It was time to embrace the scissors; my Stone Age, hideous hair look was so last season. But faced with the option of spending between sixty and one hundred pounds on getting my hair cut, I was at a loss. One ‘upmarket’ salon charges up to fifty-eight pounds to cut and ‘style’ a fringe. Added to the fact that if you have long ‘feminine’ hair they often tack on expenses. Phew.
I forgot about it for a while, and slunk around in a hat that hid the horrors underneath. One day during 8AM Mass at the Oratory, I asked at the Offertory for angelic assistance in finding someone to cut my hair. I reminded myself that we can go to Our Lord for help in matters great and small. Our Lord is so used to my prayer of ‘please God, help my friend, she feels forced into abortion, please give her hope!’ Compared to this mega prayer, I feel petty asking for help with small daily necessities.
A few days later, walking along Gloucester Road, I came upon a small, swish looking salon with very minimalist black and white décor. It was empty except for a cheerful hairdresser that was busy arranging rows of sparkly hair products.
‘You want a hair cut?’ she asked brightly.
‘Yes please, do you have an appointment available?’
‘Now if you like.’
‘OK, the priority is that I have my fringe cut…’
‘That’ll be six pounds for the fringe. That OK?’ What?
‘You said six…not sixty?’ I asked.
Seconds later my hair was being shampooed, and two British lads trooped in asking for a haircut. They gave me a suspicious look, fascinated as the hairdresser drew up strands of hair and conditioned it.
‘Oh you usually don’t have female customers…’ I said, the reality had not yet dawned that this was not a unisex salon per se. But there weren’t huge piles of dog-eared fashion magazines.
‘Every so often a woman comes in…but it’s so nice to work with such long hair. I haven’t seen hair this long in so long.’
‘Is this a barber’s?’ I asked
‘Yes’ quipped the hairdresser. I know – I should have felt odd being in this very male area but I was saving too much money and time. There had been no ghastly ‘consultation’, and I hadn’t had to argue for half an hour that I didn’t want layers or highlights.
A schoolboy shuffled in and plonked himself against a wall. He held up a clump of his hair, made eyes with the hairdresser and then mimed the action of a scissors. One Chinese man came in, said, ‘I didn’t know you had women in here now’ he said. The hairdresser shrugged. He solemnly said, ‘then I won’t be coming back.’
Oh the embarrassment, the tightening of my stomach! The hairdresser grinned and said nonchalantly, ‘I cut men’s hair all day, it’s so nice to work with long hair.’ From behind us two men gathered and asked for haircuts, it was at the point where the hairdresser asked me to stand up so she could cut my hair. Those waiting for their haircuts became spectators, as strands of brown hair feathered the ground.
Despite the obvious discomfort of being spectated by a motley crew of men, I’d have to say that it was the most pleasant experience of having my hair cut. It was quick – thirty minutes instead of an hour and a half. I got no lectures on what conditioner I should be using, no sales pitch on some product that would work ‘a miracle’ on my hair, no nagging, and I saved enough money to go out to dinner. But my experience begs some questions; women put up with a lot of flack when they get their hair cut for exorbitant prices. Yet I doubt that a barber would get away with saying to a man, ‘now why don’t you start conditioning your ends more? And how about a flicky fringe?’