September 26, 2005

Getting the snip

A companion-piece to the one about cosmetics.

There are a number of reasons why I always have to pause and take a deep breath before going into a hairdresser’s. It is not an experience I have ever felt comfortable with.

First of all, there’s the fact that one looks just awful in a hairdresser’s mirror. There is something about the unforgiving all-angles lighting that makes your hair look lank, your complexion blotchy, your clothes seem ill-fitting. It doesn’t help that I can’t bring myself to wash my hair before going to the hairdresser. You know, that would be like cleaning the house in the morning before your cleaning lady comes in, wouldn’t it? But then, the hairdresser will judge you on the shocking greasy limp tangled state of your hair when you sit in front of that mirror, and she won’t bother to do a good job, because she knows you’ll just let it go the same way as soon as you’re out of her sight. Won’t she?

As soon as you sit down, the junior offers you a cup of tea [at my salon, they also offer beer and wine in the afternoon, but that doesn’t change anything]. I wonder if anyone ever accepts the drink? Perhaps to shut them up. How can you drink tea when you can’t reach it because your arms are trapped under the floral polyester clothes-protecting mumu thingy that they make you wear? And if you did go so far as to try to drink tea, would not snips of hair get into it? The whole idea is utterly impractical.

One is then approached by some slip of a girl who is clearly not a real blonde. I have never yet had my hair done by someone whose own hairstyle I admired. She introduces herself in an I’ll be your stylist for today kind of way, as though I’m actually in Pizza Hut, and tries to find out what I want. This part is particularly difficult for me. All I want is an easy style that looks smart ALL the time, with no requirement for product, blow-drying, or six-weekly check-ups. I do not want to look like my mum [it happens, these days. I look in the mirror and I see my mum. Terrifying.] I don’t know the technical hairdressing terms for any of these requirements, so I just mumble something about layers, and she corrects me, graduated layers. She soon works out that I can’t answer how short? but I can answer this short?

Then she sends me to be washed. A junior does this. It makes my neck hurt. I like the fruity smells of all the interesting products, but the bit where they do the slow massage of conditioner into my scalp makes me feel uncomfortable.

I return to the desk. Workstation. Chair. I don’t know what it’s called. Not-a-real-blonde comes back and makes me take off my glasses. It’s not that I don’t trust her – she certainly knows more about this than I do – but if I can’t see her, then I can’t converse with her. Nor can I watch the other goings-on around me. So then I’m trapped in a world of blur and boredom. Having your hair cut is immensely boring.

Sometimes they do try to talk to me, but I’ve noticed that no-one asks me if I’ve been on my holidays, anymore. It’s a shame, because maybe we could find some shared ground there. Instead, they ask what I do for a living, and I explain it using the buzzwords, sweatshop, child labour, but she just says oh, that sounds interesting, and is clearly lying. I don’t bother to ask what she does for a living in return, because I have at least some observational skills, even without my glasses on.

I did have a hairdresser I liked, once. She recognised my haircutophobia, and was very gentle with me, and made interesting conversation. Then she went on Blind Date and became a minor local celebrity, and gave up hairdressing.

After hours of bashing my neck with a comb, snipping off a millimetre at a time, making me sit with my head at an unnatural angle and my hair hanging over my face like Cousin It, she declares it finished and holds up a mirror for me to admire her work. I fumble for my glasses and agree that whatever she’s done looks fine to me – who am I to judge?

And then all I have to worry about is how much to tip. Actually, I don’t tip, because the two-minutes’ worth of blow-drying added £5 to the cost of the cut, which would be value if my hair was still waist-length, but it barely covers my ears now. So no tip; except don’t give up the day-job, because your hair is perfect for it.


16 thoughts on “Getting the snip

  1. Yes, “short” is my single command for all hairdressers. “Number 1” if I’m feeling particularly articulate. Like Karen, having to take my glasses off renders me entirely unable to communicate. Since I cannot see what they’re up to, or read the bottles on the desk-workstation-barberstock, my eyes glaze over and I enter a state of semi-sleep from which I am occasionally interupted when they hairdresser has to lift my head again. They no doubt deduce from this apparent lack of interest that I am an imbecile and leave me well alone.

