Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Conversations with my hairdresser


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...

17 comments:

  1. Now, that's a proper conversation with your hairdresser. Sadly, I don't get the same high level stuff at the barbers but I must get my hair cut as soon as possible. Great post.

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  2. I've not been to a hairdressers in years. A friend of my wife's is one and she has come to us for years - we have haircut night every 6 weeks or so and she comes into our house and normally the chaos of it and is sometimes merely a bemused bistander to the madness that is us - my wife ranting about something, me talking about something completely different and one or both of the kids mandering in and out of the kitchen to get something to eat.

    There have been times she has been crying with laughter at us all - I think she uses it as some form of therapy I can hear her saying to her husband "Well, all in all, we're not as flipping mental as that lot"

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  3. Yeah! its like going for petrol or making your bed....I once tried full out attack...and started the conversation....Are you off today? have you been on holiday? do anything at the week-end...i ended up with a crew cut and asked for a Tony Curtis!

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  4. I couldn't stand going to get my haircut, the whole process filled me with dread. The awkwardness, the small talk, every month I had to build my self up to this event. argh!

    I think it all stems from my bad experience of going to my local barbers 'Streaks Ahead' (geddit?) when I was growing up. I arrived at the busy haircut shop clutching a photo of Keanu Reeves doing his stuff in the movie speed. It was already a big deal for me as I was painfully shy and for once I had the courage to finally say to the barber 'no I don't want a flat top I want this'. So it came to my turn and I nervously approached the chair. (damn it, it wasn't the girl, she was nice to me and we could even talk about music and the movie Speed) the old misery guts who was about to butcher my hair took one look at the photo and said 'I'm not doing that, your hair is not right for it....I'll just give you a flat top'. Pretty much the whole barbers heard the transaction and I was mortified, short and shitty again and scarred for life.

    Some 20 years later, it's all good....ghosts have been laid to rest, it's coffee, head massage and consenting conversations about righting the world's wrongs.

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  5. Huuu huuu huu, glad you have finally found a good stylist and a great style that suits you!

    I have always been a sucker for a new hair cut, I have lots of hair and it grows quick so just looks 'as always' within a week or two anyways. Also, we have discussed depressed parents before and my mother NEVER went to the hairdresser. She also insisted on cutting our hair when we were kids, I got sick of being called Tufty at school because of the truly awful uneven fringes she always put high on my forehead. I rebelled at 16 and have been a fan of hairdresser's ever since. Oddly I never feel compelled to chat to the stylists, just sometimes look up from my magazine/book (take your own, good tip!) and smile vaguely and that keeps inane chit chat to a minimum. :o)

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  6. "Douse hair with gasoline"

    I just figured out, this weekend, how to get my own music transferred into iTunes and onto my phone...Rid of Me was one of the first albums I downloaded. I saw it on the shelf and had to hear it...like I'd forgotten about or something.

    Since the army I get mine cut even shorter than yours. Martha likes it that way and it cuts down on trips to the barber. I like the warmed shaving cream but the rest is tedious...unless the ladies start gossiping.

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  7. What an adorable French crop. Looks like Jean Seberg. Why would you change?

    I get may hair cut about three times a year at a local joint where the bloke KNOWS I only ever wear it up or in a ponytail, so doesn't even try talking me into "a choppy bob", but unfortunately he doesn't do the colour I need (NEED!) so I have to get that done at a poncey place. I sit with my scalp covered in a tingling purple paste for an hour, then they take another hour to wash it off, condition it and dry it. I hate every minute of it, but very very sadly I'm hooked on the result. I'm so shallow.

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  8. At 53, I like to keep my grey hair a lot shorter than in my youth, but it still grows at an astonishing rate, which necessitates regular visits to the barbers (does anyone still call them that?). Lately I've had a choice of two; an chap in the city who does an expert job, but charges a fortune, takes an hour and bores my arse off in the process...or a recently discovered local lady, who takes 15 minutes, does a very good job, charges a reasonable rate and makes pleasant small-talk. My arse will never be bored off again!

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    1. Men still go to the barber around here Swede(Mississippi)...and the barber shop is a community fixture in a lot of neighborhoods.

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  9. I found a place in Spain where I live, 8 on top, 4 on sides, under 5 mins, 5 euros, wife hates it. Sorted.

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    1. Sounds like a sportman's haircut?'

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  10. Oh I love all your hairdressing/barber shop tales!

    Grateful for all comments (and thanks for dropping by, Old Pa.) Lots of laughs in there, and there do seem to be some common themes running through...

    And you've made my day with the Jean Seberg comment, Kolley, thank you (and shallow is fine!)

    By contrast to the perm story, one of my best early experiences getting a haircut was as a young teenager, the day I finally got my long hair cut short for punk. The hairdresser put it in a pony-tail and just chopped it all off in one go. (I kept the pony-tail for a while as a keepsake...very strange.) The next day of school (old-fashioned all girls' grammar) was the last day of term and the first no-uniform day they'd ever had. I turned up in my full punk regalia of the time and with newly close-cut hair and make-up. Nobody recognised me. Fantastic!
    (Also got into trouble for it all. It was the best compliment I could've been paid, really...)

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  11. Hair update. Had mine cut on Thursday. Number two all over, no messing. £5. Took about five minutes. Had to discuss the weather briefly and the effect this could well have on holiday plans (me, Cornwall, the barber, Tenby). All good and now feeling refreshed and energised.

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    1. That sounds just the ticket! And to think there was once a time when a man would've paid good money to have a mullet...

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  12. Hair update 2...begining to annoy me again will have to build up over the week-end for early assault attack on local Barber next week....siesta time always good no waiting!

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  13. Hair update no 3. I tried a new slicked back side parting recommended to me by my hairdresser. It's not working, I look like a cross between Ricky Gervais and a Lego man.

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  14. You're making me laugh with these hair updates...

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