I blue myself for the second time on Day 62 of the quarantine.
The blue, in question, was the hair dye applied to my business casual haircut, a color I have been sporting five weeks now.
Initially, I was concerned about how it would be received by colleagues who I regularly video conference with. While my company does not have official standards associated with appearance, maintaining a “professional” presence is an unwritten requirement. I may adorn myself boldly during personal time, but at work, I am strictly professional.
Early in the pandemic, however, I had seen several social media posts from people contemplating extreme at-home makeovers. Having long been fascinated by the colorful New York punk rockers and club kids featured on Phil Donahue and Geraldo in the early ’90s, I realized the quarantine would provide an opportunity to experiment with what little hair had steadfastly clung to my head.
Feeling emboldened I made the impromptu acquisition of “Splat Blue Envy” while shopping at Duane Reade (the predominant NYC pharmacy) for “just in case” over the counter medical supplies should one of us become COVID symptomatic.
Even as I made the purchase, I was not 100% certain I would follow through with dying my hair. Outside of agreeing to an accidental “whitening” when I was 24 by my hairdresser whom I thought suggested that I try “lightening” it, my hair color has remained a generically dull dirty blonde most of my life.
I had not previously revealed my Party Monster daydreams to Travis, so he was surprised when I came back from the pharmacy with 12 different variations of Vitamin C, Tylenol, and a package of hair dye. I was aging against the machine, I know, but after the initial shock, he was not just supportive but excited to contribute.
As mentioned in a previous post, like the biblical Samson, much of Travis’s superpower comes from a well-groomed mane. His thick, curly brown locks require ample time, products, and daily maintenance. He was experimenting with his own hair during the quarantine, opting to let it grow out indefinitely. This was a low-risk undertaking, however – when his hair gets wet it curls tightly on itself, giving the appearance, especially on a video conference call, of being tame/work appropriate. Depending on the audience and assuming he has enough time with his curler, he can alternate between the wavy locks of Shawn Mendes or spring for a near Richard Simmons.
I had assumed he was well practiced in the role of stylist and working with my hair wisps would be an amateur for him. And so long as he did not f*#k it up, he need not fear my playing Delilah on his lovely locks.
I had no idea how complex “Blue Envy” would be. I suppose it should have been obvious, but I discovered that before you can dye your hair blue you first have to bleach it as white as possible.
We made a show of the bleaching process with some friends. During a Zoom happy hour session, Travis sat me down in front of my laptop and applied the bleach, scrubbing the cleaning product into my follically challenged noggin as my friends took turns ridiculing me like we were on a Comedy Central Roast.
Coming out of the shower after the second round of bleaching, it was apparent that my chemically roasted scalp would need to dye another day. Regardless, I figured it might be fun to revisit my whitened state from 20 years prior. And I also assumed an interim, less colorful step, might be an acceptable compromise for my work video conferencing – a dabble with Andy Warhol before leaping to Marge Simpson.
My professional worries were all for naught, of course. As one would hope, my colleagues were more concerned with how I performed my duties than whether I looked like a soccer hooligan. In fact, they have been egging me on to get even more experimental – to try combining colors and embrace edgier haircuts.
Over the 9 weeks of quarantine we have gone from alabaster to lavender to royal blue, with many color fades in between. The only misstep was with the first application of blue. Travis vigorously “shampooed” the chemicals in and I let it set for 45 minutes. Those of you in the know are most certainly shaking your well-dyed manes as you read this.
After a half-hour of rinsing, the excess dye had come out, yet my scalp and hairline were dyed blue. It was difficult to tell over video conference (wipes brow) but during trips to the pharmacy, coffee shop, or grocery store for the next week the clerks would check me out with a raised brow.
Now that physically returning to the office this calendar year is in doubt, I do not anticipate seeing my natural color again in 2020. When I first bleached my hair and after each color change, there came brief, invigorating moments in which I would feel rebellious when I glimpsed myself in the mirror. But as the color would fade, so would the significance of the change. In a time where there is so little within my control, at least this small, happy thing, is still under my jurisdiction. With a little help from Travis of course.
Cultural Highlights of the Day
As an avid reader of fiction and a member of the publishing industry, I have surprised myself over the last few months as I have delved heavily into a number of excellent memoirs. Perhaps as a way to connect with others even while we remain socially distanced? Below are a handful of recent suggestions:
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones is a contemporary, detailed look into the life of a young, queer, black man as he comes of age in the South.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah of The Daily Show fame. It is a fascinating and (expectedly) humorous look at the young comedian’s childhood, growing up poor and of mixed race in South Africa.
Maus by Art Spiegelman is a graphic novel that documents the cartoonist’s father recounting how he survived the Holocaust as a Polish Jew. It is a heartfelt, meaningful work that had me in tears multiple times. It was also a helpful reminder that the world has seen dark times before, and what is happening to us know will, in time, pass.
A reminder that if your local bookstores brick-and-mortar location is not open, most have pickup/delivery options available and are in dire need of your support.
This is Daryl Sela’s third post in his series, [email protected], about sheltering at home in downtown New York City.
Daryl Sela is a freelance writer living in New York City.
Photos by Travis & Daryl