For me, going to a new hairdresser for the first time is rather like being on a first date (only it’s far more physical and far less acceptable to be intoxicated). I’ll admit that I’ve got a slightly irrational fear about the whole ordeal. This probably stemmed from when I was a pre-pubescent 13 year old girl incredibly intimidated by the glamorous scissor-wielding grown-up that I’d have to awkwardly interact with in order to get rid of my split ends. Maybe a fear is too strong a word; let’s call it an awkwardness instead. These are the top 5 awkward stages of the hair salon experience:
1. Attempting a little small talk: Of course, you start with the good info; the holidays, Christmas, any upcoming birthday celebrations. Once this part is over the hard work begins. In your mind you are desperately delving through events that happened 6 months ago, nothing is out of bounds: Gone through a recent breakup? Great! Been cheated on? Even better!
Now comes the moment of silent acceptance as you take in the sad realisation of how boring your life actually is. Your brain punishes your mouth for abandoning it and you go back to exploring the sparse inventory of gossip within your mind.
2. A relaxing soak: Neck slowly craned back, your luscious locks suddenly become a giant clump of matted hair that you can hear gagging the basin’s drain. Your giant head is lolling about against the porcelain rim and reminding you of that time you got horrifically drunk in Magaluf and ended up spooning the bidet completely oblivious of its intended use or the irregularity of the cleaning rota at the hotel.
Another issue at this stage is your decision on what to do with your eyes. Do you pretend that this position is in fact so relaxing that you have begun to nod off or do you stare bulbous eyed at the ceiling for 10 minutes? She usually continues to scrub away at your hair undeterred by how uncomfortable you look or how your left eyebrow has slowly begun to run down the side of your cheek.
3. A frightful sight: Now sopping wet and resembling Severus Snape caught in a rainstorm, you are forced to stare at this reflection whilst the drying process slowly gets under way. You furrow your brow and desperately rub at the part that you have suddenly noticed has made its way over to your ear.
4. Acting abilities: Your cut is finally finished and you prepare your best fake smile (that you luckily perfected during Christmas) in order to completely over exaggerate the joy that you feel over an inch of hair having been removed. ‘It feels so much healthier’ you say, which she has probably already heard three times that day.
5. Tipping time: It’s safe to say that at the age of 21, I have not yet mastered the art of tipping. Every time the moment presents itself I feel like I’m attempting to do some sort of shady drug deal as quick as humanly possible before anybody sees. The worst scenario is when you are forced to pay in change. Do you just open up your purse at the end and begin placing random coins into her palm or do you grip your choices in your fist for half of the cut? I tend to just throw a selection of warm and slightly sweaty pounds at her and evacuate the building all in one swift movement.
Somehow, miraculously, despite all of these scenarios, the experience is never as bad as you originally anticipated and you usually end up having a pretty good chat. Hairdressers seem to have this wonderful ability to remove the awkwardness from any situation so that even when your eyebrows are abseiling down your face and you are discussing the details of the time you pissed yourself on holiday you still feel rather comfortable with everything. Is this the start of a beautiful friendship or just the fact that she’s caught sight of the stingy tip that you are clutching in your left hand? … Probably the latter.