I know there’s a joke out there about hairdressers and taxi drivers and I’m racking my brains to think what it is. Ah – got it: Q) Why do hairdressers make good taxi drivers? A) Because they know all the short cuts. My hairdresser certainly knows my short cut and I’m very glad of it. Since adopting a cropped style a few years ago I’ve become addicted to the feel of her slender scissors snip, snip, snipping around my nape, something I never previously imagined I would.
Hair salons used to be no-go areas for me, mainly because I couldn’t bear the whole process of sitting in front of a mirror (ugh!) making small talk with somebody who was giving me the hairstyle they wanted to give me, not the one I wanted to have. I had a particularly bad experience in my twenties when I decided to temporarily abandon DIY post-punk haircuts and bravely ventured into the town’s most popular salon (I can’t remember what it was called but undoubtedly it was a pun like ‘Hair Of The Dog’ or ‘Hair To Dye, Gone Tomorrow’...) I asked a young stylist to make my fine hair look fuller in any way she thought would suit me and next thing you know she’s mixing up chemicals in big bowls and putting strange plastic contraptions on my head; I felt like Frankenstein’s monster at the hands of a mad scientist, the twist being that Dr Frankenstein was a 25 year old blonde with pink nails. There were nasty smells, complicated charts, ticking timers and possibly some puffs of blue smoke. When it was all over, my hair was as frazzled as I was, in a side-parted, swept-over, short curly perm – the type that was fashionable in the late ‘80s for all of about a month; I had just picked the wrong month. As I went down the salon stairs to have my unrecognisable new hair (and my secret tears) blow-dried, I looked around the room and saw that every other customer in the place had exactly the same style. I walked home in the pouring rain and chose not to use my umbrella: please, please, rain, fall on me and wash this horrible perm away.
It was a long time before I plucked up courage to go back to a hairdresser but now my experience is so different. At an unpretentious little local establishment (which doesn’t have a pun for a name), Beth was the first to give me a proper ultra-short crop, exactly like I’d asked for, and I was hooked. Beth was always good for conversation too. We didn’t do the “going anywhere nice for your holidays?” type chat (to which I can never reply anyway because I haven’t been on holiday in ten years.) Instead we quickly got into the fact that Beth’s parents went to art school with Keith Richards and that Lucian Freud’s one-time wife Kitty Godley was a regular at the salon (she lived in the next village up to her death last year.) We got onto deeply philosophical subjects... life, love, mental illness and more. When Bess left to have a baby her replacement, Karen, turned out to be just as good. Last week we talked about shyness and how we used to feel at being amongst the last to be picked for school sports teams. We talked about books and films, seventies sun tan oil and positive thinking. My hairdresser understands me! And all the time I’m loving the snip, snip, snip of those scissors round my nape. How times have changed.
Uninspired, an old profile pic gets used again...