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The Haircut Experience

Recently I had to go get my hair cut. Yes, even I have to do such things every now and again. It's all very well having lovely swishy medium-length hair but then it starts creeping down over my collar and the straggly bits go all greasy and I look like a small hairy octopus has descended upon my shoulders. Take a look at this picture I had taken just before I decided to get it cut.

See? Getting far too long. Thanks by the way to the New Scotland Yard website for letting me use that picture.

So off I trot to the hairdresser's, thinking what an interesting article it could become.


For many years I always went to an old-style gentlemen's barber shop for my haircuts, until I realised the man was only capable of doing crewcuts and after they grew out they tended to take on the appearance of an elderly dandelion. So I went to a slightly more modern place in the high street. They don't give you lollipops when you leave but at least you don't end up looking like you stick your tongue in electrical sockets for a living. When I got in there, I found I was expected to make an appointment. This was all new to me. In the barber's you just sat and read magazines until the barber decided it was your turn. Obviously since the modern hairdressers get so many customers clamouring at their door they have to have a slightly less chaotic scheme, but since the appointment they gave me was set for forty-five minutes after I made it it can't be as busy as all that.


When it was time for my trim the first thing they did was take my trenchcoat. Perhaps they needed to check my collar to see if I required ordinary or medicated shampoo. Or they wanted to rifle through the pockets to get an idea of my character, and if they didn't like it they made a small note on a clipboard marked 'GOVERNMENT DEPOPULATION SCHEME'. But no, all they did was put it on a hanger and left it on a rack, which, now I come to recall the incident, seemed to have nothing but black coats on it. I couldn't see any other special racks for other colours, but I presumed they must exist, perhaps disappearing and reappearing from secret compartments in the walls and floor when required. Anyway, a very nice young girl sat me down in front of a mirror and plonked a rubber thing on my shoulders. It was like one of those shoulder padding things those wussy American Football players wear to protect their oh-so delicate skeletons, and I wondered briefly what it was for. I toyed with the idea that it was there to stop hair going down my neck, but it felt unusually heavy. I eventually decided it was there to stop me from escaping.


"So, what can I do for you?" asked the extremely nice young girl assigned to my scalp for the hour.

It's always hard to know what to say in these instances, I find. I know I may give off the impression sometimes of a hardened comedic veteran of wit and timing, but believe me, in the flesh and in the company of strangers I lose a lot of verbosity. Fortunately I had planned for this. "I want it cut shorter, especially at the back," I recited.

The nice young girl took a pair of scissors, and laboriously cut approximately one eighth of an inch off the end of the straggly bits at the back of my head, then took the big mirror and triumphantly showed me her handiwork. For a while I didn't know what to say.

"A bit shorter than that?" she prompted. Oh, what a master of the arts of telepathy she must be, I said inwardly. Outwardly I said "Yes."

Off came another eighth of an inch. Out came the mirror again.

Now, I appreciate good solid haircuts are probably not the norm in a nice modern hairdresser's such as this. The price list I looked at in the window gave off a huge list of colouring, styling and waxing techniques, finally ending in "cut, men's" at the very bottom with the cheapest price. But I'm sure you and I would know exactly what to do if a young man with medium-length straggly hair (which incidentally he fancied made him look a bit like Dr. Daniel Jackson from Stargate SG-1) came in and asked for it to be cut shorter. But hey, what do I know, right?

"Much shorter than that, please," I tried. She seemed to be getting as exasperated as I, finally taking off enough until my hair ended just above my collar at the back. Again she brought out the mirror. "That will be fine," I mumble.

As the trim continued I found the girl was asking me what I wanted for every single snip of the scissors she made. "Do you want the sides long enough to hang over your ears?" "Do you want it parted?" "Do you want it tapered or square at the back?" "Do you want me to use scissors or my teeth?" "Do you want to jam these scissors through my eye into my brain, piercing my petuitary gland and killing me instantly?"

No, no, I shouldn't have such thoughts. She was, after all, just being polite. Although I can't shake the feeling that perhaps hairdressers have had to do this ever since one of their number cut a little too much off the top or made the back square instead of tapered, and the customer had gone into a berserk rage, slaughtering everyone within range and all their relatives and burning down the shop. Or more likely, sued them.


No-one likes being stuck in a chair while blades violate their barnet. By the end of the haircut / interrogation I wanted to get out of there. She took the mirror out to show me the back once again and asked if that was how I wanted it. And has anyone, ever, in the entire history of haircuts, ever said "no" at that point? Even if it's been dyed lime green and cut into an obscene phrase? It's just part of the ritual. Or we all just want to end the sorry rigmarole and go home. Someday, however, I want to do the following.

THEM: Is that alright?

ME: Well - AAAAAH!!! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE YOU MADWOMAN! I'm a freak! I shall have to wear a paper bag! I shall be cast out from society, forced to roam aimlessly from city to city, allowing passers-by a glimpse of my hideous haircut for small change! And forever on my lips will be a curse upon you and all your household! I SPIT on you, hairdresser woman! SPIT I say! (Pppt)

THEM: Shall I take a bit more off then?

So, give or take some money changing hands and a walk home, thus ended my haircut adventure. I now possess hair which is almost exactly the same as it used to be, only slightly less so. But I'm not dead or minus an eye or walking around with a bright green spire 'pon my skull, and I call that a pretty positive result.

I wonder how I'd look with a crewcut.


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