In the past 48 hours, somebody somewhere will have typed the final full-stop on the novel that everyone is going to call their masterpiece. Someone else will have had an idea that in 30 years time will have changed the world. A third person will have managed to get all the way through that tricky piano piece without stopping.
None of that has happened to me. But I’ve got used over the last few years to taking my victories on a smaller scale.
In the past 48 hours, I have (cue drum roll) …………………. had a haircut. It’s been 15 months since the last one.
Getting my hair cut is not something I enjoy. Bill Bryson put it quite well:
There is something about being enshrouded in a cape and having my glasses taken away then being set about the head with sharp cutting tools that leaves me feeling helpless and insecure. (Notes from a Big Country, p. 269)
Actually, it’s more than that for me. Getting a haircut is something I dread.
First of all, I don’t like barbers. I didn’t even set foot in one until I was 9 years old. My brother had been ordered to take me with him, and he’d given me a detailed lecture on the way there about all the things I wasn’t to do that might embarrass him. Given that he was about 14 at the time, and so was embarrassed by the simple fact of my existence, it was quite a long list.
The barber himself was nice enough, but decided to have some fun at my expense by pretending he thought I was a girl, because my hair was quite long. It hadn’t been included in the lecture, but I could tell from my brother’s reaction that Not Looking Like A Girl had been the most important part of the test. Things got even worse a bit later on when the barber got out a cut-throat razor and started waving it around by my ears. That first experience has certainly left me with a residual feeling that going to the hairdresser is like sitting an exam you’re guaranteed to fail, and that there’s always a scary surprise just round the corner.
Secondly, I don’t like the way you’re put on display. When you first walk in it’s like that bit in a western where the piano stops playing and everyone turns round to stare at the new arrival. Then, when it’s your turn, you have to sit on a chair that’s handily positioned so that everyone in the room can have a good old gawp at you. Sometimes there are even spotlights. By inclination I’m the kind of person who likes to sidle unobtrusively into a room and find a nice dark corner out of the way, so this is all a bit traumatic for me.
Thirdly, I don’t like the way they sit you in front of a great big mirror. I do wear glasses, but I can see well enough to see my reflection. I don’t have any proper (i.e. clinical) body image issues, but once I’ve been sitting in a chair staring at myself for a couple of minutes my mental commentary runs something like this:
Look, even without your glasses on you can see the creases round your eyes – they must be really massive. And as for your skin, my god, surely a man of your age shouldn’t have that many blackheads. Not to mention the spots. Oh, and look, when she combs your hair up like that, your hairline is halfway to the back of your skull. It’s definitely receding. And did you see the way that hair suddenly gleamed in the light like that? And that one? Looks like you’re going grey, too. And is that a double chin that’s bulging out above the collar of this cape thing they’ve put you in? It is, you know. You’re a fatty old fatso with a double-chin, terrible skin and lousy hair that’s turning grey as fast as it’s falling out. No wonder you can’t pull. No wonder you haven’t got any friends – who’d want to be seen with something as hideous as you?
Finally, I don’t like the social pressure of it, which maybe sounds a bit weird. I’ve never really liked social situations. The bit of a party that’s always worst for me is when you have to try and find something to talk about with someone you have absolutely nothing in common with. If you think about it, this is almost exactly what happens in a hairdressers, except you’re the centre of attention, so other people are taking note of everything you say. It doesn’t help that I don’t have an easy answer for even the most basic of friendly questions:
“So you’re not working today then?” “No. I’m a fat lazy slob who’s using your hard-earned taxes to pay for this haircut.” “Oh.”
Anyway, the point of all this is that you can trust me when I say that I don’t like getting a haircut. But I do like having had a haircut. I’d like to pretend I’m an incredibly right-on person who doesn’t care what people think about my personal appearance, but, actually, I’m just as vain as the next shallow queen. (Although I do stop short of thinking that hair product is a really interesting topic of conversation.)
So this has been a bit of a problem for me over the past few months. I want to get a haircut, because I think I look like shit without one, and looking like shit makes me feel like shit. But, because I’m feeling like shit, I can’t face going to get a haircut. But not being able to face it makes me feel even more shit, because getting haircut is an ordinary thing that normal people do every other week without even noticing it. And then, because I feel even more shit, I feel even less able to go and get a haircut…….and so on and so on.
And this is why I’m feeling like it’s such a momentous occasion that I actually managed to break the cycle and go and get it done. Part of me feels that I ought to feel really proud of myself for getting up off my arse and getting it done without any encouragement from anyone else.
But, then again, what kind of a pathetic loser feels so proud of something so simple? And not only feels privately proud, but actually looks for public validation by going to his blog and bragging about it? Actually sits down and types out the words ‘I ought to feel really proud of myself’, and doesn’t stop himself from going ahead and posting something so disgustingly weak and needy where everyone will see it?
That’s the trouble with depressive thinking: it gets you coming and going.