Regular eye-listeners will know that I’ve been cutting my own hair since about 2000. For a couple of years at Uni one of my house mates used to cut it with clippers for me and for about 6 months around 2010 I went to the same hair dresser as WifeFace.
I tell people the reason is that hairdressing is a scam to relive us of our hard earned $$$ and that practitioners of the dark art are just shills for Big Follicle.
The more deductively gifted amongst you could probably figure out the real reasons. Going for a haircut pretty much became the poster child for my anxiety. You get stuck in a situation you can’t leave, you are obliged to engage in small talk and someone is paying attention to your appearance in minute detail.
I don’t want people looking at me, I don’t want a discussion about how I could wear my hair, I can’t perceive a way that it could be cut that would make me happy with my appearance.
Years of avoidance made something that should have been an hour of mild discomfort into something huge. I’ve messed up my home haircuts plenty of times (too short, guard fell of being the usual) but that risk seemed favourable to having to drive to a strange place and figure out what I am meant to do to get a haircut.
As this was such a visible and tangible issue I recognised the value of trying to get it sorted. My therapy has been going well and the mindfulness and meditation techniques I have learned have eased the suffering I have been putting myself through.
When I first visited my GP I noticed that around the corner from his office was an ‘old school’ style barber shop. “No appointments, walk and sit down and wait your turn” is written on a large friendly sign.
Two boxes ticked, I know how to drive here, I know I don’t have to phone up first and I can just go in and wait my turn.
I had to see my GP this week for a follow up on my Mental Health Plan (you can access up to 10 sessions with Medicare rebate but have to review after the first 6) so I decided I would see him and then go for a haircut.
I emailed my psychologist telling her that if I turned up on Friday for our next appointment without professionally cut hair I would have some explaining to do! She replied and reminded me to breath. I was now in the position where I was probably as anxious about ‘failing’ as the actual haircut.
Having the GP appointment first really helped. I knew I could rely on the Doc for a pep talk as he completely understood my anxiety having some mild variation of some of my problems himself. As luck would have it he was sporting a fresh haircut for the exact place I planned on visiting. He talked me through the exact process (walk in, say hello, turn left, sit on the bench, ask for “short back and sides”) and told me where I could move my car too to avoid getting towed from the medical centre car park.
I finished with the Doc and drove around the corner to the complex the barber is in. I walked up and snapped a pic of the outside and posted it for you dear friends.
As it happens I was about 6th in line. Two people in the chairs and 4 waiting ahead of me. The wait was torture. I was able to chat to two of my good buddies that understand my brain on my phone as I waited and they helped keep me calm (thanks boys). A guy in the line left for a while and came back with sushi and coffee (he did not bring enough to share) and this spiked my anxiety about whether he retained his order in the line.
I didn’t actually care if he was before me I was more anxious about there being a ‘thing’ if I stood up and he said it was his turn. I checked with my friends who both agreed if you walk out you lose your place in line. Especially if you don’t bring enough sushi for everyone. Mr Sushi leapt up and grabbed his original place in line.
I had been debating whether to tell the barber that I am a crazy person but decided against it and just asked for a short back and sides. The small talk was empty but not torturous. The guy was too distracted with the radio breaking to strike up a ‘real’ conversation. I would have preferred to have made some kind of connection but I realise I can’t make a friend at every single place I visit.
The haircut is neat and looks better than my own efforts. It was cheap and I think I can easily go back again.
I had some other things to say but I might write to you again at the end of the week.
I’d like to encourage anyone who has been feeling anything even remotely similar to things I talk about to speak up. The support I have had both professionally from my GP and psychologist and from friends and family is making my life better. I feel like I reclaiming my sense of self one small step at a time. No-one should have to suffer and there are ways to ease it and live life that are super easy to learn if you are willing.