A request from the hairdresser: can we please not talk about COVID?

I’m sitting in the hair salon and my regular hairdresser Bente is dying my hair. Next to me, there’s a woman being cut. She and the girl who’s doing her hair are talking about the latest press conference, in which Rutte told us the evening lockdown has been expanded. “That’s no surprise,” I hear the lady next to me say.

I think about the first press conference in March 2020. How tense I felt before Mark Rutte told us the unthinkable. After 35 press conferences, four waves and many unfulfilled promises, I don’t even watch the ‘big moment’ on Tuesday at 7 pm anymore. Almost two years after COVID-19 was discovered, measures have just become a part of life.

While the dye is setting into my hair, Bente and I are talking a bit. I ask her: ‘Don’t you get sick about all the talking about COVID with every client you see? She smiles and tells me that she and her colleague would love to put a sign on the door that says that COVID is not a subject that hairdressers want to talk about anymore. If she has a new client, it’s always the main subject of their conversation. Luckily, Bente and I already had that conversation the first time I walked in here, and we’re past that now. I wonder what we talked about before at the hairdressers, before March 2020. The weather? Our jobs? Or maybe we didn’t speak at all?

Even though it doesn’t feel like it right now, the whole COVID situation must end someday. How long will it take before everything goes back to normal? When will we be sitting at the hairdresser not talking about COVID? And what will we talk about then? Maybe it will be different than what we talked about before, or we don’t talk at all because without COVID we don’t know what to talk about to strangers anymore. Maybe COVID even brought us together in some way.

As I’m still waiting for my hair dye to settle in, I open the RTL Nieuws app. Seven of the nine featured news articles are about COVID. That’s what the editorial staff thinks is important for us to read. But what news will be important if COVID is gone? What words will replace the terms like ‘RIVM’ and ‘booster vaccines’ we see in the headlines now?

A lot has changed in the last two years and a lot will change when the day comes that Rutte tells us on Tuesday at 7 pm that all measures will be dropped and the COVID era is over – for now. But how will we cope with that? Will we just easily shift back to how things were until March 2020, or are we so used to this new life that it will be hard to go back like it was before? Maybe some things won’t go back to normal. I won’t mind if I never have to give three kisses to that one weird uncle who always gets a bit too close to your lips with his wet mouth.

Bente tells me that the hair dye can be washed out. She dries my hair afterwards and my new haircut is finished. I will make a new appointment in about six weeks. By then, we probably will have had 36 or even 37 COVID press conferences. Maybe it will be the last one and the next time I’ll be here, the man or woman sitting next to me at the hairdresser will talk about the weather, or maybe it will be quiet and awkward. However, everything will be better than discussing the new measures.