How pathetic am I?

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.

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11 Responses to How pathetic am I?

  1. sadjunkie says:

    Enjoyed your post. I’m similarly resistant to getting a haircut, though for me, it’s mostly because I’m indecisive and never really happy with the results. I can really relate to the difficulty of getting out of a depressive cycle.

  2. I used to feel the same way about the small victories, but I don’t really feel proud about them these days. Then again, I don’t beat myself up much over the small failures, so maybe it evens out.

    The last time I went to a hairdressers was 1998. I think one of the reasons I decided to have long hair was as a way to avoid the soul-crushing awfulness of getting my hair cut. These days I could probably handle it, but I’m so used to having long hair that I don’t need to.

  3. Zoe says:

    Well I think you’re great Aethelread, if only because you occasionally have been known to read my blog. Please go to it now and comment, I beg of you! Am I reduced to this? Yes I am… so you thought you were pathetic!

  4. aethelreadtheunread says:

    ‘the soul-crushing awfulness of getting my hair cut’

    lol, i like that phrase. :o)

    I actually thought that hating the hairdressers was just a “me” thing, so it’s interesting to know I’m not alone. So far there’s Bill Bryson, sadjunkie, experimental chimp, and me. Perhaps we could start a protest movement….

    Zoe – thanks for the compliment. I’m heading over now, i promise…. ;o)

  5. DeeDee Ramona says:

    Most hairdressers appreciate that I _don’t_ talk when getting my hair done. So I think the fact that you stay silent while they snip is a plus for them, not a minus. Lots of women really hate getting their hair done too it seems (I love having mine done, but then, I’m vain). So you’re not alone in that at all. (I also don’t mind visiting the dentist, so I’m obviously mad :-).

  6. I can completely identify with hating the whole thing of being on show.I had not got my hair cut in two years til March.Initially I was stressed about it, but in the end I was glad I had it done.Alas it needs doing again, paticularly as I sweat so much on my meds & you know I’m hating the though of going in there.
    These are important victories so don’t put yourself down.

  7. aethelreadtheunread says:

    DeeDee – Not sure about whether or not hairdressers like you to sit in silence. This time there was a guy ahead of me who sat quietly, speaking when he was spoken to, but not volunteering anything. After he’d gone there were lots of comments among the staff: “Wow, you really hit it off with him.” “Yeah, miserable bastard” etc. I strongly suspect they were saying the same about me after i’d gone – but then again I always tend to assume folk are talking about me behind my back. Paranoid? Me?

    Seratonin – Thanks for the empathy. And, you know, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over hating the thought of going back to the hairdressers yourself – like you say, it’s a victory to have got there once. :o)

  8. LSNDuck says:

    I have a similar dislike of hairdressers, particularly for the social pressure of the situation, both with the hairdresser themselves and the inevitable audience.

    Fortunately, I suffer from very little personal vanity (in fact, I probably suffer from having far too little), so I am quite content with my own pair of hair-clippers and looking like a thug for a couple of weeks every few months. Although it take practice to be able to do your own ear-line and the back of your neck.

  9. DeeDee Ramona says:

    Oh dear, looks like my hairdresser probably says the same thing about me too then, as I tend not to chat to them. Mainly because I doubt they are really all that interested in where I am going on holiday / my plans for the weekend / my opinion of the current meteorological conditions…. oh well!

  10. Chouette says:

    Far from pathetic – you’re doing much better than me hairwise, I haven’t had a hair cut since i was 14.
    I think I would like to have one actually (correction, I’d *love* to have a haircut, I’d feel much more normal and feminine), as I’m fed up of having such long hair, but since depression has left my hair ridculously matted, I need to sort that out before I can even consider braving a salon (which could be quite a scary experience in itself!).

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