First world woes: hairdressing awkwardness

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I see trips to the hairdresser the way that most people see trips to the dentist; painful, unnecessary, and something to be delayed for as long as possible. Far too often, it has left me teetering dangerously close to the edge.

Before I begin, I would like to point out that I have nothing against hairdressers as a group of people, it is merely the awkwardness of the socially bizarre interaction which occurs at the hairdresser’s that I dislike.

I think the best way for me to illustrate my point is to talk you through my recent trip to the hairdressers. Having waited about 6 months since my last cut, and sporting more splits than the combined relationships of ABBA, I figured it was finally time to take the plunge. After doing my research, I found the cheapest local salon (which shall remain nameless) and phoned them up to book an appointment.

And so the trouble began.

“Who do you want to cut your hair?” asked the girl on the other end of the phone. What does she want? A name? But I’ve never been to this salon before. Would ‘a hairdresser’ be a stupid answer? My distress waves obviously transmitted down the phone line, as she came to my rescue, explaining that there are 3 different prices, depending on level of expertise. I made my choice, hung up, and the hustle was on.

I guess the next major issue is one of trust. You are trusting someone who you’ve only just met to work their magic on your locks. Whether your hair is your pride and joy, or merely there because it persists in growing, hiding any disasters is not easy. And hairdressers are always so young too. Do they, as a profession, have a low life expectancy or something, rarely living beyond the ripe old age of 25? I wouldn’t trust me to cut my hair, so why would I feel comfortable letting someone my own age, if not younger, do so?

Next up are the questions. “How do you want me to blowdry your hair?” was one I encountered on the visit in question. After a few seconds awkward silence, whilst I racked my brains for an answer other than “er, dry?”, a wobbly voice reared itself from inside me and uttered “straight, please?” (note the questioning intonation). “No problem” she said, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I had passed that test.

What I hate most is the sitting in front of the mirror part. I’m not one for sitting still at the best of times, and being exposed to my own face for so long leaves me little choice but to examine every pore. Nobody looks their best with dripping wet, half brushed hair pinned back from its usual position, make-up running down their face, so being forced to bear it whilst your exquisitely made-up hairdresser prances around in the background is like some first-world form of torture.

Half an hour later, I’m fed up of examining every spot and blemish on the mountainous terrain of my forehead, of which I am normally blissfully unaware (I have a fringe for a reason, you know), and counting my many chins (somebody tell me that hairdressers mirrors are built to add 10 pounds in the way that cameras do?) Thankfully, my thought trail is interrupted.

“Where do you want your first layer to start?”

Argh. Panic! First layer. Does she mean first from the top or first from the bottom? Is she requiring a specific measurement? Should that measurement start from the top or bottom? WHAT DOES SHE WANT FROM ME?

Fortunately I managed to mumble a ”erm, yeah, whatever you think” before attempting my usual reflexive action of hiding behind my fringe, realising that said fringe was pinned somewhere at the back of my neck, and blushing 8 unconcealable shades of scarlet before finally resting my eyes back on my own puffy reflection.

So I get too bored or depressed to continue looking at my own face. Then where do I look? I can’t look beyond my own reflection in the mirror, because she’s there, and if we catch each other’s eyes it’s that awkward do-I-smile-do-I-not situation. There’s a thin line between grinning like a Cheshire cat and scowling like Norris from Corrie. If you cross the line whilst sitting in the hairdresser’s chair, you risk getting a hairdo to match.

Do you talk? Do you not talk? I’m not a big talker. Plus, if the hairdresser is chatting away to me whilst snipping, my inner neurotic is silently screaming “concentrate on MY HAIR, not my holidays, you scissor-wielding maniac”.

So it’s over. I’m unwrapped from the mummification of layers they insist on putting you in, breathe a sigh of relief and escape.

Not quite. There is one final hurdle to get over yet: paying. Do you tip, do you not? A very British quandary, granted, but a quandary nonetheless.

A painstaking hour or so after entering, I leave the salon. I admit, I am pleased with my new ‘do (which is a relief, because I won’t be returning for at least 6 months). Yet something is detracting from the joy of my new look. That pimple on my forehead that I was oblivious too before setting foot in the salon. Swings and roundabouts, eh?



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