January 19th- Haircuts and misery

I have a single bed and a single duvet at home with two pillows. I have a double bed, a double duvet and four pillows at university. The first night back at my flat in Sheffield always feels like I’m a stone that’s hit a pile of feathers at speed. At least, it would have felt like that if there wasn’t overnight work on the road going on outside my flat. I sleep pretty easily, but the pneumatic drill below my window was still something of a small challenge.

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When you’re in the chair, all you can do is grimace and wait for the end.

Today’s main event was getting a haircut. I get my haircut about once every three months and its an event that I have to build myself up to. From the moment you sit down in the chair of the barber and look grimly at yourself in the mirror in front of you, you have to place your faith in a being someone higher than yourself. A slight sip of the hand with the shaver or a snip with a pair of scissors can leave you looking ridiculous for months on end.

This might seem as an overblown worry, but I speak from personal experience. In my second year of university, I lived with three other people: Eleanor, Tom and Nicola. Nicola’s hair needed cutting and she asked me if I would cut her hair for her. I’d tried french plaiting it once before and apparently that was enough to convince her. Nicola asked me. I jumped at it, wondering how hard the job actually could actually be.

Over the next few days, I picked up some genuine scissors for cutting hair with, as I reckoned that I would do a terrible job with a pair from the kitchen. As it emerged, the choice of scissors did not help the matter at all. We decided to set up the barber’s shop in the bathroom, as it’d be easiest place to get rid of the trimmings once we were done. I placed a chair in the middle of the room and wrapped a towel around Nicola’s neck to protect her clothes underneath. At that point, the horror began.

Cutting hair is an addictive process. The first few snips are a cautious affair as you take a little off. Suddenly, there is a slight slip: you took a little off on the right side of the head and you need to correct it. As you seek to cover up your small mistake, you make another, and yet another. Slowly, each snip represents a way of covering your mistakes yet builds up another one. Rapid snip after rapid snip builds up problem after problem. Halfway through, I showed Eleanor my handiwork. The look of sheer shock on her face communicated to me that there was a small problem in what I’d done. We tried together to see if there was any way of saving the situation. There wasn’t.

The problem was that Nicola had asked me to trim her reasonably long hair. I’d ended up giving her a bob. A horribly mishapen bob.

Nicola wasn’t aware of any of this as we were going along. She was enjoying chatting to me and I had no wish to give the secret up that I had encumbered her with an appearance that she’d hate. I realised that the inevitable had to happen: that she’d look in the mirror at some point soon. I gulped.

“It’s ready, Nicola.” I was trying to sound upbeat. I’m not sure if it was worth it.

The events of the rest of that night were too painful to tell here. She ended up going to a hairdresser to try to solve my mistake. On telling the hairdresser that a friend had cut the hair for her, the hairdresser asked her if I was really a friend. Nicola’s hair is now back to its normal length and you can’t really tell of the horrific damage that I had. Nevertheless, the moment that I sit down in the chair of a barber, my mind travels back to carving Nicola’s hair into a horrible mess and a wave of fear passes through me.

Thankfully, I was very happy with my haircut. Remember kids- don’t ask your flatmate to cut your hair. Unless your flatmate is a hairdresser.

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