Little lockdown lifts

MC Pony (AKA Elizabeth Usher) with her customised ponytail-accommodating hoodie outside Sydney Vegan Expo in 2018. Photo: Zoe Baumgartner/supplied.

The Sentinel’s vegan editor, Elizabeth Usher, finds a surprise gift brings both practical benefits and unexpected joy.

I’m going to start with a simple truth – I have a lot of hair!  This comes in very handy on Halloween, with Cousin Itt from The Addams Family being an easy go-to default outfit. Even without the right hat-sunnies combo, this look always works well for entertaining my niblings! 

My on-the-spot (i.e. missing the hat & sunnies)
Cousin Itt impression in April 2016.
Photo: Elizabeth Usher.

Furthermore, one of the defining features of my performances as MC Pony is my ‘mane’ – or rather, my ponytail, that pokes through a specially made hole in my hoodie. It has to be an extremely hot day for me to perform sans hoodie, but the ponytail itself is an absolute constant.

What a difference a decade makes to a ponytail!
Left: an early MC Pony performance in July 2009. Right: On the mainstage at Gosford’s Alive Festival. Photos: Elizabeth Usher, Sharon Troy Baldwin/supplied.

Of course, performance opportunities are off the cards during lockdown … and with no access to hairdressers at the moment, my hair is currently the longest it’s ever been.

My last performance opportunity was at the Australian Songwriters Conference in June – this is my comedy song character Bubbles. Photo: Elizabeth Usher.

To be honest, I have a very limited repertoire of hairstyles. I’ve only mastered the single ponytail, the double ponytail, the side plait and the ‘let it be loose until I’m either too hot or it’s at risk of getting too knotty’.

The side plait, AKA my gratuitous opportunity to include a photo with Jason Mraz from pre-pandemic days at the Hawai’i Songwriting Festival in 2017. Photo: supplied.

I do find going for a haircut (or, to be pedantic, ‘just a trim’) to be a real treat, especially if there’s a reason to have a “do” of some variety. I’m also very loyal to my hairdressers – that is, until they stop using a brand of haircare products that’s officially approved as cruelty free!  For several years I’ve been using De Lorenzo, an Australian vegan range that’s accredited by Choose Cruelty Free. As of Winter 2021, however, CCF is now part of Cruelty Free International, so I may write a future article about the transition program currently underway from the CCF List to the international Leaping Bunny program. 

A ‘salon do’ using De Lorenzo products ahead of the ASA awards in 2018.
Photo: Elizabeth Usher.

Usually I just buy my shampoo and conditioner every couple of months at the salon, but with supplies running low and no end in sight for this lockdown I turned to the De Lorenzo online store. The shopping process was really easy, and I even found some handy travel-sized bottles that I hadn’t seen before. Yes, I recognise I’m a bit optimistic in purchasing ‘travel-sized’ anything right now, but I’m definitely keeping the dream alive despite our current ‘stay at home’ requirements! At checkout, I was chuffed to find that I met the threshold for free shipping and clicked the buttons to finalise my purchase.

I was stunned when the package arrived remarkably quickly and on a Saturday no less. (Quick shout out to all the delivery workers coping with such an immense additional strain during the pandemic!) Then, on opening, I was absolutely delighted to find an unexpected free gift of a bamboo paddle hair brush. I don’t know how they chose a paddle brush specifically, but that’s definitely the best option for my hair … for example, a barrel one would have been wasted on me! 

To show just how much I appreciated receiving this brush, the photo below gives a side-by-side comparison, showing my old paddle brush that lost its handle probably around three years ago after it came off worst in a fight with the bathroom floor tiles. That’s how long I’ve needed a new paddle brush!

A tale of two paddle brushes.
Photo: Elizabeth Usher.

This little surprise gift really did give me a huge lift even though we’ve honestly been coping okay with lockdown – admittedly we’re in the privileged position where my partner’s job can be done safely from our kitchen table, leaving me to focus on running my business in the next room with a door between us as a noise barrier. We’re happy enough as homebodies, we don’t have to face a daily challenge of home-schooling children, and we’ve been able to stay safe and well. (This is on top of my ‘hair privilege’ that’s basically underpinning this entire op ed!)    

Even so, I’ve been amazed at the element of joy I have now each time I brush my hair with my new brush; a combination of the handle making it so much easier – seriously, why did I wait literally years without replacing the broken one? – and the emotional boost of thinking about how much happiness that little unanticipated bonus brought me on a Saturday morning.   

I sincerely hope that despite our society’s currently restricted routines, you are also able to luck upon some little lifts to brighten this lockdown life.

One last ‘long luscious locks’ pic – with Dr Jane Goodall in 2017. Photo: Elizabeth Usher/supplied.

Elizabeth Usher is the vegan editor of the Sydney Sentinel. NB: this is a genuine op ed, not an advertorial. The hairbrush was a legitimate surprise free gift, and I have made no approach to De Lorenzo for additional benefits.