The Soutar women have had their annual haircut, and the results are severe - Gaby Soutar

I am in awe of hairdressers. They wield all the power – to make you happy or crush your dreams.

That’s probably why I don’t go that often. Instead, I mostly tie my hair back in a low-maintenance ponytail.

Although I prefer to think the style is Kim Wexler from Better Call Saul, I probably look more like the most ancient schoolgirl in the world.

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I wear it like this so often that it seems to be thinning round the front from the pressure on those roots, though I rarely tie it into a super tight Croydon facelift.

Hairdressing salonHairdressing salon
Hairdressing salon

Getting it cut is probably an annual affair. The appointment is delayed until my hair resembles a matted Davy Crockett hat and I have to lay it out on the drying green every time I wash it.

I do have one of those top-of-the-range Dyson Supersonic hair dryers, but even this gadget is no match for the phenomenon. I only ever get as far as par-drying it, and leave my nape festering like damp undergrowth.

Maybe I could borrow a leaf blower from the council parks service?

As time passes without a cut, the ponytail gradually gets heavier, and my bobbles start to fray. Part of the reason I still resist my appointment, apart from the financial outlay, is that I’ve never found a regular hairdresser.

Most of my pals have someone they can trust. I’ve never maintained that kind of relationship and, if they don’t know you, most stylists will unleash something from their default middle-aged woman repertoire.

This style is usually The-Apprentice-judge-meets-news-anchor.

This power cut will be glossy and smooth, with the ends folded neatly under, just so. It’ll be thoroughly sprayed in place – all the better to stay put while you board your private jet.

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I am not the person they imagine me to be. Also, my hair doesn’t retain that style. I know it’ll be fine, until I wash it for the first time.

As they finish it with the straighteners, I’ll regard myself in the mirror and try to be optimistic. They show me the back of my head and I think ‘hello, old friend, I haven’t seen you for a year, but I still don’t care what you look like’.

I also watch the people with normal hair in the background, and I feel jealous of their simple follicular joy.

Despite this, I have only cried once in the hairdressers, and that was when they gave me a Tango orange streak through the front. How I wept, until they took pity and fixed it.

Just three days after any cut and post the first shampoo, my wig balloons, like insulation foam. The volume is extraordinary. It is wild, cavewoman-tastic, and will not be tamed.

Nobody in my family has hair like mine. I feel it must be a throwback to a Neolithic ancestor.

“There are fine strands, but you have lots of them,” is the hairdresser’s diagnosis.

I could store things in it, like Roald Dahl’s Mr Twit and his beard. As an experiment, I just stuck an HB pencil in there, and it stayed put. That trick would probably work for cutlery too. Sporks, for when I’m out and about.

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I try to communicate with hairdressers, to tell them about this problem, and really describe what I want. Undercut, thinning scissors, razor cuts, garden shears, a flamethrower, anything to tame and shrink, I say.

It’s difficult, though. I don’t think I speak the lingo. I’m fine with all the holiday chat, but am clueless when they ask technical questions like how I want them to style my hair. What to say? Anything but a news anchor look, perhaps.

Also, they always ask how I dry it, and I always reply, ‘with a hair dryer’, which I know is the wrong answer and might even be considered facetious. I think you’re supposed to say ‘smooth’, ‘with waves’ or ‘scrunched with a soupcon of mousse’.

Sometimes I take pictures to show them what I want. That has helped more than anything.

For my last encounter, I used the excellent phrase ‘French bob with disconnected layers’ and it seemed to unlock a successful result.

When it comes to talking to hairdressers, it seems that my mum has similar difficulties.

I took her to get a cut recently, for the first time in some months. She didn’t want to go back to her last stylist, as they had long fake fingernails, and she didn’t like the feel of them when she got her hair washed. Indeed, it’s bad enough having those basins digging into the back of your neck without the addition of Nosferatu doing a shampoo and head massage.

Thus, we tried somewhere new.

There was a very nice man to do her hair. He looked like television presenter Rylan Clark, who is one of mum’s more outré celebrity crushes.

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“What would you like today?” he asked her. “Something severe,” my mum said. I don’t think that’s a word that should ever be used at a salon, unless you’re angling for a skinhead.

“You mean short?” he said, looking nervous. “Yes, quite severe,” she reiterated. That was to be her only instruction. After all, any decent hairdresser should also be psychic.

“Judi Dench style?” I interjected, and she nodded.

I came to collect her an hour later, and she had a lovely soft pixie cut. She pretended to be happy, but I could tell it wasn’t quite right.

“Too short,” was her damning verdict.

Oh well, at least it’ll grow back, though perhaps it’s time she converted to the ways of the ponytail.



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