first of a year, which means lots of business paperwork at the same time Lynn has five appointments scheduled throughout the rest of this week that require my assistance and presence . . . And there’s always the part where hooligans breeched the very seat of our democracy, some of them with nooses and zip ties and threats against the life of the extremely Republican vice president, and some appalling percentage of Republicans think this is all okay.

I may be on the edge of my covid breaking point, but there’s not much to do about it except put another foot forward. For now, I’m going to give myself permission to go about with unkempt, unshorn hair, and my friends, including those offended by this and my barber, are just going to have to deal.

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