Friday, 29 May 2009

Scary hairdressing-ladies and workshopping creative non-fiction. Wednesday 20 May 2009.

A few months ago I compiled a self-important list of 25 things about myself; a sort of Facebook meme. Number 8 on my list is:
8). I always feel intimidated in libraries. And hospitals. And most shops. I never know where the proper standing-place is.

I was fresh from an awkward experience in the library in town when I wrote the list. I was waiting in the improper standing-place to return an Audio CD. Library-people could see me waiting in the improper standing-place clutching my Audio CD looking as if I'd finished with it, but no one told me I was muddled. They smell your fear you know.

I am, incidentally, a librarian, but it doesn’t help. Or maybe it does help; I just wouldn’t even be able to set foot inside a library if I wasn’t actually one of the cognoscenti. And understanding informatics (which I don’t) wouldn’t help me to know where the proper standing-place is in an alien library.

Anyway, there’s somewhere more intimidating than libraries, hospitals and shops. Hairdressing places.

I have Winnie Madikizela-Mandela-type hair, not that I’m black you understand. I just have big hair. I was born in Liverpool. When I was nineteen I nursed a West Indian lady who said one of my great-granddads definitely came off the banana boats. I’m pretty sure I can say that – it’s my hair and my great-grandad so I’m not being unacceptable I’m being self-aware and ironic; post-modern (more of which next week).

For about five months in the early 1970s, when posters for Hair: the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, were everywhere, I was temporarily stylish. Since then I haven’t been hip at all and I’ve never really known what to do, so I keep the hair short lest I put people in mind of Paul Breitner.

Recently, I’ve decided I’d like to experience that giddy sense of being a hair-do leader once again.

For months I’ve tramped the rounds of hairdressing shops. I’m working on the assumption that if the shop charges a lot of money their hairdresser-ladies must be well trained and kind and full of ideas. I want someone to advise me and then style my hair so that it suites me and makes me modern (or Mod, as Auntie Pam would say).

True enough, expensive hairdressers do provide a consultation. But what good is that when the hairdresser-lady’s a flaxen moppet with a silky-do like Minxie Geldoff’s. She seats you in a black vinyl chair; already you’re pasted to it with sweat; apologising.
‘What do you want?’ Minxie chafes your raspy head with the pointy-end of a pointy-ended comb.
‘Dunno, I want to look nice.’
‘Mmmmmm… we’re a bit limited with short hair,’ she pokes tentatively again (did you see her lip curl?).
‘I’m sorry.’
(Don’t state the bleeding obvious Minxie. Do you know how hard it was for me to come in here in the first place?)
‘Shall I just tidy it up?
‘Okay, just tidy it up.’
So, she tidies it up, rasp, rasp, raspy-rasp. In a belated attempt at styling she glues wispy bits forward onto your face, a bit like Liza Minnelli.

Why do young pretty hairdressers with hair like Minxie Geldof imagine that middle-aged women are enchanted by wispy bits or crappy kiss-curls? Would you choose to look like Liza Minnelli, Minxie? Wispy bits scare me. That’s something else for the list.

Then, you’ve tipped Minxie a tenner because you want her to like you (why?) and you’re scared of her and the receptionist thinks you’re ecstatic with your liza-look and you’ll need another appointment in four weeks time. You can’t go back to the same hairdressers and ask for someone else. You can’t say,
‘No, not scary Minxie, give me a hairdresser-lady who understands about afro hair.’ You can’t because that would be unacceptable rather than post-modern; and because the receptionist is terrifying too. So you make a ruddy appointment and have to get your friend at work to phone up and cancel for you. Then you have to avoid that street for a year or two. There’s barely a street I can venture along now without the aid of camouflage. In the end I might to have to grow my own fright-wig disguise.

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I march into a hairdresser shop and demand to know who can style my curly hair and not leave me looking like a 1970s footballer or a legendary singing star?

When they start with their raspy-rasp poking and excuses why can’t I say,
Don’t look at me pityingly. Don’t ask me what I want or tell me there’s not much you can do. You’re the trained expert; expertly help me. And, while we’re on the subject of experts, stop making me feel stupid – you’re a hairdresser-lady, I’ve got a science degree (first class hons)’.

Why can’t I do that? Because I’m scared and intimidated, that’s why. And a little bit because it’d be rude too.

I submitted a blog post for workshopping as a creative nonfiction piece. It hasn’t been workshopped yet but the Writer with the Writerly Name was very encouraging and suggested I enter the Flax competition.

I was very touched and I will enter, but this time I won’t be thinking.
’What’ll I do if I don’t win?’
I won’t be thinking that because I can sit here and touch a dozen blistering-blogs without even stretching, for example: Every Day I Lie a Little , My Shitty Twenties , Mollie Baxter, Dave Hartley and I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car.

Thank you to James Fraser for my little bit scary and intimidating kisscurl drawing.


SandyCalico said...

So much of that applies to me! I never know where to stand and my last haircut had a totally impractical side-sweeping razored fringe that I had to clip out of the way for the next two months!
I've put a link to this post in my blog as I've just been to playgroup and didn't know where to sit! Hope you don't mind.

kim mcgowan said...

That's lovely thanks, Sandy. Yes there are a few of us in the correct standing-place failure club.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the link, Kim.

I too have hairdresser fears (or should that be the more manly barber fears?). I can cope, just about with the one at home that cut my hair for 18 years while I weas growing up (and who still mention the time when my 15year old unruly jungle of hair broke one of their combs, it was that thick), but since coming to Manchester I've been going to a chain one on oxford road. Its horrific! Its a production line of fake-tan fake-blonde girls: one for greeting, one for washing, one for drying, one for cutting, one for taking the money. And the conversation is even more stunted than usual hairdressing-fare.

Its my own fault, i never know what to say to hairdressers. So, hows the hair-cutting going...? I suddenly feel like the most boring person on earth when i sit in those chairs and stare at my own tired reflection.

I make the effort now to go back home and have it cut at the familiar one with the broken comb. it just makes things easier.

i've rattled on long enough about things not related to writing. i'll stop now, this was only supposed to be a brief thankyou!


kim mcgowan said...

You're welcome Dave.
And thanks for sharing your (now all too familiar) hairdresser horror story.
What wusses we all are.
Not sure how to spell wuss - does that look right?

Marie Elizabeth Smith said...

I hate hairdressers! I try to get excited about it, but i've been scared of them ever since i was seven years old and had to stand up the entire time that Maureen cut my down-to-my-bum hair into a bob.
Now i tip them for not speaking to me while i get it cut. They soon learn.