I can't remember (and I'm too lazy to look to up) who it was who said there are only two emotions in an airplane: boredom and terror, but I feel the same sentiment can be applied to a trip to the hairdresser.
There is nothing relaxing about this experience. There are the long stretches of time in which you do nothing but leaf through magazines, starting off with the semi-juicy ones and ending up with the crap ones nobody buys with lots of pictures of women pouting and no text. Then there are the terrifying moments where you feel you've made a huge mistake or you glance in the mirror and see a look of what you imagine is mild concern on your hairdressers face.
In fact, it occured to me as I sat in a hairdresser on Saturday for an excruciating three and a half hours that having a haircut is like competing in a bloody triathlon.
The first event is the difficult task of bridging the gap between what you want and what your hairdresser thinks you should have. This usually consists of me struggling in with a picture torn from a magazine. This, I tell my hairdresser, is what I want. Red hair like Maggie Whatshername. She produces a colour sample. It is brown. I wave the picture. She produces another sample. It is brown. I point to the picture and then to myself. She points to the colour sample and then to my hair. It's a delicate duet. Sadly this is my weakest event as I frequently cave to my hairdressers demands once she subtly and sweetly points out that ripping off a supermodels hairdo won't actually make me look like a supermodel but giving me a style or colour that suits me might stop me from holing up in a French church somewhere.
I can usually gain ground in the next event, however, which is not engaging your hairdresser. I don't imagine that anybody who knows me will be particularly surprised by the fact that I do not like to talk to my hairdresser while she is cutting my hair. I want to sit quietly, drink my glass of complimentary booze and read up on 10 Tips to Get Thighs Like Charlize Theron. My hairdresser, however, wants to chat. More specifically she wants to chat about My Life, with subjects ranging from what-I-do to what-I'm-doing-that-night. Although these conversations may ostensibly be about my life they usually include frequent references to her own, often with colourful (if seemingly unrelated) anecdotes about her love life thrown in.
I am not a horrible person and I don't begrudge my hairdresser her obvious desire to pass the time with some chit-chat but I will protect my right to sit in total silence too. A magazine or book is a must, obviously, and eye contact is strongly discouraged. Never answer a question with a question and never answer a questions using more words than she used to ask it: these are my secrets.
Despite what is something of a natural ability at this event, deflecting the well-meant chatter of someone with a pair of scissors in her hand can take it out of you. So that by the time I reach the final event - pretending to like your hair, regardless of whether you do or not - I am often struggling. The thing is that most of the time I do like my hair. I've had only a few truly shocking cuts in my lifetime. But regardless of whether I'm planning to go home and cry or go home and prance in front of the mirror my reaction feels just as phony. No matter how many times I smile and say I love it I feel like a have to do more, particularly if the hairdresser is a fawner and insists on prompting me for a further reaction. My face muscles start to hurt from holding a rictus smile on my face for half an hour but I can't stop grinning. "I love it, thanks" I say, again and again and again. Still my hairdresser will insist on gathering a consensus from the other hairdresser present. Amazingly they seem to love it just as much as she does every time.