Ah, the hair salon. A woman’s happy place. Where else can you go and sit for 3 hours, enjoy some pleasant conversation AND a scalp massage, and come away feeling all shiny and new?
It’s been nearly four months since I visited a salon. Not because I couldn’t get an appointment – I’ve booked two, but cancelled when I learned that the stylists either hadn’t been vaccinated or wouldn’t disclose that information. One seemed well and truly offended that I would ask in the first place. Through friends and colleagues, I’ve found three more stylists, only to learn that they, too, were choosing not to be vaccinated.
Have I inadvertently stumbled upon a niche of anti-vaxxers?
Covid vaccinations – or lack thereof – have become quite the volatile topic. I have learned that if you want to ruffle some feathers, just bring up vaccination status with a hair dresser. (For the record, I wasn’t trying to ruffle anyone’s feathers.) (Also, the absolute last person on the planet whose feathers I seek to ruffle is the person who controls the fate of my hair colour.)
This is a weighty post today. I debated long and hard about bringing covid to my blog – a place where I tend to avoid highly charged topics and personal politics. (Uh-hem, people-pleaser over here.) You might not like what I have to say today, and that’s ok – I write to process my experiences. These are my opinions; I’m not looking to pontify or lecture. But will there be an air of judgement to my writing today?
That said, I recognize that a range of factors have brought people to their current stance on vaccinations – whatever that stance may be.
Mine happens to be pro-jab. I trust the medical and science professionals who tell us the vaccinations are safe. I believe in their efficacy when you compare our current daily case counts to those in the spring, and the fact that the majority of our current cases are in unvaccinated peeps. I have my concerns about how the virus came to be in the first place, but I have confidence that the brains who worked tirelessly to create and test the vaccines had the ultimate best intention: to keep us safe. I do not believe the vaccines are part of some giant conspiracy to take over the world. Nor do I believe I will grow extra ears or develop a new illness if I get the jab. I have done my due diligence by reading and asking questions of people who actually know something about immunology.
Does making the choice to get vaccinated require a great deal of trust in a bunch of (highly, highly educated) strangers? Yep. Maybe a leap of faith? Sure.
In Ontario, we now need to provide proof of vaccination in order to enter restaurants, movie theatres, and gyms. I fully support this action. It increases safety for workers and patrons alike.
Why is the beauty industry not included, though?
The beauty industry is all about personal contact. Facials, manicures, and hair cuts involve being touched.
People at the gym or movie theatre aren’t touching each other and they have to prove they’re vaccinated if they want in. I’m a teacher and I have to prove I’m vaccinated if I want to continue working with my amazing students. And I’m not washing their hair.
So why are vaccinations not required to enter hair salons and other places where personal contact is guaranteed?
And why on earth do some workers in these places consider it unacceptable or too personal when a client (or potential client) asks about their vaccination status?
To be clear, I’m not in the habit of asking just anyone about their vaccination status. If you’re going to be standing close to me for an extended period of time and touching me, though, of course I’m going to ask.
The first stylist I cancelled had been my beloved ‘go to’ girl for the last couple years. A colleague had referred me to her, and it was love at first balayage. Back in the spring, as she washed my hair in her kitchen sink, she admitted that she hadn’t been vaccinated and had no plans to get the jab.
In her words, she wanted to “wait and see what happens”.
I didn’t ask her to elaborate – I was too busy trying not to pass out from holding my breath while she finished washing my hair. Yes, we were both masked, but masks alone are not enough to make me comfortable when an unvaccinated person’s face is so close to my own.
But what did she mean? Wait and see if everyone who got the vaccination dies from it? Or sprouts extra body parts? Or wait and see if this silly covid virus is just a passing blip on humanity’s radar that will die out on its own, thus making the vaccination moot for her and all the other hold-outs?
I booked an appointment with her for late August, hoping that she would have had a change of heart by then. When I reached out to her later in the summer to gently ask if she had been vaccinated, she did not blow up in my face for asking. She simply told me that she hadn’t and understood if I needed to cancel my appointment. I appreciated her honesty and professionalism.
I got the sense that I wasn’t the first client she had lost to her choice.
With the start of the school year looming, I called up a local salon that has a huge following in my town. Mama needed swishy hair before meeting her Grade 7s! Unfortunately, the earliest appointment I could get with the supposed hair goddess was in mid-October. So be it – swishy hair would have to wait.
With about three weeks to go before my appointment, I connected with the stylist over Instagram. This is how my message read:
“Hi there! I have my first appointment booked with you for mid October and I am so excited! I feel funny asking this as I know it is personal, but have you been vaccinated? I hope you don’t mind me asking…?”
I thought it sounded reasonable. I hated asking, but given the state of the world right now, I feel justified. I also feel very curious about people who don’t ask. This is not a time for blind faith in masks and hand sanitizer alone. Or plexiglass partitions.
The reply I got made it clear that I had ruffled feathers.
She was quick to tell me that her salon has a policy that prohibits any talk of covid or vaccination status.
I think that’s an excellent idea for people in the salon – it ensures clients’ happy-place-time isn’t spent in tension or debate.
I don’t, however, believe that policy should take effect before anyone actually walks in to the salon.
The stylist went on to say that she does mind being asked.
Well, I’m not sure what your experiences with vaccination conversations have been like, Friends, but I find that people who have been vaccinated have no problem sharing their choice with others.
So…I’m just going to make an assumption here that this hair goddess isn’t vaxxed.
She made it clear that I had overstepped by asking about her vax status. I’m ok with that; she’s entitled to her feelings.
But if asking someone in the beauty industry about their vaccination status is enough to ruffle their feathers – and Friends? I’m going to ask every time – then I guess I’ll be taking my business and my 20% tips elsewhere.
Also, Friends? In the three days since I began this post, I did manage to find a double-vaxxed hair goddess. I know you’re delighted for me. Swishy hair is in my near future! Even more good news: she was able to accommodate me on the date I had initially scheduled with ol’ Ruffled Feathers.