I used to hate having my hair cut. For years, I would put it off indefinitely, ending up with waist-length hair that was blonde and frazzled at the tips, then cutting it all to a chin-length bob, and waiting for the whole cycle to repeat itself.
Occasionally, I would convince myself that I would try something new. That I would “do” something with my hair. But I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t understand the terms they used or the processes they talked about. I didn’t know the simple things, like how long an appointment would take. I couldn’t make decisions about “products” when I didn’t have a clue what that term encompassed, what it meant. I had shampoo and occasionally conditioner: and some very bad memories of industrial strength hairspray that I’d been covered in for dance shows.
I tried to make it work. I tried to go to the shiny salon and get the smart haircut, with products and masks and stuff. I tried to be enthusiastic about the incredibly neat, sleek bob that lasted about 30 minutes before it needed attacking with “product”. I tried to turn up with magazine clippings (this is pre-smart phone!) and cheated by reading Marie Claire the night before an appointment.
But it wasn’t right.
Eventually, I realised that the problem was not me. It was that the people I was dealing with. They were great, fantastic experts in taming strands of keratin into beautiful shapes and textures. But they weren’t experts in me. And they didn’t understand that it was my hair, that had to fit into my life.
So, again. I stopped going.
Then about 18 months ago, I tried again. And I discovered something amazing. It is possible to find a hairdresser who understands that I don’t have to fit into their systems. Who is fine with the fact that I will disappear for months on end, and turn up requesting that we cut off 1/2 my hair. Who explains what he’s doing and why; who gives me choices about how things could work; and who explains the different options and why he’s suggesting one over the other. He talks me through every step as he washes my hair because he recognises that I am pretty short-sighted and I just do not know what’s going on without my glasses.
That’s not to say that I get what I want. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. He’s a fantastic hairdresser because he doesn’t just take my money and produce something that I can’t live with. (I wanted a streak of purple put into my hair – but we both know that I won’t come back to have it re-touched.) We don’t cut my hair so that I can’t tie it back for work. We don’t put in fiddly bits that take too long to sort out in the morning. We definitely don’t do anything that involves me turning up every 6 – 8 weeks for a trim. We do what works for me because he took the time to get to know me and to understand what matters to me outside of that salon.
And you know what?:It’s actually quite fun now. I trust him enough that I turn up (without pictures on my phone) and ask him what he wants to do. I’ve gone from just having shoulder length mousy brown hair with a centre parting to having bright red streaks (at the bottom so I can grow them out!) and a kind of fringey thing – I still don’t know the “right” words.
Shared decision making. By my hairdresser.