They are at ground zero of beauty control.
The hairdressers, nail techs and eye-lash goddesses that gussy us up. Even in a pandemic we depend on them.
Make that, depended on them.
What’s up with that?
That changed abruptly Monday, when Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all “non-essential” services such as hair and nail salons to close for at least two weeks, along with restaurants, bars and fitness centers.
This story also changed abruptly. It was supposed to be about this last vestige of normalcy, especially in these uncertain times.
“People like looking good,” HoneyComb Salon owner Julia Barbee told me on Friday, before the unexpected ban. “Through all of this, hair is going to keep on growing. … If we’re going to be stuck inside by ourselves, with ourselves, we probably should feel good about ourselves.”
Barbee, 42, is a bubbly person, with bright lipstick that matches the bubble gum machine and red taffy in the salon decorated retro-style.
Her one-chair HoneyComb Salon is in Mill Creek’s Sola Salon Studios, a complex of about 20 self-operated private rooms that only share a common hallway. There is less mingling than traditional shops that have rows of open chairs. Barbee said that helped her business stay steady, with regulars coming in for colors, cuts and washes. To be sure, all that everybody talked about was COVID-19, but this was one place where good things happened.
Across the Gateway Shopping Center parking lot at TD Nails on Friday, typically a busy day, a handful of women and a man were plopped back in chairs with their feet dipped in warm water for a pedicure. A few others were getting shellac fingernails. There were more empty seats than filled in the exposed room setting.
“We’ve slowed down,” the owner said.
Social distancing of keeping 6-feet apart goes against the grain of getting pretty.
Cosmetology is a hands-on industry. Working from home and staying away from people is not an option.
“I have to touch people constantly,” Barbee said.
A viral video shows barbers in China giving customers a “long distance haircut” using wooden poles with sponges and razors to wash and trim hair.
Not even that’s an option in Washington state now.
Many in the trade are self-employed or contract workers who depend on tips. They have families to support. Barbee, a stylist for 21 years, has three children.
Jaymie Larsen, a state-licensed esthetician and mother of two girls, said business had already dropped in recent weeks at her Monroe Lash Lounge.
“I could spend more on childcare at this point than money I could make in a day,” Larsen said last week.
Larsen is a veteran who served in combat zones for aircraft maintenance units for her nine years in the Air Force. The technical sergeant is quartermaster at Veterans of Foreign Wars VFW Post 7511 in Monroe.
“It has been very scary having my 6- and 7-year-olds out of school, little to no childcare options that aren’t financially obtainable when 50% of my clients are canceling out of fear of illness,” Larsen said.
On Friday, at the Sola Salon Studios complex in Mill Creek, Betty Wall, 87, was getting her weekly fix — a pruning of her thick silver hair. She rarely misses a Friday at Tee’s Hair Studio with stylist Tee Sam.
Wall, who lives alone and drives herself to get her nails done at another salon on a regular basis, said last week that she wasn’t panicked by the pandemic, despite being in a vulnerable group.
“I don’t take too many chances,” Wall said.
She stopped playing cards with friends at her senior mobile home park. “There’s several who have been sick and we don’t want to pass it around,” she said.
Down the hall at HoneyComb Salon, Marlene Schoenfeld was getting her hair washed by Barbee. She comes every few days for this basic grooming task due to a bad shoulder. Still, she was more concerned about missing sports than contracting coronavirus.
“What kills me about all this? March Madness really makes me mad, that they’re not having it,” Schoenfeld said. “And if they stop the football season that will really upset me.”
As Inslee put it in Monday’s press conference: “Normal is not in our game plan.”