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
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.