A bad hair year

It’s not the dread­ful Bri­tish weather giv­ing Kate Birch lousy locks, but her re­sis­tance to vis­it­ing the Great Bri­tish Hair­dresser

Friday - - Column -

T here are only so many bad hair days a girl can take be­fore she has to take ac­tion. And I’ve reached my lousy-locks limit. This can mean only one thing and that’s a dose of GBH – a nightmare trip to the Great Bri­tish Hair­dresser. Yes, you heard me right. I hate the hair­dresser’s. In fact, I would put the sa­lon chair up there with the den­tist’s in my top five ‘least favourite places to sit’ list.

This may come as a sur­prise to the 83 per cent of women in Bri­tain who, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey by hair­dressers Toni & Guy, said that they en­joy go­ing to the hair sa­lon.

OK, so I get that these women en­joy the chance to un­wind and in­dulge in some ‘me time’ – to read a mag­a­zine, drink a cup of tea, think things through – be­fore leav­ing the sa­lon with a con­fi­dence-boost­ing new bar­net.

What I don’t get though is that more than three-quar­ters of the women sur­veyed con­fessed that one of their hair­dresser high­lights was hav­ing a good old gos­sip with their stylist.

You see, it is ex­actly this – the shal­low small talk – that has led to my cur­rent hair­dresser ab­sti­nence of five en­tire months. But even the shock­ing sight of my wiry grey roots, ragged split ends and duller-than-dish­wa­ter colour can’t con­vince me to grace the GBH with my piti­ful pres­ence.

It hasn’t al­ways been this way. Once upon a time, in a land far, far away – that would be Dubai – I spent sev­eral hours a month, span­ning two en­tire decades, hang­ing out in hair sa­lons, more than happy to be drip-fed cof­fee and mas­saged into a state of self­ind­ul­gent slum­ber.

But it was dif­fer­ent in Dubai. And not only be­cause the head mas­sage lasted longer, the latte tasted bet­ter and the stylists looked good (here in Bri­tain, they all have hor­ren­dous hair and bad fake tans), but be­cause the Dubai stylists didn’t chit-chat. Well, at least, the ones I vis­ited didn’t. Maybe that’s one of the ben­e­fits of liv­ing in a mul­ti­lin­gual so­ci­ety.

A cross be­tween Thai­land and Switzer­land, hos­pitable, po­lite and help­ful, yet re­served, neu­tral, and quiet, Dubai stylists were the per­fect ex­am­ple of cus­tomer-ser­vice ex­cel­lence.

The small talk gave way, as quickly as my hair, to per­sonal tales of trauma, tragedy and ter­ri­ble heartache

Of course, we all know the Bri­tish have a talent for small talk – with par­tic­u­lar ex­per­tise in wax­ing lyri­cal on the weather – but hair­dressers, as I’ve re­cently dis­cov­ered, re­ally do take the bab­ble bis­cuit. They are top of the small talkers, pro­fes­sional prat­tlers, ex­perts at slid­ing from one triv­ial small talk topic – the rain, the traf­fic, the re­sults of The X Fac­tor – to an­other. It was in fact the loath­some topic of The X Fac­tor (an aw­ful TV singing con­test) that ac­com­pa­nied my first sa­lon so­journ some 11 months ago, when for two solid hours, the stylist main­tained a mind-numb­ing mono­logue on this ridicu­lous re­al­ity show. Re­lax­ing, it was not.

The ex­pe­ri­ence was bear­able com­pared to Sa­lon So­journ Num­ber Two the fol­low­ing month, how­ever, when a dif­fer­ent stylist’s re­lent­less bab­ble got stuck on the oh-so-dreary typ­i­cal Bri­tish topics of the weather and the traf­fic. Yawn. Sa­lon So­journ Num­ber Three made use of the not-so-se­cret weapon in the Brit hair­dresser’s small talk ar­se­nal – hol­i­days. She prat­tled on for 90 mo­not­o­nous min­utes about her lat­est Greek es­capade.

This was noth­ing com­pared to the in­ti­mate de­tails thrown in my face by a fur­ther stranger stylist on Sa­lon So­journ Num­ber Four. The small talk gave way, as quickly as my hair, to per­sonal tales of trauma, tragedy and ter­ri­ble heartache. It was like she was in ther­apy. I es­caped fi­nally with a pretty de­cent hair­cut, but along­side this woman’s emo­tional bag­gage. It ru­ined my day. I’ve tried ev­ery­thing to halt these stranger stylists in their small talk tracks. I’ve tried read­ing a book, writ­ing a list, lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, check­ing my email. I even started to pre­tend to talk on my phone dur­ing Sa­lon So­journ Num­ber Four, think­ing she might cease, or pause at the very least. But no.

At one des­per­ate point I ac­tu­ally closed my eyes and pre­tended to sleep. She clearly didn’t no­tice. Un­like my hair, she had been well con­di­tioned.

So what’s a girl with grey hairs and split ends to do? Luck­ily, be­ing in Bri­tain, I can wear a woolly hat out­doors, but ‘sum­mer’ will soon put paid to that.

In­stead, I will have to do it my­self – re­sort to bath­room beau­ti­fi­ca­tion that leaves a per­ma­nent stain on my ceram­ics. If that gets too much, I can al­ways shave my head for a good cause – rais­ing money for char­ity while avoid­ing the in­dig­nity of the sa­lon.

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