From the Hairstylist Diaries

I strongly believe in one phrase that I had read somewhere- There are no ugly women, only lazy ones. And although the debate for and against the necessity of grooming is yet to see the day, I for one, think that there is no quicker way to get noticed than by just being dressed right (or not, but we won’t go there now)

So people who are with me will know how intimate our relationship is with our stylists. Almost all my stylists have been ladies from the east and they would wordlessly go about their tasks with no change in facial expressions, no sudden gasps, be it a new tattoo that was not there the last time they did me or some weird, inexplicable request that might raise a few eyebrows in the normal world. If this is one kind of intimacy, we share another kind with our hair dressers.

However much my mother squirms at the idea of letting a man cut her hair, I tend to trust men more with my hair than the women. They are so adept at it in some unfathomable way, so off I went today, back to the stylist who had cut my hair the last time, and had given me three whole months of happy-hair-days. Of course, it goes unsaid that the dude was cute in a hairstylist-kind of way, but that, is just another toss-out-of-the-window fact in this context.

Today I realized just how many perks these guys get, from a ‘this is my space’ frame of thought.  So here is my stylist, let is call him N. He runs his fingers through my hair and tosses them around, and I am thinking how few men I have ever allowed to do that. He then suggests we wash it and then slathers shampoo first and then conditioner and then even dries it. I used to enjoy this ritual until once when one creepy dude went on to massage my neck and I had to catch his eye on the mirror and give him one of ‘those’ looks. So today I keep telling N how uncomfortable the basin is and cut his fussing and washing time by half.

We waddle back to my seat and we discuss what can be done with the hair. I tell N that I want to grow it and that I want him to just trim it a bit, keep the style, only trim. By now we are only talking to each-others’ reflections on the mirror, so he tells me he really could do something else.

‘Will it look nice?’

‘It will look different.’ Smiles.

I don’t like different because it takes time getting used to, so I tell him no, just trim it, and I will look boring and professional, with my business like ponytail and everybody would be happy. Then as he starts his measured-trimming, I remember my planned trip to Singapore and how sad my wavy hair would feel, bound up, in the photos, so suddenly I tell him, ‘Okay, N, just chop it all off’. He grins and says he would do something nice, and starts snipping away. I peek at him from under curtains of my hair, taking in the pierced eyebrow, the tattoo peeking from under a sleeve, the sleeves of his shirt and the arms- oh the arms! This suddenly makes me feel like a guilty voyeur so I say a prayer and shut my eyes, making conversation all the while.

A hairdresser is given that important a place in your life because you blindly (like in my case now) trust them with your looks for the next few months of your life.  We discuss his dad, his home back in Delhi, adapting to Chennai and learning tamil. I feel N blow-drying my hair and wait for him to go viola! I open my eyes to see that I look like Kajol from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I shriek and vehemently tell N that I simply cannot go to work like this, so he makes his puppy dog face and goes about his damage control. He finally gives me something I like and combs my hair a certain way, but I use my fingers and comb them a different way. ‘Whatever I do, you will do what you want only!’ he tries to smile and say through his teeth. See! That is something that only those closest to me know.

I smile my smile, vowing never to come back here again, but I think we both know I would. That is what a regular hair dresser does to you. You start getting used to them, then you start feeling guilty when somebody better comes along, and it will take you all your courage to make the shift. It is like this- for want of a better word- semblance of a mentally platonic affair that you carry on with them. You bond with other girls who share him as a stylist. You feel a twang of jealousy when he remembers their names. You feel let down when he does not remember what cut he gave you the last time. Yet you will publicly profess your undying loyalty to him, and as a gesture of goodwill, tell all your friends about him and ask that they ask for ‘only him, nobody else!’

We women will never change.