You know what it’s like; there you are at the hairdresser’s and she asks you want you want done. Just tidy it up, you say, keep the shape, I don’t want much cut off. I don’t want it very short. She nods, combs your hair this way and that, examines its texture, comments on the natural wave. You’re quite pleased about this as she seems to like your wave. Some hairdressers want to cut your hair into a straight style, tame it with products and blow dryers.
You expand. I am outside a lot, you explain. My hair is at the mercy of the weather, so I need a style that doesn’t get upset when the wind blows or the rain falls. She folds her lips in an understanding smile and you relax further.
The hairwash and head massage are good. Tensions you didn’t know you were carrying unknot from your shoulders. Then she starts to cut, and the hair drifting past you is rather more than you had anticipated, but your neck is bent forward and you can’t really see what she’s doing, so you concentrate on the book in your lap and let her get on with it. It’s a good book.
At last you are allowed to raise your head. Most of your hair has gone. Your face drops. She looks at you, an enquiry in her raised eyebrows. It’s much shorter than I asked for, you say. Yes, she confides, I cut my first guideline a bit short and that has dictated the length.
There is nothing you can do. She can’t stick it back on. You ask a few more questions, especially about the top, the crown, where you know that when cut short your hair defies gravity and sticks up. You tell her how so many hairdressers have assured you this won’t happen, but it has. She makes soothing noises. And she’s right, because the hair is not sticking up when you are eventually brushed down, rendered visible again without the black gown.
Actually nothing is sticking up, waving, suggesting the beginning of a curl or anything like it. Because despite the conversation about the waviness of your hair it has been dried straight, subdued totally. Your fringe comes halfway down your nose. You went in with your hair looking like an overblown chrysanthemum, you are leaving looking like Beaker from The Muppets.
She asks you if you like it. Honesty, and a sense of fairness (after all you did have the conversation), compels you to say it is shorter than you’d like, that it only just covers the tops of your ears (another part of the conversation) and as it has been dried straight it’s quite difficult to imagine how it is going to look. Oh, and the fringe is very long.
It’s explained to you that your hair waves, so it will seem shorter when it is not dried into a straight curtain across your face. You know that. It is your hair. Your hair could be dried into waves; she could dampen it, put some product in it and start the blow-drying again. You really don’t want product induced waves, just your own. No product, you say, I am going to be on a boat for the next few days, it’ll be basic. Product just complicates things.
Her reaction to the boat is interesting. You realise she is imagining you as the salon’s token Ellen MacArthur, off to do some single-handed sailing somewhere dangerous and thrilling. You do not disillusion her by explaining it’s a twenty-five foot inland river cruiser and you are probably not going to leave the marina.
So you thank her politely and leave, calculating, as you walk down the hot sunny London street in one of the capital’s swankier areas, that as it is so short you will probably only need one more haircut between now and when you head for Australia in November. And it is a good cut, which you like much better a week later when it has been washed twice at home, left product free, dried naturally, and your waves have started to reestablish themselves.
In fact you now like it so much, that you may indeed need two more cuts before Australia as it would be quite nice to keep it like this.