There are some days where I dread social situations. Some days I accept and even enjoy them. But all throughout my battle with my anxiety and depression and illness, there is one situation which I hate. One event that I put off, for as long as possible, even unto the detriment of my self-confidence. It is being put into a chair, made to look at myself awkwardly for an hour and making small talk about the weather and my plans.
I needed a haircut.
It is a situation which I know is dreaded by many. When I was younger a friend of my mum would come to the house and they would chat over a cup of tea while I was mainly ignored except for the passing comment on how much I was growing and how was school and had I decided on what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I took those times for granted.
When I’m in the hot seat, I am the focus. I am the attention. The hairdresser will ask what I want and I’ll try to convey in as few words as possible while hoping that they’ll be able to read my mind and the shape of my face and make me look beautiful. I’ll stare awkwardly at the ceiling as they wash my hair and talk about how great conditioner is and I’ll agree even though I use it about once a month. Then, if I’m lucky, a drink will be offered and placed on the shelf in front of me, slowly growing cold as I fear the act of reaching for it will cause the hairdresser to cut a bald patch into the middle of my head. While the hairdresser is snipping away, they’ll chat about what I’ve been up to, how was my life, what did I do, what did I think of the weather. I say they’ll chat because they have to drag the conversation out of me as I sit and think to myself, I just want some peace and quiet and to not keep getting hair in my mouth. But of course, you can’t actually say that to your hairdresser because that would be rude. And your anxiety about being rude clashes with your anxiety about talking with strangers and you’ll choke out a chorus of ‘oh yeah, definitely,’ ‘uh huh,’ ‘hmmmm’ and my personal favourite, ‘fair enough.’
In the background, they’re moving your head to funny angles and chopping and you’re staring at your own reflection and hoping your face is blank instead of the screaming mess inside as you realise they’re blow drying your hair straight. And you hate your hair straight.
The conclusion to this is them saying, ‘what do you think?’ and you immediately replying with, ‘yeah it’s great!’ Which you would say if they strapped a badger to your head, just to get out of there, They’ll show you the back with a mirror and you pretend to see what they see, pay the bill, awkwardly beg off another appointment and rush home as quickly as you can to breathe. And then wash your hair.
All of this happens, in my head, before I even make the appointment. I then have to endure the actual event itself. What I also have to realise is, it’s not as bad as I think.
True, I’ve had bad haircuts and painfully polite conversation. I’ve thought to myself that I would rather have a badger strapped to my head then to go back to that shiny chrome spaceship with blaring, bad beats and women who are so well put together that they look like mannequins. But I can’t let those experiences define the future. I love my hair. I love the colour, the feel, the style. Luckily, my hair is the kind that you can just brush and go, which suits my life. I’m never going to be able to do a fancy braid but it bounces and shines in the sun. It’s difficult to describe how much it means to me, but if you’ve ever lost your hair, then you’ll understand when I say, it’s a part of my identity. It’s a part of my face which I see every morning when I get up. It’s taken me a long time to accept my looks and my hair is a major part of that.
Which means, when my layers grow out and I can compare the length of my fringe to the girl in the Ring, I become unhappy with what I see in the mirror. I become unhappy in myself and even now, it takes a bit of time to click, that it’s my hair. I should have my hair cut every eight weeks with my style, twelve at a push. But I leave it closer to six months, just because of my anxiety. Then my anxiety about my appearance comes out to play and they butt heads as I sit in the corner and cringe.
This time, I realised I would have to put aside my anxiety and go. The accompaniment of a Groupon voucher has me frequent a place almost regularly and I’m learning to be comfortable there. To remember that I feel much better every time I leave, especially since I’ve grown the confidence to actually tell the hairdresser not to blow dry straight. Finding a place that works for you is a great thing and realising that the hairdresser is actually there to help and do what I want to do is a step in the right direction.
It’s also about remembering, sometimes the challenges you face can seem enormous. But when you face the challenge head on, you realise you are bigger than it and you can rule it, not the other way around.
In conclusion, I got my hair cut today.