degas 1
How to Cut Your Own Hair
by Janet Banks

1) Admit desperation:
    Bangs tickle your eyelashes
    Gray roots grow beyond an inch
    Favorite earrings are now totally invisible

2) Observe others:
    Scroll through hairstyles on Pinterest
    Watch how-to haircutting videos on YouTube
    Find a photo, an “ideal” look, post it, study it often

3) Assemble tools:
    Order a cheap barber’s kit on-line
    Buy a professional long-toothed comb
    Search for your hand mirror

4) Picture it:
    Get comfortable with the scissors’ little finger brace
    Practice how your stylist lifted hair between two fingers
    Strategize the sequence of cutting

5) Find courage:
    Give yourself a pep talk — how hard could it be
    Open a bottle of wine and pour a glass
    Repeat pep talk, pour another glass of wine

6) Start small:
    Trim hair around your face, the bangs, the sides
    If the mirror’s reverse image confuses you, don’t panic
    Use your fingers to see/feel what needs cutting and do that

7) Mistakes happen:
    Wear a hat or a scarf and smile a lot
    Remember, during the pandemic you’re safer at home
    The pandemic won’t last forever

8) Celebrate success:
    Admire your natural color emerging, enjoy becoming silvery
    Although terrifying, you’re proud to have survived the challenge
    Open a bottle of wine and pour a glass

IMAGE: Woman Brushing Her Hair by Edgar Degas (1889).

Janet Banks

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am so looking forward to a professional haircut, the last of which I had in February 2020. When the pandemic required salons in Boston to close, I’d already made the decision to grow out my gray hair but was counting on a really good short cut to help me along. When the salons reopened, my husband and I, both in our mid-seventies with pre-existing conditions, decided we’d be safer at home. I let my stylist know I’d be back once vaccinated and when the infection rate in Massachusetts dropped. It was my husband’s idea to order the barber’s kit, a lifesaver we’ve come to depend on. Our haircuts are choppy, but sufficient for now. Every time I reach for the scissors, I feel anxious, coaching myself to take it slow. Sometime in late March or April, I hope to sit in the salon chair again and let my stylist work her magic.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: My husband, Arthur Banks, took the photo in November 2020. We were walking the Hellcat Interpretive Trail through a freshwater marsh at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island, Massachusetts. The park is only 45 miles from our condo, so we typically visit it often—however ,this was our first day trip out of Boston in nine months due to the pandemic. It was windy, cold, and absolutely wonderful. I was just so happy to be there.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Janet Banks is a writer who is exploring the joys and challenges of aging in real time. Her personal essays have been published by Cognoscenti, The Rumpus, Entropy Magazine, Silver Birch Press, and Persimmon Tree among other on-line sites. Shortly after retiring from a corporate career, she was published in The Harvard Business Review. Her essay is included in HBR’s Summer 2020 Special Issue: “How to Lead in a Time of Crisis.” She began writing poetry during the pandemic of 2020. Her poems have been published in Poetry and Places and in Poetry and Covid, a project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.