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The trouble with … Hairdressers

The trouble with … Hairdressers

Disclaimer: I wrote this in the early 1990s in my student days. Reading it now, I can’t say my writing has particularly improved. But, you’ve been warned…


Written by Andrew Wong

Yup, it’s that time of year again. You can’t put it off any longer, you’ve managed to avoid it for the last three months but that job interview is looming ahead, your sideburns are starting to make you look like Carlos Menem, people are confusing you in the street for Chris Howson … YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO GET A HAIRCUT.

Thus starts continual weeks of soul searching and stress-inducing decisions second only to deciding whether Tom Hanks or John Travolta should be shot on sight during the Oscars.

What kind of haircut do you want? Do you want to go for the stylish cut? In which case you will have to take care of it every morning, which entails getting out of bed 30 seconds earlier than you usually do. Also, what happens if the style goes out of fashion while you’re having it cut? Are you going to demand that they stick the hair back on? Never mind the wrath of all your friends who will decide that it looks awful before they’ve seen it, and will proceed to extract the urine out of you at many drunken FNDs to come. And, oh what if your parents come up for the weekend unexpectedly and see their darling child’s hair looking like something from a wind tunnel? Will the job interviewer think you are a cool and stylish kind of person, or will he/she just think it’s another sad student trying to look cool and miserably failing?

You could of course, elect not to cut it at all and leave the growing locks as a sign of your non-conformity against the rigid fascistic looks that society dictates. You will then look like every other disaffected yoof teenager rebelling against society by staying out till 2am eating a curry. Plus the fact that the job interviewer will still think you’re a webel, and won’t give you the 9-5 job you desperately need so that you can fund your alternative lifestyle.

Of course, there is the optional traditional cut, to have it look like it’s always looked – a lumpen mess of hair that looks like it was designed by David Hockney when he was 3 minutes old. While it looks the same, you will always get the same reactions. Your parents will hmmm and ahhh about it, you still won’t get laid at Pickwicks’, you won’t look any different but at least you know what you’re getting, eh?

As well as all these decisions, you have to decide where you’re going to get it cut. You can always go for the cheap and cheerful option, which invariably involves a balding, grey, half-blind barber who was a Colonel in the War, you know and who hasn’t heard of the concept of the teenager, nor does he think pain and blood are necessarily bad things.

There is also the new hairdresser setup straight from the local youth training college. Your hairdresser will usually be Sharon, a bubbly blonde 18-year-old who’s covering for her sister for the day. She can’t cut your hair to save your life, but at least she smells good when she’s bending over to pick up that half-eaten hairbrush on the floor…

Finally there is the Maestros’ equivalent of the hairdressers. Bright premises lead you into a hairdresser salon straight from the yuppie era of the late 1980s. Stark, simplistic design graphics adorn the walls and the prices match the artwork.

Having made all these gut-wrenching decisions over the course of the last two years, you finally decide on an option that is just so … you. No-one else would do it, but you will. Or maybe you’re going for the haircut your parents think would look good on you.

It doesn’t matter. The Grand Council of Hairdressers of the Universe has decreed it so that in the end, it doesn’t matter a jot what decisions you make. This is the 1990s – we do the thinking for you.

As you walk past the entrance, you will see the same three pictures of the same three models in any hairdresser. The bubbly blonde who looks like something from CATS’ Eyes, the suave model who would give Hugh Grant a run for his money if he had any sign of a personality whatsoever, and the middle-aged model wearing glasses, just to show that middle-aged people aren’t as sad as they think they are and can still recapture their youth.

Along the wall there will be three old-age pensioners who seem to have fallen asleep in the salon chair with that brain-sucking mechanism since 1962 and who haven’t gotten up. (They can’t get it up -he huh he huh he huh – © Beavis and Butthead) When they finally emerge from their cocoons, they will still have the same blue-rinse hairdo that they went in there with 23 years ago.

You are herded firmly but gently into your chair. Then a white sheet is placed over you so your blood and guts won’t stain the clothing or the chair. There seems to be an overwhelming amount of all colours of hair on the chair and around you. “Oh, the cleaner doesn’t come till 1998” the hairdresser cheerfully points out. You note the positions of all the sharp objects around you – just in case of course.

Then your head is pulled right back, and as the blood rushes to your head, you wonder whether or not your local bank has started employing British Airways personnel. Nope, it’s only your local friendly hairdresser trying to figure out where she should start cutting the hair. She gradually lets go, and your head lops forward since it no longer has a neck to hang onto. “Keep still” she shouts, and she starts hacking away at your hair.

You are now sitting neckless in a dirty chair with the remains of everyone else’s hair around you, wondering what exactly she’s doing that feels like a hamster has been let loose inside your brain, and then the bloody woman starts making conversation!

Oh god. Here comes the first sentence. “Nasty weather we’re having for this time of year, isn’t it?” And just for politeness’ sake, you have to agree with her, though your mouth is full from all the phlegm you’re dying to let out.

And just when you’re recovering from the first banal sentence, she hits you with another. And another. And another. And the odd question. “Are you going on holiday this year?”. Comes the reply, “Actually I thought I’d do a bit of maiming and killing down in Florida this summer.” Couple of minutes later. “Are you going on holiday this year?”

Why do hairdressers persist in talking to their customers? Are they sent to the same school as chat-show hosts where they can get their banality right down to pat? Is it written in the hairdressers constitution just under “You will not kill a customer unless he/she has hair”, that “You should attempt to make banal conversation and observations at all time while cropping away at the hair and immediately forget your last sentence”? Is it all part of a devious plot to lull you into a soft sleep so they can hack your limbs away and send them off for scientific experiments?

Finally, she’s finished her evil thing with you, and decides to show you using a mirror. It would be a cliche to say that your haircut looks nothing like how you wanted it to be. But what’s wrong with cliches? It looks absolutely awful. But do you go and complain to the management? No. You just say thanks very much, pay the extortionate amount, pop next door to the sports’ shop, buy a baseball cap and make your way home. That’s probably why there’s always a pub next to a hairdressers’ – you can drown your sorrows!

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