BY ANNA MAXTED/, LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH
When, after 20 years, my mother “broke up” with her stylist (he had evidently lost his touch because people had started to tell her, “Oh, you’ve had your hair cut,” with no further comment) it required a cigarette, then a serious phone call incorporating a planned speech, heartfelt thanks and a sober goodbye. It had been a loyal, happy relationship and she was shaking afterwards.
Such fond attachment to the one who wields the scissors is apparently typical: a study this week reveals that more than half of British women count their hair stylist as one of the 10 most important people in their lives.
Women stick with this relationship for an average of 12 years; marriage tends to last a mere 11. And for 10 per cent of women, proximity to their beloved stylist is a consideration when moving house.
Sadly, I am still searching for romance in this regard. Instead I’ve been cursed with a wretched series of one-night stands, during which I’ve been variously transformed into Hillary Clinton, Paul McCartney circa 1964, Frankenstein (“Mom, you look like that monster with bolts in his neck”) and, misguidedly, a flapper.
My high school graduation photo captures a particularly bad bouffant hack job. I had to point myself out to my six-year-old, who scornfully replied: “What – that boy?” I yearn for a meaningful relationship but, despite doggedly searching, I’ve never found The One. I’ve seen off three stylists in the past six months.
Possibly I try too hard. I’m witty, attentive, I listen. I know a remarkable amount about their lives: the grit of their failed relationships, their awful personal tragedies, each cocktail and smooch of their luxury holidays.
If we make it to a second encounter, I can refer to specifics: “And is your mother managing after the upsetting news about your father? How is X? The daughter still being difficult … ?” I want to know. For those 60 or so minutes, I care. But sadly, there’s always something missing; a tragic reason we can’t be together (with Elena, it was moving back to Greece; Charlotte, for all her silver-tongued talk, left me granny-grey).
And occasionally we begin on a bad note – such as on the dire occasion of my 40th birthday, when Peter kept me waiting for 20 minutes. Sensitive to the theme of middle-aged invisibility, I stomped to my coat, prompting a cry of, “but you were 20 minutes early!” I shamefacedly agreed to a coffee, then felt obliged to perform like a seal for the duration. Even if the affair is doomed, one still hopes to be liked.
For while women may boast of unshakable solidarity with their stylist, many know the guilty pleasure of being seen to by a more talented junior while their supposedly perfect match enjoys yet another Florida holiday – because how can you betray a person (to their face) who has nurtured you, made you feel beautiful, who is party to all your secrets, weaknesses and complaints about close family members?
That money exchanges hands must remain irrelevant; this is an alliance of respect and friendship. Meaning that, even if this person crafts your crowning glory into an approximation of a tortoiseshell cat in a gale, only a monster would say, “It’s not lovely.”
Admittedly, I once found myself memorably liberated from all salon protocol after handing over my 10-year-old son to an Eastern European stylist who proceeded to give him a girl’s bob. Miserably, reluctantly, as it dawned on me that I had a duty of care to the small owner of the reflection in the salon mirror, I stopped nodding and roared, “Stop!”
My husband took our son to the barber, where masculinity was restored. I chose to stay at home – where I continue to wash my hair.