    I don’t tip either, though I used to in Hungary. There the language barrier resulted in an almost pleasant relationship with my chosen barber, and even though the price had gone up to almost £2.50 by the time I left, 10% didn’t seem too much…

  2. You’re meant to tip? Shit. Why does no one ever tell me these things. I should’t be allowed out into the public. I’m a danger.
    You need to find a good salon, and then a good hairdresser in that. And then always go to same person no matter. If they move to Spain, you have to go to Spain every 6 weeks to get a hair cut. It’s inconvenient, but less traumatic than finding a new hair dresser.
    I also tend to find I get better cuts from men. They seem to understand my, hand waving gestures as to what I mean, and tend to understand “has to be simple enough for me to do”. Also they understand the words “shorter” better. You don’t get the breasts rubbing against your head as much, but I feel that’s a small price to pay.

  3. Ah, but look at it from your cutter’s point of view.
    “How short do you want it?”
    “Short, please.”
    “But how short?”
    “You know…short.”
    “I can deduce THAT from the fact you decided to get your hair CUT, you daft bugger.”
    “Short please.”
    Although, in my experience, the more precise you define it the more you’re jolly well going to get that irritating “not very short” length regardless, the one that mysteriously forces you to come back in a few weeks to spend more money in their shop.

  4. Oh, and to hell with tipping. They can have the change if the price isn’t a round pound, but that’s it.

  5. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that they’ve studied hairdressing and now pursue it as a profession means that they should be able to deduce instinctively from my demeanour and the shape of my head the exact style that will suit my physique and temperament.
    The fact that they cannot results in my assumption that they are cretins. Precisely the way they no doubt see me in my glasses-free torpor.
    “Short” is a generous contribution on my part to the aesthetic judgement I expect them to make on my behalf.

  6. I pay on card though so there is no change.
    I’ve tried “however you cut it, cut it shorter” but they still never go short enough.

  7. That’s a good point DocP. Currently my request is “give me something girls will like” and leave the rest to them. I get questionable results.

  8. Yeah, if you say that then you probably end up with an 11″ dildo surgically implanted in your temple.

  9. That’s the problem with having to take your glasses off. The first thing I’d know about the dildo would be when they invite me to offer my verdict on their efforts.
    “Hmm… You say the girls will like it?”
    “Oh, yes, sir. Very much so.”
    “Okay. But maybe I should still go a little shorter.”

  10. I invariably love my haircut as I leave the hairdressers, but by the time i wake up the next morning it’s all gone to pot…never again will I be able to make it look the same. Then after a month or two, it achieves a point where I’m quite happy with it again, in it’s now easy to manage state. But again, by the next morning it’s too long and needs cutting.
    Verbal skills with regards to getting them to do what I want…nonexistant.
    And I wear glasses.

  11. I’d just like to concur with all the above about not being able to see your own reflection in the mirror because it’s so far away and you’re short-sighted, and not knowing what to say when asked what you want doing to your hair so just answering “short”.
    But I would also like to add this highly embarrassing variant.
    It’s, um, well, er, it’s quite nice having one’s hair washed, then tousled dry, followed by the gentle snipping of the scissors. I really can’t help it if I kind of go a little woozy and dreamy and not notice what the hairdresser is doing.
    “Does that look OK, sir?”
    “Ooooh, um, well . . . *sigh*”
    I’m so embarrassed now. So embarrassed.

  12. Once I went to the hairdresser and rather than placing my glasses on the shelf in front of me I kept them in my hand under the unattractive body covering garment. The hairdresser asked me if I would mind putting them on the shelf and went on to tell me the story of a customer she’d cuffed round the head with her hairdrier after she’d observed a rhythmic jerking motion from beneath his cover.
    He’d been cleaning his glasses.

  13. Adrian is right – pick one that you like and stick with them through thick and thin. Over the last 11 years, only three people have cut my hair – one of them being called upon only when my preferred choice was on her honeymoon.
    The drawback with this is that you become aware that the quality of the cut depends upon the mood of the cutter. I used to have my hair cut by an extremely attractive young lady who was also very good at cutting my hair the way I like it, but I noticed that she always did a slightly better job if she was in a bad mood or in a hurry (the two usually being related). If we had a long and leisurely time of it, the result was invariably not as good.
    This is similar to my mum and cakes. My mum bakes a mean rich fruit cake, but she always bakes an even better rich fruit cake if she is in a foul mood. As a consequence, my brother and I spent many a day trying to irritate mum if we knew that she planned to bake a cake that day.

  14. I personally try not to irritate people using the very sharp scissors or the razor blade.

  15. You’re not alone. Hairdressers give me the Fear. And what is the mirror for? Nobody wants to stare at themselves for 45 minutes.

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