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The counter is covered in protective newspapers. The chemicals stand ready. I am about to dye my own roots.

Sure, I’ve used drugstore boxes before. But I’ve been seeing a hair savant, John Taccone, owner of Navigate Salon in Toronto, and he’s educated me about my hair, about varying distribution of colour, about tone versus depth. He has shown me, in terrifying closeup, the bands of mud at the back of my head, where drugstore colour was overdeposited.

But, of course, I can’t see him in person right now. So, I have sent him photos of my current roots – pictures that disturb me on such a deep psychic level, I will certainly have that Freudian dream of my teeth falling out. In response, he has provided a kit – six tubes of colour, two litres of developer, a mixing bowl, a brush and gloves – totalling $140, good for four applications.

Now, pacing in my bathrobe, I flash back to chemistry class, where a tiny error could BLOW UP THE LAB. What if my hair turns orange? Falls out?

Taccone FaceTimes me. I prop my phone on the windowsill so he can see everything – like Oz, only legit. I snap on my gloves and prep my food scale. In his warm, steady voice, he instructs me: 19 grams of 6GB, 32 grams of 6NN, 5 grams of 6A (which comes out blue). And then the cream developer, 45 grams. Mixed together, it looks like dijonnaise, the mayo/mustard for lazy people.

We begin. Centre part. Wide brush. Push the colour on, then feather it out so it blends. Continue making horizontal parts down the head. John asks if my husband can do the back. I remind him I’m married to a heterosexual man. “Okay, do the best you can,” he says.

I am alone. Existentially alone. Why am I doing this? “Beauty is greedy,” John says. “You give someone a little, they want more.” But I’m not wildly vain. I think I just want something to feel normal.

After 26 minutes, I hit the shower. Blow-drying, things look good. I swell with pride. I am a pioneer woman! An astronaut! Okay, not those things! But I will take this small victory. I am ready to see people again. People. That’s why we care about this beauty stuff – to signal to our tribe, “I’m okay, and you are also. We are still us.”

Why is John doing this? “This time is hard for everyone,” he says. “I want to find a way to be gentle.”

People on social media are sharing imaginative ways of entertaining, informing and having fun while staying isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a compilation of some that made us smile.

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