Three weeks into isolation, I've developed certain quarantine habits. I cook, usually pasta but occasionally something a bit more ambitious (and nutritious). I wash a seemingly endless supply of dirty dishes from the aforementioned cooking. I move from chair to couch to bed, praying to find a space where I can work uninterrupted for more than half an hour. I go on walks to my local park where I scowl at couples walking hand in hand, flaunting to the world that they are the lucky ones still having sex while the rest of us are getting increasingly chafed and lonely. I visit the grocery store, grabbing even more boxes of pasta and snack packs of chocolate pudding.
These are all fairly standard, productive and healthy habits. But there is something else I do almost daily — something far less healthy and more insidious: I fantasize about giving myself bangs.
This is not a new phenomenon. Every few months, like clockwork, an itch starts under my skin to change something about my appearance. This usually manifests as a new color (last year alone I was a brunette, a blonde, a brunette, a blonde and finally a brunette with highlights), but I promised myself last fall that I would stop coloring my hair to keep it healthy. So now, when that itch starts again, I find myself thinking about bangs. And I don't just think about them, I mock them up. Every few days, I load a new selfie into FaceApp and give myself a digital haircut, occasionally posting the results online. Right before I went into quarantine, I tweeted an altered selfie (pictured above), in which I'd given myself blonde hair and bangs, hours after posting the original, unedited version. The bangs got more likes.
I know, logically, that I don't actually want bangs. In reality, they make my long face longer (my chin is a little pointy), despite their purpose mostly being to camouflage my forehead. I'm also a sweaty girl, so they'd always be damp and stuck to my face. I'd get sick of them in a few weeks, but be stuck growing them out for a year.
But still... I want them. And I'm not alone. Jokes about giving yourself bangs during quarantine have dominated my Twitter feed for the past two weeks (which have felt like two years). "How im pullin up to my hair salon after I cut my own bangs and dyed my hair during quarantine," someone wrote alongside Joe Exotic's mugshot. "idk who need to hear this but... DONT GIVE YOURSELF QUARANTINE BANGS. DONT DO THAT TO YOURSELF," advised another. We are all united in two things: Our inability to stop masturbating and our knowledge that panic bangs are not a good idea.
What is the point, after all? I'm currently washing my hair maybe once a week and the only person I see is my roommate and the friends I FaceTime. My hair is usually tied up with a scrunchie or hidden in the folds of whatever moldy hoodie I've found on my closet floor. If I were to give myself a new haircut, who would enjoy it besides the supermarket cashier I'm pretty sure is judging me for all the aforementioned chocolate pudding I'm buying? Do I really need to shake the girls in my next Zoom chat badly enough to risk ruining my hair? Giving myself bangs in quarantine is as pointless as filling up my online shopping cart with transitional spring jackets. Read the room, babe!
Even those of us who already have bangs are smart enough not to attempt a home trim. My friend Shon Faye says she absolutely would not attempt to maintain her own fringe for however long we're stuck inside. "My hand eye coordination is abysmal. I would fuck it up and look awful and be in a foul mood." Before social distancing, Faye would regularly get her fringe trimmed every three-to-five weeks, and the prospect of not being able to maintain her current cut is "annoying, naturally, because the style suits me best and I went back to bangs after spending a year growing them out because they look better." She adds, "But at least growing them out will be easier when I'm not seeing anyone. It's hardly the worst thing about this crisis!"
"We're all having a Joan of Arc moment right now, where we're ripping away at ourselves, and we're eating our own hands, and we're just trying to find some sensibility of who we are again."
The longer we're stuck inside, the more likely some of us are to get stir crazy enough to start experimenting with our scissors. While I'm hoping that whatever latent crafty impulses slumber within me will be appeased by the home tiedye kit I forgot I owned, I reached out to my own hair stylist for his opinion on quarantine panic bangs. Shockingly enough, he says go for it!
Sean Bennett, the "hair bender" and wig wizard behind some of PAPER's most outrageous shoots, thinks now is the perfect time to experiment. "We're all having a Joan of Arc moment right now, where we're ripping away at ourselves, and we're eating our own hands, and we're just trying to find some sensibility of who we are again," he says. "If you can, have some harnessing power over yourself and do something. It could be your bangs or it could be your hair, chopping away at yourself." Giving yourself bangs in a moment of crisis is the femme version of bleaching or buzzing off your hair — a time honored tradition of unhinged gay men, Bennett reminds me.
Quarantine might not seem like the time to be radically altering your appearance, but Bennett argues it makes sense, considering we're seeing ourselves now more than ever. "We are having all these zoom chats... where you're looking essentially at yourself," he says, referring to the window in all video chat platforms where the user's own face is visible. "I don't know how many people are looking at other people, but I'm always looking at myself." Ok, same.
Now, Bennett claims, "is the time to give yourself some funny ass haircut" because you're the only one dealing with it. "You can have maybe a false sense of confidence," he continues. "You're not having to go out in the world with it, and going into the club or going to the bar and people seeing it up close. Maybe this is your time to really experiment with your look."
If you're going to go through with your quarantine cut, whatever style it may be, Bennett advises finding a specific reference point for your desired look, and not being overly ambitious. He points to Angelina Jolie's choppy, cropped bangs in 1995's Hackers as something fun but achievable. "She has a very fucked up bang," Bennett says, lovingly. "It looked like someone took a bunch of ketamine and some safety scissors and just went for it."
Bennett advises to always work with dry hair, using plenty of mirrors to see from every angle, and working with gravity rather than against it. "You don't want to be lifting anything up." And if you're lucky enough to be quarantined with a roommate or partner, have them help. "Kitchen scissors are fine. Anything that you feel is sharp. A dull scissor is obviously going to give a duller, more broken look."
Also, don't cut your bangs live on Instagram, where so many people have gone to pass the time. "You're so worried about looking cool on the video that you're not actually going to be taking into consideration the real world sensibility." And of course, slow and steady wins the race. "This whole bang trim could take two hours. It's not like you're going anywhere."
And that leaves me right where I started — alone in my apartment with a pair of scissors and a rapidly deteriorating tether to reality. Do I follow in Shon's footsteps and leave my hair alone until the world returns to whatever our new normal will be post-pandemic? Or do I follow Sean's advice and give myself a snip and hope for the best? Realistically, I'm not going to risk it. Instead, I'll embrace the fact that, now more than ever, we live in a digital world and keep editing haircuts and getting creative with my selfie angles. And who knows, maybe Zoom has a fringe filter in the works...
Welcome to "You've Been Served," Rose Dommu's alternately irreverent and incisive look at beauty, ranging from the deeply personal to pop cultural — essays, product guides, interviews with artists/influencers/specialists and deep dives into the beauty industry's impact on internet culture.
Photo courtesy of Rose Dommu/ FaceApp