Sunday, May 17, 2020

A new skill for sheltering in place

by Karen Brattesani,
        guest blogger

Due to salon closures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, nearly everyone we see on Zoom conference calls is in need of a haircut. Although some states have recently allowed hair salons to reopen, those in Washington State have not.

The first in our family to sport a longer look than he wanted was my husband. He had scheduled a haircut for March 17, the day after salons were ordered to close. Poor timing.

By mid-April, his wavy salt and pepper locks required serious application of hair product, without which it puffed out wildly around his ears. He began to resemble any number of dead presidents, as pictured on the paper money we consider dangerous to touch these days. Not a good look.

I did what any loving wife would do; I watched a half dozen YouTube videos, brandished a pair of scissors I use only to trim my bangs, and sat Doug in a chair on the deck for a home-cut. Sounds OK, home-cut. Sounds like comfort food, sort of like fries.

I’d done my research. Online videos varied widely. They ranged from step-by-step hair-cut tutorials to demos of modern style-cutting techniques accompanied by jazzy background music but little instruction. Then, there was the Irish sheep farmer who stood in his field and clipped away on his own head with his sheep shears. “It’ll grow back in a couple of days,” he said with a charming lilt, “so nobody will notice anyway.” 

I was used to my scissors. They are not the compact, 4-inch model that professionals wield. Mine I inherited from my mother - the same scissors she used to use to trim my bangs when I was in elementary school. I don’t know why she felt she needed seven-inch long blades to cut hair, but just as she only used her sewing scissors to cut fabric, she only used these seven-inchers to cut hair. Still razor sharp, they were up to the job. 

But now you are concerned about Doug, so let me allay your fears: He lives. He did not shed blood. He waited until I was done to say, “I was surprised you felt confident enough to do this.” Both the credit and the blame go to YouTube. I watched. I watched some more. I dove in, just as instructed. 

I combed out each narrow vertical section along the sides of Doug’s head, held the hair two fingers’ width from his head and snipped, a section at a time, working lower in the back, all along his hairline. Next, I worked across the middle-back, using the shorter length below as a guide but cutting slightly longer. I went easy on the less dense parts on top, cutting them long enough to fluff and fill in, but short enough to avoid any hint of a comb-over. Doug’s trimmer came in handy to shorten the hair along the neck and to sculpt sharp sideburns and edges. Doug says he’s happy. I’m especially happy with the front and that’s all Doug sees in the mirror. The rest will do for now, but I can see where some spots are as raggedy as my technique. Fortunately, Doug’s wavy locks are forgiving. 

At the end of May, Doug will be due for another cut. Will it be another “home-cut” or will salons reopen to offer him a professional do? Only time will tell how practiced I will become. 

As for my own hair, Doug has as little interest in trying to cut it as I have in letting him. I will continue to cut my own bangs, but that is all. Besides, according to YouTube videos, to cut the rest of my hair off my own head I would need sheep shears. And the cut would be a bit shorter than I have in mind. I think I’ll let it grow out.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Hair gestures

During these traumatic Covid-19 months of quarantine and loss, I was struck by Rev. Thomas Yang's thoughts about about expressions of grief, lifestyle changes, and hair gestures (Rev. Yang is a founding member of the Seattle Progressive Asian American Christians organization SPAAC. His remarks on grief and hair start approx. 19 minutes in.)

Making a hair gesture in a time of grieving goes back millennia. In the Hebrew Bible, the prophet Jeremiah says the Israelites should cut off their hair as a sign of mourning. In the Hindu faith cutting one's hair or shaving the head after the death of an elder is an age-old custom. Why?
In Hinduism, the underlying concept is that hair is a symbolic offering to the gods, [so cutting/shaving one's hair represents] a real sacrifice of beauty. Hence shaving your head shows your grief for the departed soul. From Quora
Therefore, cutting off your hair is a sacrifice showing deep grief for the departed soul.
The cutting of one's own hair is also a part of Buddhism, specifically something done by Siddhartha himself early on in his path to enlightenment. ...
In the Confucian tradition, hair ... may not be damaged without good reason. (TV Tropes Important Haircut)
Cutting one's hair can also be an act of rebellion. For instance, in the animated movie Mulan (1998). Spoiler alert -- in the live action film Mulan, coming soon, the all important hair-cutting moment has been ... wait for it ... cut. More at Cinemablend (The film's release, originally scheduled for last month, has been postponed to July 24, 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak.)

One last thought on grief and hair gestures: The book Indian Sign Language (2012) by William Tonkins is a dictionary of hand gestures "developed by the Sioux, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and other tribes." Below is an apt gesture for these sorrowful times:
MOURN (meaning: cutting off the hair and crying) With extended separated right 2 hands make as though to cut off hair horizontally just below the ears, then make the sign for cry.