You're so vain. Nah, I'm so vain. Less than 48 hours after level 2 lockdown started, I was in my hairdresser's chair, getting my peek-a-boo greys dyed.
It was bliss. The sitting, the chatting, the shampoo. Oh, the shampoo. After nearly eight weeks of strand self-maintenance, tilting my head into a basin for a sudsy scalp massage was a spiritual experience. A rebirth. Baptism by Kera-Cysteine and jojoba oil. The products smelled like flowers and felt like a sunbeam in a cold room.
Maintenance took a holiday during the lockdown. I gave myself one glittery manicure and trimming of toenails way past their due date. One day, I spackled on enough makeup to make a drag queen blush (pun intended), but it was a joke I videotaped. I never brought my quarantine face into the grocery store to see what would happen. Pity, because I performed a brow lift by concealing my eyebrows and drawing new ones on my forehead.
Around the world, isolation-weary souls are crying for haircuts. Some are even protesting to be able to see their barber or hairdresser, which is silly. Anyone willing to jeopardise their health or the health of someone else so they can get a snip and dye needs more than clippers and colour - they need serious self-reflection. Maybe a dunce hat to cover their mop.
Being able to indulge in beautification rituals feels like a reward for being a good couch kumara during lockdown. Vanity in this instance means I've still got sanity after staying home, making my own food for a month and trying to work while my family danced, shouted, ate and played around me.
Largely because of our sacrifices, New Zealand the past week has seen a string of days with zero new cases of Covid-19, and just one yesterday. Ninety-seven per cent of people with the virus have recovered, according to Ministry of Health statistics.
We're luckier than residents of many other countries where salons either aren't allowed to open or have re-started business only to find many regular customers are too scared to enter. My sister in Seattle doesn't want to lighten her hair at home, fearing she'll wreck it. She's waiting until salons reopen, possibly the first of June. My mum in Ohio has joined the self-colouring craze and reports disappointing results.
The New York Times ran an article earlier this week about how Italy has allowed restaurants, churches, bars, stores and salons to reopen. The writer quoted women who said they were "desperate" to get to their stylist.
Beauty therapy is big in Rome, Milan, Florence and other cities throughout the boot. A trade association representative said members' schedules were packed with manicures, pedicures and waxing. Phones were ringing off the hook.
The article's comments section featured a mix of "Good for them" and "What narcissists!" One poster said, "Women need to get a life and stop thinking so much about looks." As if.
That'll happen when nearly every advertisement and media portrayal of women doesn't feature young waifs whose last supper was before lockdown. It'll happen when we stop commenting on appearance and choosing Tinder dates based on looks. It'll happen - never.
Also, many of us enjoy forced relaxation. Sitting in a stylist's chair makes it impossible to finish one more bit of work or stuff another load of laundry in the washing machine.
Are we much different from Italians? Even Kiwi men are hanging out for a haircut. "I look like a shaggy dog," one bloke told me earlier this week. He said he was embarrassed to be walking around with such a mop.
There are practical reasons for a top chop - like being able to see without fringe flopping in your eyes, or having shorter strands to vacuum and pull from drains. There are psychological reasons, too - the feeling that even though we can't control what happens during the pandemic, we can choose a new mascara, aftershave or hair colour.
I remember bringing my mum to the hospital for breast cancer surgery when I was in my early 30s. She was instructed not to wear makeup. As she was about to be wheeled into the operating theatre, I noticed her bright red lips against the stark white sheet. "Mum!" I chastised. "You're not supposed to wear makeup." She said it made her feel better. Back then, I didn't get it. How could she be so vain at a time like this?
I was a twit. It took a Lifetime TV movie called "Why I Wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy" to show me mum was doing what she needed to. The lipstick was more than overpriced pigment - it was a defence to the hospital's drabness, a shiny shield against fear of surgery and death. Wearing lipstick was a metaphor for courage and hope. It signified normal in the midst of the surreal.
I could consider how I've bought into society's beauty myth that says women, especially, are prized for largely genetic qualities such as facial symmetry, body type and skin smoothness. I could rail against the injustice, stop wearing makeup and let my hair go rogue.
I'd rather count the days until the next salon visit, when I pay someone to press her fingers against my head and gently circle my scalp before returning me to the world feeling shiny, new and - for a moment - in control.