Monday, March 21, 2005

Because I'm worth it

This weekend saw the finishing touches to the plans for my trip to Texas. I made a list of everything I need to pack, printed out my e-ticket, booked the cab to the airport and, most importantly of all perhaps, went to the hairdresser.

I should have had my hair cut months ago, but I just couldn’t face it. I hate going to the hairdressers. I’ve always hated it. I just don’t ‘get’ that whole hairdressers thing. I know most women see having their hair cut as a real luxury. Something to look forward to. Something that they treat themselves to every week. But I can’t think of anything worse.

The thing is, I have pretty rubbish hair. It kind of looks okay. Never terrible but never fabulous either. It’s fine hair. In any other walk of life, ‘fine’ is a compliment. “How are you?” “I’m fine”. Fine is usually a positive attribute. But not when it comes to hair. Fine hair is terrible. It’s something to be ashamed of. Girls with fine hair whisper under their breath about having “flyaway” hair. But it’s not flyaway. It’s just rubbish. I get terribly jealous of girls with thick curly hair. Of course, they all moan about it. “It’s so uncontrollable. I can’t do a thing with it.” They should try standing in my shoes for a day. Or under my hat.

So I get nervous the minute I walk into the salon. The stylists intimidate me with their perfect hair styles, full makeup and tiny waists. (How do they manage to look so sophisticated first thing on a Sunday morning?) And they must be all of 17 years of age. And yet, despite being old enough to be their mother (well, some of them. Just.) I feel five years old the minute they start talking to me.

Hair stylists have three types of question. And they all unnerve me.

1. Inane Questions. These are the questions that I can answer without any difficulty. The problem is, I just can’t be bothered. These are the “Are you doing anything nice this weekend?” questions. Or the “Are you going on holiday this year?”. I could answer. But I figure, why bother? She doesn’t really want to know if I’m going somewhere nice. And I haven’t the heart to whitter on about Texas to my 17 year old hair dresser who has no idea where Texas is. So I just mumble, “no, not really” and pretend to read Glamour magazine. (Not easy, given the picture to text ratio.)


2. Girly Questions. These are seemingly straightforward questions that I should know the answer to, but don’t. They are questions that you’d think would be easy to answer, but totally flummox me. Like, “Is the water too hot?” or “Do you want conditioner?” All the other clients in the salon know whether they want conditioner or not. It’s a simple yes or no thing. But I don’t know if I want conditioner. I have no idea. I wonder if it’s a trick question. Should I be using conditioner? Is my hair too fine for conditioner? Will conditioner affect the colour? If I say yes and the answer is no, I’ll be rumbled. Exposed as a salon fraud. And so, while I faff about wondering what to say, the stylist just carries on regardless. She’s applied, lathered and rinsed out the conditioner before I’ve managed to collect my thoughts and garble some half baked reply.

3. Accusing Questions. These are the questions that on the surface seem straightforward, but in actual fact are hidden accusations. Questions such as “What shampoo do you use?” or “When did you last have your hair cut?” The stylist is not just making random small talk when she asks what shampoo I use. She’s brushing my hair, looking at the shocking condition it’s in and wondering, out loud, what the hell do you use to wash this?? As she’s cutting it, she’s staggered by the split ends and the uneven lengths and can’t believe my hair has had any contact with a professional pair of scissors in months. (The truth is, she’s right. I trim my own fringe and last had my hair cut properly some time in early 2004. But I don’t dare admit that. It would be hair-salon suicide) So, when she asks me “When did you last have your hair cut?” I just mumble again. And smile. And she knows.

Hair salons are a whole miniature world that I just don’t understand. They even have their own hierarchy. Hair salons are tiny feudal societies in microcosm. At the bottom of the heap is the girl who washes the clients’ hair and sweeps the floor. (I say ‘clients’, but that’s my terminology. In the salon, everyone is referred to as ‘my lady’, as though we are all starring in an episode of Thunderbirds) The hairwashing/floorsweeping girl is the general dogsbody, at everyone else’s beck and call. “Can you wash my lady’s hair for me?”; “Can you make my lady a cup of tea”. She hurries about the place all morning, rushing from the sinks to the reception to the ‘back’, constantly being called aside by one of the stylists for another chore to do.

