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Planet Janet: Tonsorial time-travel

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Janet Combs

Janet Combs

Time travel is possible, via your hairdresser’s chair.

Last week, I mustered up the courage to get my haircut, which is not a phrase I ever thought I would write. The pandemic has turned the routine into the extreme—I saw a chart with a hierarchy of ordinary activities and their associated risk factors during COVID-19, and going to a salon or barbershop was in the “moderate-to-high risk” category!

While I can’t say I have missed going to an amusement park or a concert with hundreds of people—activities in the highest-risk category—I certainly would regret putting off a haircut for so long that I turn into a wizened female version of Owen Wilson. Please join me in the hope that Owen Wilson has a clipping service and enjoys this reference.

So, I decided to throw caution to the wind and make a haircut appointment for Friday evening after work. A little after five, I locked up with alacrity and dashed to my car—this, other than daily trips to the office—was my only outing for the week. I looked forward to it with an unnatural excitement.

At a prior, pre-COVID-19 haircut appointment, I had spoken to my stylist about possibly getting my hair cut really short, the way I used to wear it—it used to be called a “pixie” cut. But we decided that might be too severe all at once and we settled on a slightly shorter, layered cut, which turned out fine. And fine is good enough for me—no matter how many photos of Hollywood trendsetters with cute, short haircuts I collect on my phone, I know I will never emerge from my hairdresser’s with any resemblance to any one of them. Unless one of them is Owen Wilson’s grandmother.

I arrived on time at my usual salon with my masked face for my regular haircut.

“You want it short, right?” my stylist asked.

“Yes,” I said, thinking that meant “the usual.” Short, as in “as short as last time.” Not necessarily as in “as short as Janet wore her hair in high school.”

Snip, snip!

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A lot of hair fell on my cape—which, come to think of it, is appropriate wear for time-travel—but I said nothing, because I had confidence both in my stylist and her chair’s heretofore-untested temporal-shifting capabilities.

Snip, snip, snip!

My stylist may have been thinking of our prior conversation, or about how most people in a pandemic go long periods between haircuts and that she might not see me again for a while. I knew I was in for a dramatic change when she took out the clippers to trim the back of my neck. I kept my eyes closed, which also felt right for rocketing back in time.

Buzz, buzz!

It took her approximately 9 seconds to blow-dry my new do. She turned the chair to face the mirror and there I was, in 1977.

I saw a senior in high school, sporting octagonal wire-framed glasses and wearing a crocheted vest my mother made over a mock-turtleneck with bell-bottoms and platforms. I was flooded with weird memories—struggling to balance a rented violin on the front basket of the rickety bicycle I rode to school; eating a baloney sandwich on a Kaiser roll for lunch; wearing my first bikini to David Schoenfeld’s pool party, making everyone laugh in Science class with the paramecium song parodies I performed on lab days. Kind of an unusual girl, I suppose.

I hadn’t seen her in a while. But my new, old haircut reminded me she’s still here, burnished a bit by time.

I won’t have to brave the pandemic odds for another haircut for at least 8 weeks, maybe 10. Maybe my stylist’s chair will take me into the future next time. But for now, I’m going to enjoy my pixie cut, and make myself a baloney sandwich on a Kaiser roll.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at janetfrickecombs.com.

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