For a ritual that’s supposed to count as pampering, having your hair done sure is a stressful business. Lauren Bravo rounds up the worst bits.
1) Trying to establish whether or not your hairdresser is A Talker. “They probably don’t want to chat,” you tell yourself. “They’ve had a long day, perhaps they’d like to be alone with their thoughts for an hour or two. Why should I bombard them with my blather? Why do we have to fake a friendship based entirely on serum and why my fringe flicks upward on some days and downward on others? Let’s both just BE for a while.”
Then after four silent minutes, the pressure gets to you. You remember all the cosy, women’s mag articles you’ve read about a hairdresser being a girl’s best friend, confidante, therapist and mother all in one, and you feel inadequate. Maybe they do want to chat, it’s just that they’ve judged you unchattable-to. WHY can’t you chat? You are a person, with thoughts, and things – why shouldn’t you share them with this nice stranger? Particularly when the nice stranger is holding scissors menacingly close to your jugular.
So you grope desperately for something to say. You can’t ask them about holidays, obviously, because that’s a massive cliché and would probably offend them. “Just because I’m a hairdresser,” they might bellow back, “it doesn’t mean I spend all my time getting in a tizzy over package deals to Zante. Talk to me about the G8, or Proust, for God’s sake.”
But you don’t know anything about the G8, or Proust. “Um,” you say. “It looks like it might rain.”
2) The repeated enquiries about whether you’re happy with the water temperature. Nobody in the history of hairdressing has ever had a problem with the water temperature. And if you did, the blistering skin or blue lips would probably tip them off without you having to say.
3) Staring at your own face in a mirror under fluorescent light for upwards of two hours while your hair is placed in unnatural parting arrangements, making one look like one’s mother in her secondary school photo.
4) Needing the toilet but not being sure if you’re ‘allowed’ to go with a head full of foils. What if you do something that weirdly affects the colour while you’re peeing? What if you get the big flappy gown trapped somewhere unfortunate?
5) When they ask you how you like your hair blow-dried, and the only answer you can think to produce is “err.. until it’s dry?”
6) When they ask you if you would like to purchase some of the products used on you today and your mouth says, “Ooh, not today but maybe next time” while your face says “wonder if they sell it in Savers?”
7) When the hairdresser asks, smoothing your beautifully coiffed new ‘do into a style that deserves swishy exhibition, what you are doing that night. Because obviously, you must be going out tonight. You’re a hip young thing, and you’ve just spent an eye watering sum on having somebody preen you! So telling the truth, that you’re going to spend it on the sofa trying to complete the American states quiz on Sporcle, feels like failing your hairdresser. They will look at you in the mirror with sad eyes and think “My art! For what?”
So you lie and tell them you’re going on a hen night, or something.
8) The tipping. Oh lord, the tipping. Never in life (not even when someone produces a cricket set and suggests a casual two innings) am I more uncomfortable and awkward than when tipping, or failing to tip, a hairdresser. What’s worse is that NOBODY seems to know the rules, and when I ask people their responses run the whole gamut from “nothing, are you MAD? It already costs the same as a small bungalow in Aberystwyth” to “I slip a fifty in their pocket and kiss their feet, weeping.”
You know if anyone deserves the tip it’s the poor, harried hair-washers – but it’s pretty hard to get to them when there’s a beaming stylist in front of you. With scissors. Just rounding up the price would be a straightforward enough idea, except that my half head of highlights costs £88. What do I round to? £95? £100? Is it meant to be at least 10%, like a restaurant? Do I leave a sodding £12 tip and let my colourist think I’m secretly in love with her, for the sake of maths? DO I?
If anyone can shed any light on the matter, please comment below. My split ends and I thank you.