There’s something about the hairdressers that turns me into a crazy person. It’s an instant transformation which happens as soon as I pass the thresh hold. Perhaps it’s the bright lights or the thick sent of beauty products, but I seem to spontaneously change into a nervous, bumbling wreck that bumps into everything. This mornings’ hazard was a display of Keratin Moroccan hair oil, (fortunately I caught the bottles before they tumbled towards the marble floor!) WHOOPS! I screeched as I tried to regain my composure.
I’ve never been a huge fan of having attention drawn to myself, mainly because I associate it with scrutiny. So when following the glamorous stylist lady towards the seating area, all I could think was; act normal for God’s sake. Unfortunately my version of ‘normal’ is to grin like a Cheshire cat on Crystal Meth and talk in a high pitched voice. I’m not comfortable being served or fussed over either… so when the poor young trainee approaches and asks whether she can get me a drink I’m half tempted to offer to make it myself.
The most stressful part of the experience is the conversation, as hairdresser chat makes me incredibly nervous. What on earth are we going to talk about for an hour? I also feel an overwhelming desire for their approval and just agree with everything they say! My brother tackles this with a simple albeit slightly offensive approach; I don’t encourage conversation. If they’re yapping then they’re not concentrating on my hair. I understand his logic, if you’ve got hair as cool as my brother’s then you can’t afford any cock ups 😉 (don’t hate me lad!)
All jokes aside (for now,) I think it’s the vulnerability aspect that makes me anxious. Under the harsh lighting I can’t hide away and keep my head down. I’m forced to look at myself in those giant mirrors and discuss my appearance with a stranger. It’s the wet hair too, it feels odd. Nobody sees me with wet hair except Dan and Rigby (my bitch.) You’ve got very fine hair, she observes loudly. I want to respond sarcastically and say; Really, you’re joking? Gosh I’ve had that hair on my head for 27 years and I’ve never bloody noticed. Thank you so much for pointing it out. (In all fairness, she was very nice and I was just being over sensitive.)
To a certain extent I think that it reminds me of school. School was the only other time in my life when strangers made such blunt observations about the way I looked. I’ve mentioned previously that this did a lot of damage to my self-esteem. You look like a little boy, where are your boobs? – you look like a milk bottle, why are you so pale? – Cluuuire Eastham is minging. These were some of the main taunts which have stayed with me. After spending five years trying to divert attention away from myself (and investing in multiple quantities of fake tan,) any situation in which my appearance is the focus feels bizarre. Naturally I’m smart enough to realise that a hairdresser would never call me minging, but I still feel on edge, bracing myself for the next blow.
Anyway, for the first time this morning I decided to make a change, (after the clumsy Morrocan oil glitch!) I ordered an orange juice from the trainee politely but without apology, explained in detail to the hairdresser about what I wanted and promptly got out my book. Do you mind if I read? I asked? To which she happily responded; Not at all. She didn’t scowl as I’d previously feared or cut a huge chunk out of my fringe in vengeance. It made me think that perhaps she was glad of the silence too.
The first ten minutes felt strange, as do most changes. But eventually my mind drifted away and I passed a nice relaxing hour reading; Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe (fantastic book btw.) I left the hairdressers feeling relaxed and pleased with myself.
Change is rarely easy, but it’s important. Rather than dreading a situation or moaning, why not try and alter it slightly? One things for certain, if nothing changes then neither will your misery. My ‘bookoff’ at the hairdressers was a positive change for me and although it might seem small, it had a huge impact on my stress levels and overall mood.
So here’s my challenge… this weekend I want you to do something that makes YOU happy (nothing illegal please.) E.g. Cancel an engagement that you feel obliged to go to and have a TV day instead. Or finally complain to your neighbour about his late night karaoke habits, (long story.) It might be awkward or uncomfortable, but sometimes you just need to change something for yourself.
Categories: Social Anxiety