Hair Today, Gonged Tomorrow (2008)
There’s never a more vulnerable time in one’s life than when they step outside the door of the hairdresser’s. As a guy, the thought running through my head is almost always the same – ‘TOOOOO SSHHOOOORRRRTTTTT!!!’ Having abruptly cropped hair leaves your big goofy head exposed, like your face’s version of being caught with its pants down. With the central HQ of a fringe and straggly side bits gone, there’s nowhere for your forehead and ears to hide. You are destined to wander the streets, cheekbones freezing, trying to subtly peer at yourself in shop windows and jiggle your hair about like a crazed Mother setting the dinner table for Christmas.
You could be forgiven for thinking that hairdresser’s just like cutting hair. The initial consultation always goes amiably. They ask what I’d like done, while thoughtfully running thumb and forefinger over the back. I answer them with conviction on par with the lawyer from The Castle – including the word ‘vibe.’ They seem to understand. I take my glasses off, and in my short sighted state I miss the split-second glint in their eye as they pick up the scissors, eyes boring into the slice fest that is my plump, ungroomed head; mouth salivating at the thought of sinking their blades into me, like a blackbird arching its toes as it dive-bombs a strawberry patch.
Where does the blueprint go wrong? Part of the problem is the hairdresser’s insistence on multi-tasking. This involves calculating and implementing precise artistic incisions while padding out inane conversation. You wouldn’t expect your doctor to be halfway through surgery before demanding to know how uni’s going. The verbal screensaver also gets in the way of the relaxing, therapeutic element. With silence I can let hormones and imagination take over and pretend there’s something faintly sexual happening. (With me, getting change at MacDonald’s can be faintly sexual; it’s called ‘I’m an art-house film’ syndrome.)
HINT: Get your haircut on Wednesdays as it’s too late for “what did you do on the weekend” and too early for “what are you doing on the weekend?”
The hairdresser’s most important training comes into play in the closing ‘smoke and mirror’ phase. This involves a complex array of blow-drying, poofing and fiddling with all manner of hyper-paste-turbo-wax-grit-putty-factor-fourteen products, which are all made from recycled ghost buster slime. These are used to achieve the painstakingly effortless ‘bed-hair’ look that is guaranteed to last up to three seconds after you leave. (I’ve found better results by being so depressed about my haircut I stayed in bed for a week.) This leads to the barber’s money shot. The moment when you are reminded how powerless you really are, strapped in a black cocoon, hair littering the floor like a balding shagpile. There is no greater false gesture than the ‘showing of the back’ for approval. As you stare from your bowl head – flat as a burnt match – to the gleaming eyes of the hairdresser, you remember this is one luxury you just can’t afford.
For the last two years I’ve attending one of the fanciest hairdressers in Melbourne, who recently put the price up from $65 to $85. ‘Is that because of the drought?’ I quipped, getting nothing from the girl at the counter. We had been on a good wicket, they didn’t talk much and left my hair at an acceptable Graham Garden / Jarvis Cocker type length. But last week I made the mistake of including the word ‘shorter’ in my description. That’s it, next time I’m getting my fringe insured. Just call me the indie Merv Hughes.