Those of you who follow this column might remember that I have recently, after an eight-year hiatus, rekindled my relationship with the great British hairdresser. After enduring another mildly nervewracking session in The Chair this afternoon, I have decided to try to capture in print exactly what is is that troubles me so much about the experience.
1) Trying to establish whether or not your hairdresser is a Talker. "They probably don't want to chat," you tell yourself. "They've had a long day, perhaps they'd like to be alone with their thoughts for an hour or two. Why should I bombard them with my blather? Why do we have to fake a friendship based entirely on serum and why my fringe flicks upward on some days and downward on others? Let's both just BE for a while."
Then after four silent minutes, the pressure gets to you. You remember all the cosy, women's mag articles you've read about a hairdresser being a girl's best friend, confidante, therapist and mother all in one, and you feel inadequate. Maybe they do want to chat, it's just that they've judged you unchattable-to. WHY can't you chat? You are a person, with thoughts, and things - why shouldn't you share them with this nice stranger? Particularly when the nice stranger is holding scissors menacingly close to your jugular.
So you grope desperately for something to say. You can't ask them about holidays, obviously, because that's a massive cliche and would probably offend them. "Just because I'm a hairdresser," they might reply, "it doesn't mean I spend all my time getting in a tizzy over package deals to Marbella. Talk to me about voting reform, or Proust, for God's sake."
"Um," you say. "It looks like it might rain."
2) The repeated enquiries about whether you're happy with the water temperature. Nobody in the history of hairdressing has ever had a problem with the water temperature, And if you did, the blistering skin or blue lips would tip them off without you having to say.
3) Staring at your own face in a mirror under fluorescent light for upwards of two hours while your hair is placed in unnatural parting arrangements, making one look like one's mother in her secondary school photo.
4) Needing the toilet but not being sure if you're 'allowed' to go with a head full of foils.
5) When they ask you how you like your hair blow-dried, and the only answer you can think to produce is "err.. until it's dry?"
6) When they ask you if you would like to purchase some of the products used on you today. Your mouth says "Ooh, not today but maybe next time" while your face says "wonder if they sell it in Savers?"
7) When the hairdresser asks you, smoothing your beautifully coiffed new do into a style that demands swishy exhibition, what you are doing that night. Because obviously, you must be going out tonight. You're a hip young thing, and you've just spent an eye watering sum on having somebody preen you. So telling the truth, that you're going to spend it on the sofa steadily eating your way through a packet of chocolate Hobnobs, feels like failing your hairdresser. They will look at you in the mirror with sad eyes and think "My art! For what?"
So lie. At least tell them you're going on a hen night, or something.
In which I dream
7 months ago