Thank god that’s over; my quarterly visit to the peluquería that is. I’ve always viewed visits to the hairdresser on a parallel with visits to the doctor and the dentist; although at least at the dentist you’re not expected to make small talk as they’re usually doing a ‘Marathon Man’ on your mouth for most of the visit.
I’m just not comfortable with that level of intimacy with strangers that visits to the above three force upon you.
I can chart my mini phobia (it’s not full blown; more like a general unease for about 24 hours beforehand) back to puberty and my first visit to a unisex hairdresser which coincided with the first time a member of the opposite sex actually pressed their groin and breasts against me. I’d been used to Bobby Peddar’s no nonsense barber shop; scissors which hacked at your hair; the smell of Old Spice aftershave and – thank god – no bodily contact whatsoever, save for the attack of the blunt scissors.
But having a seventeen year old trainee press her nubile body against me when I was an awkward thirteen year old was more intimacy than I had expected, or could handle, and it’s left scars as deep as a bottomless pit.
The real problem was that nobody ever told me the etiquette of what to do when the hairdresser reached up to cut the hair on the top of my head and her abdomen pressed into my arm lying innocently on the armrest.
The first time it happened I almost jumped. My mind raced; instinctively, and having been well brought up, I was going to move it, but then I thought:
‘If I shift it, then she’ll know I did it because her groin was pressing against it…then she’ll know I’m aware of her groin…then she’ll be aware of her groin and things will be awkward between us and I’ll never be able to get my hair cut here again.’ (as it was the mid 70s this wouldn’t have been too much of a problem). But then I thought – ‘If I don’t move it, she might be thinking – why didn’t he do the gentlemanly thing and move his arm…god, the creep’s trying to cop a feel through his elbow!’
And so for thirty minutes or so, four times a year I’d live a silent nightmare of uncertain angst and cringing awkwardness until she’d bring out the mirror, show me the back of my head and I’d mumble “Yeah, great…thanks” whatever it looked like and leg it out of there pronto, glad that it was all over for another three months.
Mind you between the age of sixteen and nineteen, the visit to the hairdresser was about as close to a physical relationship with a woman as I was likely to get.
In the end, clasping my hands together and tucking my arms in close to avoid the armrests altogether seemed to be the best way of avoiding any potential embarrassment. Except that doing this created a suspicious looking bulge in that nylon sheet they wrap you in and then I was wracked with worries that she might think…well, I don’t have to spell it out.
And so it went on and my aversion to having my hair cut continues. Nowadays it’s just a persistent feeling of subconscious unease; however, the girls here are incredibly well endowed, so even if they’re stood two feet away, when they lean forward there can still be contact with body parts and every time it happens I’m reminded of that awkward thirteen year old boy and I cringe.
I don’t know why I don’t just buy a set of clippers and be done with it once and for all.