Surviving small talk with hairdressers

April 26 [journal excerpts]
When I finally decided that the broken, miserable tangle past my shoulders needed to go, I made an appointment with a new hairdresser. He’d been recommended as someone who knew how to deal with thick hair. I loved my long hair – pulling it up in a bun, braiding it – but it was exhausting to look after. So I made a special trip to Surry Hills.

1. The salon was very bright and the music loud. One staff person greeted me. Another brought me a cup of tea. A third, a scrawny guy with bleached hair circa 1999 washed my hair. When he towelled it off, he stuck his fingertips in my ears. They were inside a towel, but still.

2. The hairdresser had the shoulders and arms of a weightlifter and the beer belly of a devoted drinker. He was probably late fifties, with salt and pepper hair, a black v-neck t-shirt, jeans and a single silver earring. He cut me off every time I talked, so I stopped talking. The only time he listened was when he asked what type of cut I wanted. He described the sort of thick, wavy hair I happen to have as “one of the evils of the world” and I thought, he gets it.

3. Am I terrible at small talk? Or just terrible at small talk with hairdressers? If you love hair styling enough to devote your career to it, chances are you and I have very little in common to start with.

4. He cut me off even when I tried to tell him that he came highly recommended. It was like our dialogue was on separate soundtracks playing out of sync.

5. He was hesitant about the cut I wanted. “It’s a dramatic cut,” he kept repeating. Finally I managed to convince him I’d had it quite short before. “Some women are fine to get a dramatic cut. Others, you cut their hair a millimeter and they’re devastated. Your achilles heel is very thick.” (Yes, and so is my hair.)

6. “My housemate a while ago was a guy from Canada. He said he was from the US, from New York, I guessed he was ashamed to be from somewhere so cold. One time I asked him if he wanted a margarita. He gave me a funny look and said, ‘We don’t really know each other that well.’
“I asked him what he thought I’d said.
“‘Do you want to marry me?’
“I said ‘No, a margarita.’ He was laughing so hard he fell to the floor.”

7. He stepped away for a moment, and one of the many staff came over to sweep up the piles of discarded hair. When he came back, he said to her, “Oh no, you’ve ruined it.”
“I was just sweeping it into a pile,” she said, confused.
“I was going to Instagram it, but that’s fine, next time.”
“I could put it back, spread it out.”
“No, it was all about letting nature take its course, being organic.”
“Well, I could –”
“No, it’s fine.”
He wasn’t rude exactly, but he wasn’t friendly either.

8. The cut cost $145, and to maintain it, he said I’d have to get it trimmed every 12 weeks. I said I’d see him in a year.
Not out loud, of course. In my head.

2019 update: My new hairdresser has two dogs that hang out in his salon and sometimes I can pat them, and it turns out that’s all I’ve ever wanted from a hairdresser.


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