Over the past year, Americans have lamented, loudly and publicly, the loss of many of the communal aspects of pre-pandemic life: eating inside restaurants without worry. Going to packed concerts and sporting events. Celebrating holidays and birthdays with lots of loved ones. Often in a quieter voice, Americans have also lamented a slightly different, less communal loss, one that’s trickier to mourn in the middle of a mass-casualty event. Like mani-pedis.
It’s not just mani-pedis, of course. People have yearned for indulgences corporeal and non-, the types of things that America’s puritanical streak warns against even in better times. The list includes a slew of beauty services that are just not the same at home, if they can even be reproduced there: eyebrow threading, balayage, hair braiding, maybe even a syringe of facial filler. Last March, the television host Kelly Ripa ignited a brief outrage conflagration by joking in an Instagram video (filmed from a chair at her cosmetic dermatologist’s office, while he cackled in the background) that the pandemic had given her an “acute Botox deficiency” that might be deadly.
I have remained vigilant against Botox’s particular siren song, but for months I’ve had my own intrusive thoughts about a trained professional manipulating my face or my hair or my hands. Perhaps I could explore the exciting world of eyelash extensions. I could get my first set of acrylics in well over two years, and maybe experiment with lip filler (but, you know, tasteful, not Real Housewives–y). My brain seems to be conjuring these urges from thin air; I had been familiar with all of these services for a long time without much sense that I’d once again want to haul myself to the nail salon every two weeks to get my acrylics filled, let alone that I’d want someone to tinker under the hood of my face. But the idea of changing something about how I look has become thrilling.