I’ve been seeing a petition going around asking that our beauticians and barbers be allowed to re-open their shops on a conditional basis, i.e., only allowing one person the shop at a time. I imagine the person who started this petition is one of those terribly organized people who gets their hair cut precisely every six weeks by the same stylist, in the same chair, have for years, and while they are willing to make a lot of concessions towards keeping safe during the COVID crisis, bad hair days ain’t one of them.

The idea behind shutting down beauty and barber shops is understandable: after all, it’s hard to practice social distancing with your hairdresser wielding her bang-snipping scissors a millimeter from your eyeballs. In all honesty, even if they had six-foot long arms, would you want the haircut that comes from your barber standing that far away? We’d all be true “Monets” at that point: okay from far away, but up close, a big’ol mess (shout-out to the “Clueless” fans!).

A month ago, I might have said that the risk of virus transmission outweighs anyone’s need for a haircut, or other beauty treatment. After all, the point of shutting down businesses isn’t just to keep them from exposing the public to Corona, but to keep the public from exposing the virus to our business owners and employees. If you’re open, then you are practicing the known safeguards, but hair styling, at its core, is an up close and personal-kind of art. If the only way we can protect the people that make us feel good about ourselves is to keep them away from customers, it might be worth it.

Then I went to do a drive-by visit of my grandma in Logan for Easter, and now I cannot sign that petition to get barbers and beauticians back to work fast enough and enough times.

Y’all, she cut her own bangs. My eighty-year old grandma, who has what I have coined the “Appalachian Bouffant,”the once-a-week wash and set hairdo popular in our region. It’s perfectly poofy (which I know because I always give it a little smush when I see her, an act she does not care for AT ALL), and a really pretty shade of butter-blonde, but apparently her bangs had gotten in her face one too many times because they hadn’t been shellacked into place in over a month, so she cut them.

I’ll be honest: I saw this coming when they announced the closure of all beauty salons, and my number one COVID fear that grandma would take her hair cutting into her own hands. And not only did she cut her own bangs, she convinced my aunt to try curling her hair, but they had to give that up after the third curling iron burn. Even from ten feet away, her on her front porch, me leaning over the fence (I’m horribly near-sighted, so this six-feet away thing has been a real test of my squinting abilities), I could tell that the once perfect poof was limper, less blonde, and definitely had some funky bangs happening.

Now I’m afraid, afraid of what six more weeks, or eight, or ten, will bring. My mom suggested she get a wig from QVC, and grandma’s going to look into it, but I can tell her heart isn’t into covering up her own hair, even if it means going to Senior Hour at the Fountainplace Wal- Mart with jagged bangs. But it’s not just her: there’s been a run on hair dye and hair supplies in stores, signaling that many people are trying their hardest not to reveal that their “natural” hair color is anything but that. If you think there’s not some underground Prohibition-era type haircutting happening, you are vastly underestimating the lengths to which the Holler Princesses of the world will go to keep those “effortless” looking hair styles going.

Do I know the ramifications of opening shops and salons too early? No. Do I know what will happen if my grandma can’t get into the beauty shop soon? No, and frankly, I’m more afraid of that unknown than I am of the first one. Because at least there‚Äôs a treatment for a COVID infection, and if you get it, people extend you a level of sympathy, no matter how you got it. But the only treatment for a bad at-home haircut is more time than we’re likely to get quarantined, and the only place you’ll find sympathy for your bad hair decisions is in the dictionary between “Do not do that” and “Well, I told you not to do that.”

So Governor Justice, if you’re reading this, give some thought to allowing a “one-person in the shop” at a time rule for our stylists. And if you won’t do it for the financial security of our beauticians and barbers, who encapsulate the idea of what local businesses are and are essential to the overall economic and cultural health of small towns in West Virginia, then please do it for my grandma, and my grandma’s raggedy bangs.

In the meantime, if anyone needs me, I’ll be spending my COVID downtime researching poofy blonde wigs on QVC. That stimulus check apparently came just in time.