Over the past few days, I’ve had to talk not one but two different friends out of giving themselves an emergency quarantine haircut—a “quarantrim,” if you will. One wanted to change up her sleek middle part with some bangs, while the other friend wanted to buzz her cascading, sun-kissed waves fully, all the way off.
“Like most people in times of crises in the past, I have been wondering if I should get bangs,” my friend Rachel Rabbit White said. A poet in Brooklyn, Rabbit White said she’s been on the verge of a quarantine makeover since day 10 of social distancing. “There’s this aspect of isolation where we’re all just looking into the mirror, like, on every level? Metaphorically, as well as literally, staring at ourselves on FaceTime.” Soon, she said, “it started to seem like a conspiracy. Why don’t I have bangs? Why do my friends say I shouldn’t get them when bangs equals attractive?”
It’s a natural impulse to have as we enter week three (or four? 22? 47?) of social distancing. With at least another 30 days of self-isolation ahead of us, if not more, the question of what to do with our hair will become louder and louder as the days drag on.
If you’ve been starting to wonder if you should give yourself a little quarantrim, let me stop you right there so I can tell you the same thing I told both of my friends: No. Don’t. Please stop immediately. I know your hair looks bad right now, and it’s only going to get worse before this pandemic is over. But just suck it up, and wait it out until you can see your regular stylist.
Now, my advice might not be what the experts are saying. Brad Mondo, the stylist behind the mega-popular “Hairdresser Reacts” videos on YouTube, told VICE that if someone really wants to give themselves an at-home haircut, they might as well go for it. “Just don’t cut your bangs too short!” warned Mondo, who released a “Hairdresser’s Guide to Cutting Your Own Hair and Not Ruining It” video last Thursday. “Start off by cutting them longer than you want to ensure you’re not the next victim of a badly cut fringe.”
But I do speak with some authority. I am a woman who cut her own hair all throughout high school and college, often to my liking and often very much not. I picked it back up a couple years ago after a friend gave me straight-across bangs, which needed a cut every month or two. I figured it was worth it. I mean, why pay someone else to do something I could manage perfectly fine on my own? And then I gave myself the absolute worst, hairline-clinging TERF bangs that any adult human female has ever been cursed enough to sport. After putting down the scissors and looking in the mirror, I had a full-on meltdown. I am not joking when I tell you that my boyfriend nearly broke up with me over the amount of emotional labor I demanded of him at the time—something he still teases me about to this day!
I bring up this humiliating anecdote to say that there’s something way worse than not being able to get the haircut you want while social distancing, and that’s giving yourself a terrible haircut that you can’t get fixed because your local salon is closed until further notice. Not only will fucking up your hair leave you filled with regret—you did it to yourself, after all—but you’ll inevitably need your loved ones to attend to your exhausting, if thoroughly low-stakes, crisis. The fallout of my big bang (with small B’s) fuckup nearly ended my relationship, and that was in non-pandemic times. Right now, your friends and partners are probably too busy dealing with unemployment, threats to their physical health, the possible collapse of our hospital system, and unprecedented levels of horniness to worry about your petty follicular troubles. Do yourself and them a favor, and wait to get that trim.
Also consider whether your desire to cut your hair stems from something deeper than just wanting to see if the Instagram shag actually looks good IRL. Ellen Westrich, a clinical psychologist in New York City, told VICE that the desire to give oneself an impulsive haircut might be rooted in a desire to return to life as it was before COVID-19 changed everything. “It might be tied to a need for some kind of normalcy,” said Westrich. “You can’t go out to dinner. You can’t go visit a friend. You can’t go to a barber or go to a salon, so cutting your hair might be a way to try to introduce that aspect of normalcy back into our lives.”
Your burning desire for a balance-restoring makeover might also be a way of trying to seize control amidst a thoroughly uncontrollable nightmare. “We can self-quarantine, wash our hands, and do all the other things we’ve been told to do, but ultimately, we don’t have total control over whether we get sick,” said Westrich. “So, what can we control in terms of our bodies? We can control what our hair looks like. We can control what our nails look like, what our clothing looks like. There’s a sense of control there, but more specifically a sense of control over one’s body that I think is so critical right now. I can totally understand why people might want to do that.”
Much like hairdresser Mondo, Westrich said that if you want to trim your hair and you know it’ll make you feel good, then you might as well go for it. But she cautioned anyone who wants to go D.I.Y. on this—especially anyone who has self-harming tendencies or who tends to be impulsive—to sit with that desire for a bit and see how they feel in a few days.
I know it’s frustrating to be filled with anxiety over the pandemic and not have a suitable outlet through which to channel it. Trust me, I want nothing more than to pick up a pair of scissors and restore my bangs to their rightful, above-the-brow place right now. But I shall save myself for my beloved stylist, whenever it is that she’s finally able to see me, comforted by the knowledge that I won’t be the only newly middle-parted woman undergoing a forced Haim sister-fication right now.
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