In my earlier writings I regaled my experiences with the English hairdresser; the slow agony of polite but uninteresting conversation, and the enduring of caffeinated beverages to prevent awkward excuses. In a similar vein, I now make a short examination of the Spanish hairdresser, an altogether distinct breed of head groomer.
When I was in Madrid, hairdressers in appeared to be of a far more ubiquitous character than their English equivalents. On every few streets I found two or three lurking. Clearly hair cuts were something the Madrileños went in for a lot more often than the English, and I found that as a result the ordeal was over much more quickly.
The first thing that struck me about them was their no nonsense attitude to small talk. After 10 minutes of hanging around outside the window nervously trying to remember the Spanish words for ‘layers’ and ‘it just needs some extra bounce please’, I boldly pushed through the door and made my request as fluently as I could. The woman listened calmly, agreed to cut my hair and gestured me towards a chair. And that was that. Clearly if you had something interesting to say in a Spanish hairdressing establishment, you spat it out. If you didn’t, you sat in contented silence reading cheerful but tacky magazines whilst a silent stranger cut your hair. There was no moral obligation to make passing comments on the weather or the size of the room and I quite liked it. I tried conversation at first but when Maria-Teresa showed as little interest in it as I did, I remained mute.
The Spanish haircut, therefore, was much more utilitarian – they cut out all unnecessary fluff. Nobody offered me drinks I felt obliged to accept. Nobody demanded that I give a 10 minute soliloquy on what sort of change of hair style I wanted in order to outwardly reflect the deep internal crises experienced in my personal life. I just asked for a trim and she got on with the job. She may have caused my scalp some irreparable damage after a truly vicious hair wash and blow dry, but all in all it was an experience I would repeat again. The lack of obligatory small talk meant I could take in catchy euro chart music without interruption, and think up complimentary and thankful Spanish phrases to say once the ordeal was over.
Besides, it was only €15 and I didn’t have to pretend once that I liked café con leche.