18 Mar My Hairdresser Hates Me
First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 13.3.23
For a while – and this is no longer true – but for about a year, I had a hairdresser who hated me.
Hate is a strong word. I mean he looked bored when I arrived at the salon, could barely summon the energy to cover me with a cape. Rolled his eyes when I told him what I’d like done. Muttered instructions to the colourist in the tone of someone sharing an insult. Meandered back later with scissors to disagree with me about the length and shape of my fringe. And right at the end – my favourite bit – he’d do a sort of sarcastic flourish in the mirror as we both looked at the final effect, as if to say, “Ghastly. Still, look what I had to work with,” and he’d slouch off to his next client.
I loved it. I’m not entirely sure why. But I kept going back, like I say, for a year or so. It felt very French (he wasn’t French) to be dismissed this way. Here he was, a trained professional in making women look and feel good but, in this particular instance, not really bothered because clearly, sigh, what was the point?
It felt very funny, too. I’d sit in his chair each time and imagine it as an episode in a comic reality TV show where you came for a makeover but no one actually cared. I’d tell people, “My hairdresser hates me!” as though it was the best joke, and we’d all marvel at this strange phenomenon.
Strange, and oddly refreshing – at first anyway. Hairdressers mostly adore you, want the best for you, see potential for volume and movement and shine. They might gently note split ends and return of the greys, but in a tone that suggests we can put that behind us now. They won’t mention anything they can’t fix. You are already gorgeous, they’re just going to let that show.
Not this guy. This guy had no soft patter, could find no compliment to give about my hair, nor my frock, nor a handbag. Nothing about me appealed. Once – and this is a treasured moment – when trying to explain just how short I like my fringe (very) I showed him on my phone one of my publicity photos taken with full makeup and beautiful lighting, and he looked at it like I’d forced him to look at something in a state of decay, and made a noise that sounded exactly like, “Pfft”.
It is possible I hurt his feelings early on, irrevocably. The first time I was sent to his chair (didn’t feel like that the first time but did on subsequent visits) I’d told him “light trim, soft layers”. He’d suggested a short bob, jagged fringe. I told him I’d just grown out a short bob and wasn’t ready to go back.
We could say it started then? But he’d approached me with an air of defeat before that conversation began.
It’s possible I was hoping for a breakthrough. Like those gigs where ninety-nine people are laughing but the hundredth has a stony face and so the whole show becomes about making them crack. Or I’m a masochist, or I’m uncomfortable with compliments, or I have a thing for emotionally unavailable men.
Not now, though. Somewhere in between lockdowns I let him cut a short bob with a jagged fringe. It turned out we both hated it. That’s when I knew it was over.