There was a time when I went years without visiting a hairdresser. I know. But I found sitting bang in front of a starkly lit mirror faintly terrifying, and did my best to avoid it. Nobody enjoys confronting cavernous pores or realising that, while you think you are Galadriel, up close the vibe is more Gollum. There is also no silence I can leave unfilled; the stress of coming up with something remotely witty or interesting to say left me in danger of losing hair, rather than having it improved.
I wish I could be one of those people who nails going to the hairdresser: saying nothing for four hours; flicking through Vogue, drooling over unaffordable clothes; relaxing into a head massage. Incidentally, who are the people who say no to the head massage? Would they refuse an oxygen mask on a plane?
It didn’t help that as a child I was a committed tomboy and found anywhere with bottles of nail varnish overwhelming. My idea of dressing “fancy” was wearing a darker shade of tracksuit. By the time that changed, I was firmly into home-dyes and cuts. I didn’t think I was “good” at going to the hairdresser’s and so, like maths and cooking, I avoided it.
But then my sister gave me a haircut that made Edward Scissorhands seem in the same league as John Frieda. Have you seen I Know What You Did Last Summer? Of course you have, the classic 90s teen slasher film. Well, remember that bit where Sarah Michelle Gellar wakes up to find her hair has been hacked off overnight with a fish-hook? I do. I lived it. Except I was awake throughout.
I was forced back to a salon and, in truth, my sister did me a favour, because this was my first meeting with my now regular hairdresser and colourist. They aren’t qualified counsellors, but could legitimately whack an approximation of those skills on to their CVs. They also do a great line in bitching about Brexit.
I still do not appreciate the ridiculous amount of time it takes to colour a head of hair. It is still eye-wateringly expensive, but a cut and colour can perform miracles for mood. It’s the aftermath: the unfathomable silkiness and the divine smell, the closeness to the temples, or the jaw, or the shoulder. But it’s also the hypnotic snip-snip-snipping and the somnolent buzz of the razor. It’s stepping back on to the street like a refurbished version of yourself. Not quite new, but newer. You, plus.