A terrible hair cut and perm, some time ago...
I have been two-timing my hairdresser. As every woman knows this is a precarious business because your relationship with your hairdresser is important, a tiny bit sacred, and terrifying. It's a bit like your relationship with your cleaner if, like me, you are lucky enough to have one.
Both, when stripped of the niceties: "How are you!", "I'm fine!", Mauw, mauw on either cheek. "And how are you!" (That's me with my hairdresser by the way, not with my new cleaner, to whom I am now coldly civil ever since it all got a bit heavy with the last one and she would routinely sink to her knees upon seeing me, clasping my hands, exclaiming, "I having nervous breakdown, Elizabeth!" Either because her daughter, "My Kasia," was pregnant/getting married/divorced or, once, because she had just discovered that she was "Cleaning house of homosexual men! I don't like to touch anything Elizabeth! What you think I do?") But I digress. My point is that when stripped of social polish both these relationships, with hairdresser and cleaner, are nothing more than pecuniary transactions based on necessity.
I mean, I would really rather not have anyone come into my home to clean it. I actually resent it, and I invited her in. But my desire NOT to have to clean the filthy, crumbly old house myself overrides this. Ditto hairdressing.
I would prefer never to set foot in a hairdressing salon again, so fraught with awkwardness, inconvenience, dampness and humiliation the whole process undoubtedly is, not to mention bank-breakingly expensive, but I want my hair cut so I have to.
I have had some pretty harrowing experiences in hairdressing salons, especially when I was young and shy and broke. I was once told, upon producing a photograph of a pretty girl with wholesome, bouncing locks and asking if they could "do something like this", that "they could not produce miracles, only haircuts."
I once went to a salon in Norwich on 'student night' for a cheap trim only to emerge five hours later with a peroxide blonde bob. I remember sobbing in the public loos just off the market place before walking very slowly back to the house I was sharing with four other students, who fell about laughing. (I later wrote about it, as I recall, in some free newspaper thing to exact my revenge - of course - and got a small sum of money for my trouble. So who got the last laugh there, eh?).
And there was also the time I was invited downstairs for a "massage" by the rather creepy older stylist-owner of a salon located in a handsome square just behind Barkers in Kensington (the department store, remember that?). It was after work, I was young and free and innocent, to his just-divorced-with-one-kid-and-a-bitter-ex-wife, but smart enough to realise he had engineered the whole thing so that we were completely alone in his shop. I never went back.
You see hairdressers, like cleaners, have access to the most intimate realms of our lives. For the cleaner it's the house, replete with strewn knickers and opened bank statements. With the hairdresser it's us, our very souls, replete with inadequacies (and in my case, limp, greasy hair, which, in its natural state is mouse-coloured, I think).
We are at our most vulnerable in their hands, newly washed and towelled, staring at the stripped down version of ourselves in the mirror, thinking: Jesus Christ, is that what I really look like?
At that point we might tell him anything, and often do. It is also then that he might cut off all our hair, scald it with peroxide, tell us he can't work miracles or that he'd like to take us downstairs to his treatment room and give us a free "massage."
This being the case it might be best if my hairdresser of the last six years or so, let's call him Mario, with whom I have a turbulent relationship at the best of times (he once didn't speak to me through an entire cut because I was ten minutes late) and who also cuts the boys' hair every six weeks, doesn't discover that I hot-footed it off to Covent Garden last week to get my hair cut by someone else. Someone who gave me complimentary tiramisu and said "tell me all about your hair," which is tantamount to asking me to run away with him and live happily ever in my book.
Tell me all about your hair! I think I've been waiting for that moment all my life and I think it means I will have to go back, even if he did give me a strange little fringe that I can't now do anything with and charged me a small fortune. (Incidentally he said if I mentioned him on Facebook he'd give me 15% off the next cut, so I did and made myself look even more of an egomaniac than usual in the process). But somehow we have forged a bond, Sergio and I, (what is it with Italians and hairdressing?) an intimacy based on the fact that he is numbered among the very few who know what I look like with my hair in a towel (not good).
It's just...what on earth am I going to do about Mario?
Two better hair cuts from years gone by, cut by creepy "massage" hairdresser.
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