I got my hair cut this evening. Thankfully, it was a remarkably unremarkable visit. As a rule, I am terrible at going to the hairdresser.
I do not like people touching my head, so I’m on edge from the moment I arrive. This combines with my general awkwardness – and desperate desire to be universally loved – to make me perfectly primed to fall down conversational rabbit holes I have no way of getting out of. Reasonable questions reduce me to manic babble (at best) and outright lies (most of the time).
“Do you use well water?”
Her tone made it very clear that there was a correct answer, but my brain could not in any way parse the question. Well… water? Water that is… well? It was not until literally days later that I suddenly understood that she meant water that comes from a well. In the moment, I could only make a random stab at guessing which answer she was looking for.
– “That’s strange, because your hair is really green”.
– “Is… Is it?”
– “Yes. Really, really green”.
She then charged me extra for using heated scissors. I was fourteen, and terrified.
“Isn’t the rain terrible?”
– “Yes! But not as bad here as it is in Oxford! My friend’s at uni there and his whole house has flooded!” [It hadn’t.]
– “That’s awful. Is he there?”
– “No, he’s at home for the holidays.”
– “Isn’t he going back to assess the damage?”
– “No, he’s not going back for another month.”
– “His whole house is flooded but he’s not going back?”
– “For another month?
– “That seems like a strange decision.”
– “Yes, doesn’t it?”
I loved my haircut. I never went back.
“Which soaps do you watch?”
I started OK. Although I don’t watch any soaps now, I spent years watching every soap terrestrial telly had to offer, completely indiscriminately. I’d spend solid hours each evening with the TV chattering away in the background while I got on with whatever else I was doing. I’d start at 5 with Home & Away and carry on until Coronation Street at 8, via Ramsay Street, Chester, Brookside Close, Emmerdale Farm and Albert Square along the way. I was merrily explaining this to the salon junior – I’M JUST LIKE YOU, SEE? – when she cut me off.
She loved Hollyoaks. Exclusively and wholeheartedly. Had I seen the trailer for everything that was going to happen this year? It looked amazing.
No, I hadn’t.
Remember I mentioned that I need to be loved? It means that even though there is nothing I would like more than not having to make conversation, I can’t let silences stand.
“Go on then. What’s going to happen in Hollyoaks this year?”
It’s worth mentioning that this was right at the start of the visit. I was at the sink, with my head craned awkwardly backwards (“Is that angle ok?” “Perfect! Thanks!”), uncomfortably hot water streaming down my neck (“How’s the temperature?” “Lovely! Thanks!”), my legs pointing straight out in front of me (“Do you want the massage chair?” “Definitely! Thanks!”), and conditioner bunging up one ear. She immediately stopped what she was doing.
“WAIT THERE! I’LL GET MY PHONE!”
She got her phone. She opened YouTube. She loaded the aforementioned Hollyoaks trailer. And then she handed her phone to me.
Are you picturing this scene? I am mostly horizontal and cannot turn my head. There is no way for me to watch the video other than to hold the phone directly over my face. The video is a minute and a half long; it feels like it lasts several years.
“The card machine’s a bit slow today, sorry.”
Silence is fine. Silence is fine. You don’t have to make conversation. Silence is fine. Oh look, what’s that? A leaflet encouraging you to buy your dad a Headmasters voucher for Father’s Day! With a hot male model on!
“I wish MY dad looked like that! ………….except…… I don’t………… because that is the creepiest thing I’ve ever said. Thankssomuchbye.”