For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated having my hair cut. Friends look at me with a baffled expression when I tell them this. “But, but…” they say. “It’s such a treat! The glossy magazines! The frothy coffee! The feeling of someone’s fingers in your hair! Don’t you find it relaxing?”
No. I do not. An appointment at the local salon has always ranked somewhere just below a visit to the dentist on my internal fun-o-meter.
I’ve tried my best to get over it. I’ve let myself experience the full spectrum of hairdressing options offered: five-dollar buzz cuts in dingy barbershops; two hundred dollar highlights in swanky salons; and just about everything in between. But wherever I’ve gone, having a haircut has always been an ordeal rather than a treat.
I don’t like the intimidating women with skinny jeans and blunt fringes. I wonder how they can stand all day in heels like that. I hate the stupid gown, which I always put on back to front. I don’t like opening a copy of Vogue and having my lap suddenly covered with other people’s hair snippings. I don’t like the head massages, or the abundance of putties, mousses and waxes that leave me smelling of fudge or pineapple or lime. I find it impossible to make polite conversation over the noise of a hairdryer. I never know if it’s okay to sip my rapidly cooling coffee in the middle of the haircut, or whether it has only been placed in front of me for show. At the end, I never know whether to tip, and if I do then I worry that I haven’t been generous enough.
A haircut, for me, is basically an hour of excruciating awkwardness.
The other issue is that my hair itself has always been something of a disaster.
I spent most of my early teens being mistaken for a boy, because I had an incredibly short crop. I also tried to home-dye it quite a lot. Every time I tried, no matter whether I was aiming for ice blonde or chestnut brown, it turned orange. Really orange. Except for that one time when it turned purple.
One time in my early twenties – in the middle of a parliamentary election campaign in which I was a candidate – I asked my hairdresser to give me a ‘strong woman’ cut. I needed to look older; to instill trust in voters; to give the impression of being a woman who could get things done.
Something about that request got lost in translation. When I got home to my husband he tried hard to stifle his laughter but eventually admitted that my new look was less Hillary Clinton and more Macaulay Culkin.
I am now a mother in my mid-thirties, I work from home every day, and the list of things I want from my hair is much shorter than it used to be. It doesn’t have to look amazing. It just has to be practical.
I want hair that doesn’t fall in front of my face all the time; hair that does not need to be straightened, blow-dried, or coloured every couple of months; hair that I can run my hands through in the morning and then forget about for the rest of the day. I also want there to be enough of it so that for big events I can do something a little different. Ideally, I want all that without having to step foot inside a hairdressing salon.
I am almost there. Almost. Last year I moved from the UK to Australia, and I finally found someone who understands both my hair and me. I found Louise.
Unfortunately I still have to go to the salon. I haven’t yet persuaded Lou to do home visits. But she is not intimidating. She is a mother, and so we cluck over how wonderful our respective sons are. She is down-to-earth and does not mind me showing up in fleece lined boots or jeans with a hole in the knee. She does not send me away with hair smelling of fudge. And if I make my appointments for Friday afternoon I get a glass of wine, rather than a coffee. No need to worry about that going cold.
It shouldn’t have taken so long, but I am so grateful to have finally found hair happiness. I wouldn’t yet call it a treat, but it is no longer an ordeal.
It is, I suppose, better than the dentist.
Ruth Dawkins is a writer from Scotland who has recently moved to Australia with her husband and young son. She has been widely published on lifestyle and parenting sites and blogs regularly as DorkyMum. You can also say hello to her on Facebook and Twitter.