Vienna in the time of COVID – Chapter 23

Given that all hairdressers and barbers are closed along with the rest of the world, and that I am sheltering away from humanity like a mole person, I had mentally committed during this time to taking on the hairstyle and grooming habits of prehistoric man. However, my wife and quarantine roommate made it very clear that, as she has to cohabitate with me, spend the majority of her day looking at me, and is associated with me during those few times we mingle with the public, a long matted beard and head of hair would not be the look of the season and that basic self care still applies in the time of COVID.

I am one of those men who, despite approaching his mid-thirties, is lucky enough to still sport a full head of hair. Or, as my mother so lovingly stated to my wife the other day, “You got the hairy one.” Thanks, Mum. You always know how to sell me.

But being of the hirsute persuasion does raise the question: what does one do when all professional groomers are closed? When Alex raised this question, my answer was joyous and exclamatory “You could cut it!”. 

To comprehend the exuberance behind my reaction, you have to first understand that I am someone who does not enjoy going to the hairdressers. I don’t know if it’s the intimacy of a stranger running their hands over my head, or the way they sharply angle my head from side to side and up and down, or the forced efforts of holding a conversation while my head is being jerked in various directions by a violent puppeteer. Regardless of the reason, I dread having to go for a haircut and usually delay until the point that I look like a sheep that has been lost in the wilderness for the past year. 

sheep

As such, for the past five years I have been hinting to Alex that I would be more than fine if she wanted to have a swing at trimming the follicles, you know, if that were something that might interest her, no pressure. Despite my subtle efforts at incepting the idea into her subconsciousness of her becoming my resident hairdresser, Alex has declined all such invitations and I have had to go to the barber like a proper adult. But the closing of the door that is the world shutting down due to a pandemic has opened the window of my wife attempting a home haircut. It’s all about looking for that silver lining. 

After spending the last few weeks suggesting that now would be the ideal time for her to take up the new hobby of hairdressing, what with all access to professional trimmers being denied and with all socialisation being forbidden, meaning no one would see her efforts were they less than satisfactory, Alex eventually capitulated and agreed to cut my hair. Her only stipulation was that she do so after her birthday. Given that she wanted to avoid people looking at birthday snaps and saying “You look great, but who is that homeless man who has apparently been wrestling with an active lawnmower?”, that seemed more than reasonable. Alex turned twenty-nine on Thursday and so on Saturday this guy got a haircut.

For those of you playing at home, here is what my hair looked like pre-snip:

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Alex approached the task with some trepidation, due in part to her complete lack of practical experience, her desire to not destroy my self-confidence by making me look like a toddler who just figured out how scissors worked, and because, rather than a set of professional hairdressing implements, the tools at our disposal were a beard trimmer and some kitchen scissors. I reassured her that she should just give it a shot, that it would grow back, that currently very few people would see it anyway, and that my self-confidence was not wrapped up in my looks. It is wrapped up in her constant approval, but given that Alex is locked inside with me 24 hours a day, I currently have that in spades. Swish.

We set ourselves up in our tiny bathroom, clicked on the beard shears, and got to work. We had some music playing from our bluetooth speaker, hair was falling around my feet like rose petals, and Alex was far gentler with the head angling than previous hairdressers, so I was feeling pretty good. This was until I heard a soft “Oh-no” from my wife. My concern deepened when I asked her what had happened and was met by a long beat of silence followed by what can only be described as maniacal laughter. 

Thankfully, it was only a closer than expected shave and by no means disastrous. She persevered and after a few breaks to allow the beard trimmer to recharge (poor thing wasn’t used to tackling a whole head), my hairs had all been cut. Alex even went so far as to change heads on the shears and make the back and sides a little shorter so my hair had a bit of shape and style rather than just looking like a cue tip (not a fault of my wife, more the shape of my head and my hairs’ propensity to stick straight up and out when short).

The end result was better than I had dared to dream, to the point that I am proud to peacock about and show my face in public (of course I can’t, what with the need to wear a mask, but I would if I could).

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These are strange times and things that we have always taken as a staple, such as the ability to go out and get your hair styled, are no longer available. But some good can come out of these restrictions. We are being forced to adapt and get creative, and along the way people from all over the world are learning new skill sets. People are in their kitchens discovering the joys of baking their own bread. Others are playing and inventing new games with their kids. And in our house, my wife has unearthed a talent for trimming that may mean I will never have to go to the hairdressers ever again. It is a weird, surprising, and sometimes fortuitous time to be alive.

Tomorrow: Sport.

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