It’s called self-reliance, look it up.
A global pandemic is nothing if not an opportunity to assess one’s strengths. The further and further we get from the days of carefree movement and activities occurring beyond our own living rooms, the clearer it’s becoming that we’ve gone soft. We’ve become too reliant on the abilities of others, and I think that’s being made quite clear to us. Your manicure is growing off, just as mine is. With each passing day in isolation, our skillsets or lack thereof become increasingly more defined, with only our own egos and pets to bear witness. You’ve seen it happen. There isn’t a celebrity on Instagram who isn’t losing eyelash extensions by the hour.
There’s certainly an upside to being what one might call “low maintenance,” in these times of global crisis. But as a woman who’s natural hair color is abandoning her like a miscreant fleeing the scene of a crime in progress, I fully understand, appreciate, and condone all of the beauty treatments and services we as humans of the world rely upon to approve of what’s reflected back to us in a mirror. I do not judge us, especially not now. All I’m suggesting is that we’re going to have to get good at the things we used to pay people for. We are, entirely, on our own.
Oh sure, the internet wants to go on and on about self-care, but will it stress the importance of a good pair of scissors and a steady hand? No it will not! Ironically, much of the self-care space asks us to venture out of our homes and into spas and salons and sound baths in order to acquire our well-deserved TLC. What then, may I ask, are we to do during a time when our self-care needs have never been more significant and our forward momentum more restricted? We’re really into self-care now, aren’t we, bloggers? Put that in your mushroom coffee and drink it.
Somewhere around 2015, I taught myself how to trim my own bangs. As with all things, action was motivated by circumstance. I’d noticed an uncomfortable pattern:
- Book trim appointment at salon around someone else’s schedule
- Commute to salon, wait 30–45 minutes at salon because no salon runs even remotely on time there I’ve said it
- Sit in chair for four minutes for free bang trim
- Tip exorbitantly on free bang trim because free feels somehow wrong
- Enjoy my trimmed bangs for two weeks while they still look good
- Hate my too-long bangs for the next two weeks because I don’t want to go through this whole process more than once a month
- Lose a certain degree of vision and sanity when bangs really start pushing their boundaries
- Answer “no” when someone asks if I’m growing my bangs out
All it took was the purchase of a $20 pair of professional scissors and an extremely firm policy of stopping prior to when I thought I was “done” and let me tell you, I’ve loved every follicular moment since. I am in complete control, totally reliant on no one but myself for the maintenance of the front part of my hair. Do I have to cut my bangs topless because hair goes absolutely everywhere? Yes. Do I mind? No. I am actually quite good at this! It’s remarkable how one’s confidence and ability develops over time. There was also one desperate summer when I was low on cash and flush on split ends where I cut my own hair fully by 1.5 inches and honestly, it could have gone worse.
This commanding of the reins was far more empowering than I’d anticipated. I felt, not only beautiful, but free. I’d released myself from reliance on another. I’d claimed back my time, my hair, and my control. I wanted more. I didn’t stop at bangs. I conducted ROI and cost/benefit analyses on a variety of personal services, and have since taken to implementing the following beauty treatments in a DIY capacity:
- Grays. I dye my own hair. The outside world need not know how gray my hair actually is but my bank account need not be reduced by $160 every five weeks for the privilege. I use a hair dye subscription service that is delivered to my door for roughly $30, even in a time of global crisis. I’ve been complimented on the evenness of my color on more than one occasion. I don’t even make a mess anymore.
- Self-tanner. Yes, even on my back. In recent years, I’ve taken to doing this only prior to heavily photographed occasions such as weddings, as I feel the camera is unkind my indoor-person pallor, but in previous years I’ve spent whole summers bronzed to as much perfection as can be derived from a bottle and velvet hand mitt purchased on Amazon.com. More recently, I don’t care what the world thinks of my skin tone. It’s mine. I’ve since taken to spending self-tanner money on fancy shower scrubs instead.
- Feet. I tend to my own feet and toes, thank you. I’ll not disgust you with what happens four days after applying a Korean foot mask treatment, but I am fully responsible for the exfoliation and moisture maintenance of my own feet, even in the summer. Again, for upscale occasions I might trot into a salon for a proper polish, but apart from that it’s me, a bottle of Essie Mademoiselle, and my gifts of flexibility. No one’s ever bent down that far to notice a difference.
- Removal of hair from various locations. My skin has never met the business end of a laser and has not been waxed since the late 00s. A combination of cost and physical discomfort long ago resulted in me testing various methods, adopting favorites, and becoming quite adept at maintaining a level of patriarchal skin smoothness to which I am societally accustomed. As proof however that this is my choice as opposed to a pressured response to mainstream beauty standards, I have been doing this shit even in quarantine and I haven’t been in a relationship since before Obama’s 1st term. Smoothness is my personal comfort.
There are other ways I see to my own beauty, some of them sinister. For example, I despise plucking, waxing, or maintaining my rather disappointing eyebrows in any capacity, therefore I maintain my bangs at a just-below-brow length. When I don’t fancy the shade of my internet-bought hair dye, I strip it out using ill-advised methods which have left my strands at various stages of hues in the orange family. I’ve even been known to purchase UV lamps and gel nail polish on occasion, but repeatedly seem to learn the hard way that this is not my personal strength. But you know what? I tried.
We are living in an uncertain time, a time when health and safety are paramount and personal beauty maintenance is irrelevant. And while it’d be really easy to take the path of “now we’re learning what’s really important,” I’ll not be shamed for appreciating a maintained cuticle, thank you. My suggestion to us all is that we dig deep. Deep into the wells of personal ability and fortitude, deep into our own curiosities about our capacities to learn new things. What will we emerge with after this time of solitude and uncertainty? A new craft? A hobby? An income stream? What I know for certain, my friends, is that I for one will return to society with perfect bangs.