November marks the donning of fascinators, the squeezing of hips into tight dresses and the art of perfecting one’s balance while meandering through the streets in death defying high heels. Amidst all that breathing in, squeezing and squishing there’s one person we’ve all come to rely on.
One person, a relationship forged over countless hours of discussion, tears and in some cases champagne, that we cannot do without. They are perhaps the only person who truly knows the real us, the stripped back, panicked us. The one person we can rely on to listen, support, encourage and put us back on our feet, not once but six or more times a year. They ask nothing in return, apart from a small stipend, and don’t for a moment burden us with their own troubles. What friend would do that I ask you?
Doctor, no, parent, no, far more important … our hairdresser.
Confidant, therapist, miracle worker, hairdressers and barbers are an integral part of our existence on this planet.
You may think this a modern day phenomenon exacerbated by the plethora of women’s and men’s magazines, but you’d be wrong. Images of the humble hairdresser appeared way back in ancient drawings, Homer and Aristophanes wrote about their deft skills, and in Africa it was thought that a person’s spirit resided in their hair. Something for our young tennis players to ponder perhaps before etching another tribal motif into their locks.
The art of rearranging follicles moved quickly from a job undertaken behind closed doors by slaves in ancient Rome, to a more widespread activity in 1092, when Roman clergymen were ordered to remove their facial hair. By the 17th century the trade was considered a profession undertaken by household maids and valets. And so the art of washing, clipping and combing soon moved to augmenting, ornamenting and now styling. The humble hairdresser became a stylist.
As the profession developed I’d ponder that one thing remained the same.
Whether you’re Miley Cyrus sitting in a funky urban salon or Marie Antoinette perched on a padded stood in her boudoir, I’d bet there were two words both women categorically did not want to hear from their hairdresser, especially when the festive season and its myriad of swanky soirees was just around the corner.
Sure ‘oops’ can be a tad off putting, so too ‘the colour should fade in a few days’, or ‘you wanted to try something new today didn’t you?’ But these all pale in significance when compared to two small words …’I’m pregnant.’
Don’t get me wrong we love hearing these words from our friends, then it’s all shrieks, hugs and tears. But there’s one person we simply do not want to hear it from and I’m pretty sure I can speak for the whole sisterhood here when I nominate, our hairdresser.
Years of unflattering cuts, tragic colours, and botched home attempts, litter a rite of passage that must be endured until you finally find …the one. That one person who you can rely on every eight weeks to put you back in order.
So when your hairdresser enthusiastically declares her impending motherhood, I fully understand that it takes you all your strength not to pick up the buzz razor and fashion a reverse Mohawk through the centre of her perfectly sculpted raven black bob.
Word of warning…. if you’re a hairdresser about to make a life changing announcement, please, please do not be offended if we don’t share your enthusiasm. It’s just that we know our life is about to become ruled by our fickle follicles …again.
For a while I thought I’d found the answer in a freelance 40-something stylist, after all the chances of her becoming pregnant were balanced in my favour surely. However one day, one ordinary day she too disappeared into oblivion never to be seen again. And so I found myself skulking back to a major corporate salon I’d used in the nineties.
Perhaps it was a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I was thrilled with the service I received on my return. Not only were the magazines post World War II, I was given a glass of champagne and placed in front of a television showing the latest Paris fashions, then came the clincher.
The simple day to day act of washing my hair reached a whole new level when, lying in the black leather vibrating massage chair, the apprentice worked his magic for a good 15 minutes, all the while checking on my personal level of pressure, bliss.
As I lay there numb beyond belief I pondered …
- What the ancient Romans would have made of this? Was there a particular slave with a deft touch that all the patrons wanted to acquire? Was my apprentice the great, great, great, great grandson of one of the first Africans to acquire the skill? His rhythmic moves certainly suggested he’d already acquired the 10,000 hours it takes to perfect a skill.
- Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing to change hairdressers. Maybe it’s okay for them to procreate, I mean how else can we ensure the skills get passed on to the next generation? Still I don’t think I’d have wanted to be the one breaking the news of the royal hairdresser’s pregnancy to Henry the Eight … maybe that’s the real reason behind the demise of Anne Boleyn.
Wishing you all luck for Melbourne Cup, may all your horses come in and your fascinators stay straight.