Tuesday 21 November 2017

Katie Byrne: Cut and run - How do you break up with your hairdresser?

Features writer Katie Byrne
Features writer Katie Byrne
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

I recently had no other option but to tell one of the significant men in my life that I hadn't been entirely faithful to him.

I framed it as "a momentary lapse of sanity" and promised that it would never, ever happen again. Unfortunately my pleas for forgiveness were met by the shrill sound of silence.

"I don't know what I was thinking," I continued.

"It was just an in-and-out job," I added.

"It meant nothing!"

And still, he just stared at me, partly in defiance, partly in shock.

Growing desperate, I tried the blame game. "I couldn't get an appointment with you!" I railed. "And... I was lonely."

Eventually he reached into his leather satchel and took out his scissors. The first cut is the deepest.

Like many women, I am in a committed relationship with my hairdresser. The marriage certificate, in this case, is the blunt fringe that he recently styled into my hair.

There may as well be a 'patent pending' on this fringe, which he describes as a "contemporary Bettie Page". It is rendered with the preciseness of an engineer and the perfectionism of an artist, snip by snip, hair by hair, until it is spirit-level-straight. And even then he's not happy...

If we ever split up, he gets the fringe. That he has made perfectly clear. It is his creation and I'll never meet anyone who will fringe me like he does…

Needless to say, my transgressions with another hairdresser have caused a deep rift in our relationship. We have trust issues now. He's hurt that I fell into the salon chair of another stylist. He's even more hurt that it was a high street hairdresser of the Krazy Kutz variety. You left me for that?

Of course, it's easy to understand why hairdressers are hurt when their client goes off-side. After all, this relationship is so much more than a business transaction. It's an emotionally intimate dynamic with a person who massages your scalp, runs their fingers through your hair and pretends that your greys really aren't that bad.

A hairdresser is both a confidante and a cheerleader. They see you at your worst and they see you at your best. Plus, they know you are irrational, unreasonable and completely unrealistic - and they're OK with that. "Straight but not poker-straight... Wavy but not curly... Auburn but not red…

"Yes, I know my hair is so over-processed that it is snapping at the touch, but do you reckon we could go for just the teeniest-weeniest little quarter-head of highlights and I'll never ask again?

"Yes, I admit that it has been almost a decade since I've had a proper cut but if you could just - just this once - take no more than half an inch off, I'd really appreciate it."

A man who can negotiate the utterly illogical side of your personality, romantically or otherwise, is generally thought to be a keeper - but sometimes even the most patient, considerate coiffeurs have to get the cut. A friend of mine is patiently waiting for her hairdresser to die. She doesn't actually want him to die, it would just be very helpful if he did… peacefully, at home. The trouble is that he's been giving her the same old missionary-style layered cut for the last 10 years and she's looking for something a little more adventurous. Unfortunately, he lives locally and he gives her very generous mates' rates. To go off-side is to tell him that he no longer excites her.

She could have an affair with another hairdresser, yes, but the risk of running into her main squeeze in the local Tesco while sporting a sexy shag cut is just too high. And she doesn't want to hide in the canned foods aisle, which is essentially what I've been doing for a few years now.

I have an ex-hairdresser. We enjoyed many happy years together until he became a touch controlling. I needed a complete image overhaul, he decided. This culminated in the suggestion that I shave the side of my head, à la Rihanna.

"Absolutely no chance," I thought to myself.

"Sounds great!" I said to him. "Let's do it next week."

The worrying part is that I actually considered it. There's something about avant garde hair salons that make you reconsider the parameters of your identity and forget who you are for a moment.

You're surrounded by tattoo sleeves and piercings and outfits by Belgian fashion designers so you think, if only for a few minutes, that you might just be a bit alternative yourself.

Or not. It took one phone call to a friend to confirm that I had indeed lost my mind. How did I think a shaved head was a good idea? All of a sudden I felt like my boyfriend had talked me into a threesome with the weird Scandinavian barmaid in the local pub.

I never saw him again - when it comes to hairdressers, it's the only way to say goodbye.

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