I don’t like chatting with the hairdresser.
Not because I don’t like small talk.
I’m actually okay with some superficial natter. If we’re just going to talk about the weather, the football, the general state-of-things, I don’t mind that.
Because none of that’s too personal.
What I hate is being asked questions about my personal life.
Why? Because I’m just too ‘weird’ to deal.
The most innocuous, everyday enquiries – ‘what you been up to, then?’; ‘any plans for the weekend?’ – you know, the typical hairdresser chit-chat – fills me with dread.
Because I never really have anything to say.
When you get asked these sorts of questions, you’re meant to reply with reference to mates, dates, nights out, family get-togethers i.e. social stuff, stuff that situates you in relation to others, plans with other people.
Being schizoid, being solitary, I’m rarely able to give such answers.
And this makes me incredibly, butt-clenchingly, self-conscious.
I worry that my hairdresser will think me strange, sad, boring, with my replies of ‘not much’, ‘nothing’, ‘oh, the usual, you know’. I worry about coming across as not social enough, not normal enough.
Gender comes into it, too. Conventional, stereotypical femininity is performed, and reproduced, at ‘the hairdressers’. A femininity that’s heterosexual, sociable, pretty, pretty trivial.
And I don’t fit into that. I never have. Being at the hairdressers is a bit like being back at school for me. I’m too socially awkward, too bookish, too quiet, too different, to be able to converse comfortably with the straight, sociable – ‘normal’ – girls.
I also hate being asked questions at the hairdressers because it brings on that schizoid-y feeling of impingement.
This was illuminated for me on reading this in R.D. Laing’s book The Divided Self:
“… he was uneasy about having to answer any questions about himself that the barber might possibly ask, however ‘innocent’, for example, ‘Do you like football?’… In the barber’s chair he was caught: for him it was a nightmare situation in which while his hair was being shorn, he would be shorn of his anonymity by having to commit himself, by becoming congealed for a moment into someone definite.”
I find the hairdressers intense – in that, I’m pinned to a chair, sat directly in front of a mirror, forced to endure a one-on-one conversation for an hour, answering questions about myself. It makes me feel trapped. I can’t ‘escape’ from being seen, from being scrutinised, by the hairdresser. I’m required to sit there, to speak, to show, to “commit”, myself.
This is made worse by the fact I go back to the same hairdresser each time. This means a relationship of some kind starts to form. And this makes me uncomfortable. For I feel there’s an expectation, an obligation, even, to further, to deepen, the ‘relationship’, by ‘getting-to-know-one-another-a-bit-better’. And I’d really rather not. I don’t want to become entangled, I don’t want to become ‘known’.
I’d really much rather be asked about the weather!