Just above the hair washer are the stylists. They are graded in rank also. There are junior stylists and senior stylists. There isn’t a great deal of difference between them. Until you come to pay the bill. At which point, the difference works out at roughly £20.

Top of the pops are the hair colourists. They are the girls to smile at and keep sweet. They wield bleach and heated lamps and have the power to turn your hair a terrible shade of orange. Or worse, burn your scalp to blisters. (We’ve all seen the pictures in Woman’s Own). They, more than anyone else in the salon, have the ability to totally unnerve me. They can spot a salon novice at twenty paces. The hair colourist who did my hair on Sunday knew immediately that I was feeling like a fish out of water and within seconds, she’d gone in for the kill.
“Hi. Are you having your hair coloured for a special occasion?” (Inane question)
“Erm, no, not really”.
“Okay, so what would you like done? Highlights? Lowlights? Semi-streaks?” (Girly Question)
“Erm. Well. I think. Erm. Sort of. Erm”
“Okay, so blond highlights with a soft brown tint on the roots” Pause. Then, “So, who normally colours your hair for you?”(Accusing question. She knows full well I’ve dyed it myself)
“Erm, actually, I dyed it myself. With one of those home-dye kits. Clairol, I think”. There is a pause. Then a ‘tsk’. Admitting you colour your own hair is like claiming to perform a tonsillectomy on yourself. Without anaesthetic. Only a fool would try it. Hair dying requires the learned skills of a highly trained professional. The hair colourist looks at me with a mixture of derision and sympathy. She views home dye kits in the same way my GP would view an over-the-counter cure for cancer. She tells me that, as a result of dabbling with home dye kits, my hair is in terrible condition and that I need to apply a weekly ‘treatment’. She says the word treatment in a way that makes it sound like mafia code. I have no idea what she is talking about. Treatment? What on earth does she mean? I wait, hoping she’ll explain. But she doesn’t.
“Erm, when you say treatment. Like, what kind of treatment?”
“Oh, any treatment”.
(Any treatment?? Is she doing this on purpose? How unhelpful is that? Any treatment?? What, like toothepaste? Ketchup? Cilit Bang?)
She watches me squirm, then walks over to the reception and comes back with a small bottle of shampoo and a tub of conditioner.
“Well, I’d recommend a salon professional shampoo like this one. It has a nutrient building formula”.
It is £37.50.
“And this conditioner. You need to use the two together. They work in harmony with your hairs natural oils” (Did I say that, as well as its own hierarchy and social structure, the salon has an entire language which, in the real world, is utterly meaningless.)
The conditioner is £22.50. So basically, for salon professional hair, I’m looking at spending sixty quid.

I manage to resist the hard sell and tell the colourist that I will ‘think about’ the shampoo and conditioner. She gives me a look that says ‘it’s your hair’, and asks the floorsweeper to take ‘my lady’ to the stylist.

In the end, in fairness to them, the colourist and stylist did a great job. The brown tint and blond highlights covered the fading red of my home-dye experiments beautifully. And the cut the stylist gave me is, though I say so myself, pretty damn terrific. It was worth the hour and half of nervous tension to walk out the salon looking, and feeling, fabulous.

Next stop, Houston, Texas. Operation Oil Tycoon is go.

2 Comments:

Blogger bangedmyhead said...

well done for reaching the 1000 mark.
we love reading them.

9:42 am  
Anonymous baldricka said...

Ditto on getting to 1000! But seriously, if you happen to meet two oil tycoons, you know where to send the other one! Have a great time and wish CD Mazal Tov from me!

7:11 pm  

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