Had it been a game, it might have been fun — but it was reality
I had considered standing outside the salon window and tapping the glass.
“Calla, look at me!” I would yell, waving and jumping, whatever it took to get her attention.
Who cares if she were trying to sweep away the hair from her last client? I wanted her to see me in real-time.
It seemed important.
The back story
Calla is my stylist, but only since 2020. She had only seen me in a mask. She had never seen my face.
The first time I went to the salon, a masked man stood behind a simple table in the stark, uncarpeted concrete hallway between the elevator and the salon entrance.
“Wear a mask and bring your ID,” I had been told prior to arriving. As I stood in that charmless entryway, I completed paperwork, including which pronouns I wanted to use. (I wrote “Her Majesty” and “She-Bear,” of course.) Then I answered a health questionnaire and submitted to a temperature check. No fever.
A squirt of hand sanitizer later, I was rubbing my hands together as I was escorted through the shelves stocked with Aveda hair products to the real receptionist. He welcomed me and pointed to some chairs, placed six feet apart.
“I’m afraid I can’t offer you a beverage at this time,” Donovan told me. “Calla should be right with you.”
The makeup try-on station also was closed, compliments of Covid. I scrolled through my LinkedIn feed and answered some emails while I waited. One of my pool friends — who also has curly hair — had recommended Calla, and I had high hopes that she might be as good at styling my mop as she was hers.
“Have a seat and let’s talk about your hair,” Calla said after she’d greeted me and walked me to her station. She touched my hair, picked up pieces of it to demonstrate how we might remove some of the weight and create a style to better flatter my face.
The face she couldn’t really see.
I tried unmasking
“I have a square face,” I said. “If it would help, I could just pull down my mask for a moment so you could see. I mean, I have a really strong jawline.”
But we were in mask prison. And though I removed my glasses and earrings, I had to keep my mask in place.
The situation reminds me of a test I took in elementary school. We were shown a photo that didn’t tell the entire story, but we had to write the story of what happened. I remember seeing an image in which a bicyclist was sprawled on the ground, bike beside her, in front of a car.
It seemed obvious, right? The girl had been hit by a car while riding her bike. But when the teacher showed us the full photo, the car was driverless and parked. And it had been parked before the collision. The bicyclist had run into it — not the other way around.
I was asking my stylist to draw the correct conclusion about a flattering style and shape for my hair without seeing the full picture. Without seeing my face. She did her best.
The big reveal
This past Wednesday, I went for my haircut. As I got out of the elevator on the ground floor, I looped my red, white, and blue starry mask around my ears and covered my nose and mouth in true patriotic fashion. The salon had long since stopped the intermediate greeting station in the hallway.
I opened the salon door and started past the shelves of stock — and noticed that the receptionist was maskless.
“No masks?” I asked, hesitating.
“You may do whatever makes you feel comfortable,” he responded, “mask or no mask.”
“No mask!” I said, feeling jubilant. I folded my patriotic shield into my purse and awaited Calla.
I would not have recognized her had I seen her outside the salon without a mask. She looked so different from what I imagined! I suspect I looked different, too, as she mentioned my strong jaw and tried to remember the name of an exercise program to help sagging jawlines.
Just the response I’d wanted. Not. (However, I did leave the salon feeling my hairstyle suited my unmasked face much better.)
Beyond the hairline
My desire for Calla to see my face wasn’t because I thought myself beautiful. I wanted her to see the whole, living, breathing picture so she could build a better haircut to frame this face. So she could highlight the good and camouflage the not-so-good. Make me look my best.
Likewise, I find myself longing to be seen for who I am. Maskless — blemishes, imperfections, and all. Not just my face but who I am and what I think. Beautiful or not. Politically correct or not. Right or not.
So you and I together, whether we align our beliefs or not, can highlight the good and make our world its best.
Covid did more than mask my nose and mouth. It masked some of my beliefs and opinions, too. More than creating a barrier between my breath and your breath and anyone else who dared share a room — six feet apart or otherwise — Covid and the political culture assembled a barrier across my open mouth.
Perhaps you experienced it too. (I’d love to know your story.)
I am glad to be shopping and assembling together without a mask these days. I am thrilled to be unmasked before my stylist and receive a better haircut. I long for the day when we can be truly unmasked in each other’s presence.
Now, for those jawline exercises!
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