I’ve always gone to my beauty operator at ten every Friday morning. That way, I have my hair set for the weekend. I’ve lived in my home for thirty years, and over that time I’ve been to three different places. The last place I went, the woman closed the shop, so I came to this place in Memorial called Pyramid Hair Studio. My operator is a Vietnamese man named Le Long. The first time I went, he met me at the door. I liked the way he did my hair, so I’ve been going to him for four years now. He’s a good guy.
I started getting my hair done at a beauty shop during my first marriage. The first two years we were married [living in the small North Texas town of Hamlin], I couldn’t afford it. But when we moved to Plainview in 1957, I decided I needed curls, and my hair is straight. So I started going to the beauty shop, and I sort of got into the routine. It’s a really relaxing thing to have someone else wash your hair and set it. It’s just such a luxury and a convenience. Hair sets were not as costly then as they are now.
The last time I had my hair washed at the beauty shop was March 6. Then things started popping in Houston, you know, with the virus. So when the time came for my next appointment, which would have been March 13, I didn’t go. I thought it was dangerous—our faces are too close together when you have your hair done. Well, time marched on. March 20, March 27, April 3 . . . it got to the point where it looked like I was going to have to wash my own hair.
Now, I can’t remember the last time I washed my own hair. During Harvey I went two weeks without going to the beauty shop, but this coronavirus was lasting much longer. I don’t wash my face either—I cleanse my face with Merle Norman cold cream every night. So I spent two or three days thinking about it. I really did dread it. I kept putting it off. But my hair was beginning to look a little sticky, and my scalp was itching. On the morning of Good Friday, I woke up itchy and said, “Well, today’s the day.”
So I made my plans: I got some Head & Shoulders shampoo from my guest room, I got some towels out, and I got the hair dryer that my second husband used many years ago. I usually take a bath, but I decided to wash my hair in the shower. That shower had not been used in nine years, since my husband passed away. So I got in and tried out the water. It was still working. The hot water felt good.
But I needed to angle the showerhead down so I could put my head under it. Well, when I pushed it down, it broke off. Now there was just a stream of water coming out of the pipe. I thought, well, I’m already unclothed, so I stepped in and commenced to wash my hair. The shampoo—I guess I used too much. I put a bunch in my hair and rinsed it off. Then I thought I better do it again, so I put some more in my hair.
At that point I must have opened my left eye, because shampoo got in it. It stung like the dickens. It hurt so bad, and I couldn’t see, but I rinsed off my hair, thinking, I’ve got to get out of here. Felt around, finally found a towel, and dried off my face. Looked in the mirror—my eye was solid red. I thought, uh-oh, that is going to hurt. That was hurt time. I got out, dried myself off, tied the towel around my head. Then I thought, oh, I’ve got to dry my hair. I dressed, put my makeup on, and got ready to do the deed. My hair is short, so it didn’t take very long to dry it. Then I thought, now what? It looked horrible.
I did have a hot-iron curler. It’s old as Methuselah, and it doesn’t do too good, but I did try it. I started by curling the front of my hair. I couldn’t reach the back, so I just did the front. Then I gave it a heavy teasing—a heavy, heavy teasing. I teased the heck out of it. Then I fluffed my hair up with a little picker comb, looked in the mirror, and thought, well, it looks better than I thought.
And I felt a lot better. The experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. So I survived the first washing of my hair in many, many years. I guess I’ll have to go through this again in three or four weeks. I’ll wait as long as possible. I do not plan to see anyone. I’m quarantined into this house—been quarantined since March 9, the last time I went to the grocery store. I don’t really see anyone unless my grandchildren come and sit in the backyard. Other than that, it’s just me looking at myself in the mirror. So I’ll keep on going until my beauty operator calls and says he’s opened the shop. I’ll be the first one in the door.
If you’d like to share your story, please reach out at [email protected]
Read more from Notes on a Pandemic: