I cannot help, upon entering that dreaded establishment of “the hairdressers”, but feel a sense of impending doom. All thoughts of rationality are left behind you as the door closes on the outside world and you survey a room filled with women of varying ages, each looking as uninspired to be there are you are. It is a rare type of place.
Every four to five months we have the pleasure of entering into it for a “haircut”. Or so this is what you are led to expect. In my experience the reality consists more of being sat in a deceptively uncomfortable chair, drinking complimentary drinks you don’t enjoy, and making small talk with a complete stranger while they run their fingers through your hair.
The relationship you have with your hairdresser is one of those uncomfortable and polite ones which in England we excel at forging with complete strangers. This is worse though, for you are compelled to make small talk with an individual for a prolonged period of time (which unfortunately means diverging from the topic of the weather) and wave goodbye to any ideas you had of personal space. Even now I still find the prospect a little daunting.
My last visit combined all my fears of the hairdresser: pointless small talk, an “interesting” result, and forcing myself to drink cappuccinos with extra chocolate sprinkles. After being deposited in a chair, I was introduced to Derek, my soon to be intimate friend for the next hour and a half. We eyed each other up wearily. I took in his pastel coloured jumper and effeminate perfume, he my wreck of a hairstyle.
15 minutes in and we were doing pretty well. I was describing to him the finer points of French grammar following his sudden affected interest that I studied languages. In turn I became extremely fascinated in his reasons for deciding to become a hairdresser. This was all going on whilst he washed my hair, and so communication was somewhat impaired. We gave up after I realised that it wasn’t the soap in my ear which made his French accent sound appalling.
After ten minutes we resumed conversation and he offered me coffee. This was the moment for me to publically admit that I don’t actually like coffee, and would rather have orange squash. I couldn’t bring myself to do it and instead accepted hastily. I was left staring into the mirror for the next five minutes wondering whether to run after him and say I’d changed my mind. Like the many times before, however, I gave up.
When he returned we began to discuss what sort of style I was going for and I ventured bravely into a monologue of terms such as “volume” and “lift” which I didn’t understand. Gestures seemed a necessary part of this particular discussion and he picked out strands of my hair and let them fall artistically into a less bedraggled mess to demonstrate what he would try and do. After asking the stranger sitting next to me her opinion as to whether layers were really “me” or not, we eventually settled on some sort of plan of action for my hair.
After an eternity of snipping off minimal amounts of hair, rigorous drying and a healthy dose of conditioner came the worst part of the whole experience. No matter what you think of the efforts of your new friend, you must look delighted, exclaim that you love it, and then pay for the damage caused. Derek stood back with a flourish and held a mirror up to the back of my head. He asked what I think. I took a sip of the now cold cappuccino as I mulled over my response.
“It’s wonderful,” I said, gushingly. “Thanks so much for the coffee.”
Published in Exeposé, Issue 619, page 20. February 2014.