Most princesses worth their pout absolutely love checking into the hairdressers for the afternoon. For many reasons, I couldn’t think of anything worse.
The idea of sitting in front of a mirror for six hours, eyes locked on hours of inescapable self-scrutiny, makes me want to run straight for the nearest bottle of bleach. I mean the DIY hair variety, not Donald Trump’s proposed solution for COVID, but if I have to endure another trip to a horrible hairdresser, this could change.
I’ve been a proud self-medicating bottle blonde addict for most of my life. After landing the leading role in Dye Hard 9 in Melbourne lockdown on-location in my ensuite, my signature blonde had ended up many colours of the DIY rainbow. I had enjoyed the fun, but had recently transformed myself back into Goldilocks. Happy with the colour, as Freedom Day approached, I fought tooth and nail for a booking at a swanky hairdressers on the proviso of treating myself to the long awaited post-lockdown haircut. This will be nice, I thought. How wrong could I be.
Having very fine hair like mine isn’t great. I guess it does have its merits. It’s easy to dye. It doesn’t get caught in clumps in the plug hole. It takes 2 minutes and 30 seconds to blow dry.
When I had a very messy breakup with an especially psychopathic ex, one of his many attempts to spark a reaction from me was his series of texts about how the new chick he was hooking up with actually “had hair”. Which made me laugh a lot. Bet she was tearing it out after ten minutes with him. And no, I didn’t text back.
I used to work as a dancer and at weekends we had a hair and makeup guy come in. It was hard for most of the girls to find a spot on the list of Rapunzel-haired women whose tresses took hours to be teased. But not me. The hairdresser always saved me til lucky last and used to joke about how he only needed 5 minutes to curl my “one strand”. I didn’t even suit those Bo-Peep style curls anyway. I tried to make the “Lost Poodle” match my girl next door aesthetic, but realised that doggy needed to be let off the leash.
Anyway I digress.
Here I am walking into a salon close to the city. Cloaked up and seated in the chair of doom, the woman soon to be known as Hairzilla gives me a little wave from across the room as she puts the finishing touches to her other client’s radiant auburn lion’s mane. I misconstrued her sympathetic smiles for affability, camaraderie if you will.
Hairzilla sashays over like she owns the place. I realise later that’s because she does.
“So, how are you?” she says disparagingly, like she was speaking to someone who had just got out of jail for armed assault.
She doesn’t wait for a reply.
“And what’s the plan for… this?” she asks, ruffling my hair disapprovingly.
I’ve been here before. I’m going to tell her what I want, and she is going to do the complete opposite. I’ll walk out rocking the Lost Poodle after specifically asking for no curls. She will administer a crash helmet of hairspray and it’ll look like uncooked 2 minute noodles. She’ll backcomb me to within an inch of my…
Before I can find the words, she continues the conversation with herself.
“We have a series problem here,” she laughs to nobody in particular, picking up sections of my hair.
“You need some serious help. You are only booked in for a cut. This is going to take much more than that”
She leans in and theatrically whispers in my ear.
“What the fuck have you done to it?”
Now I never thought I was going to win any modelling contracts for Hair magazine, but I can’t say I lose sleep over the home dye attempts I’ve self-administered over the last few years. I think I did an OK job. Moreover, I didn’t come in to this place expecting to be torn to shreds. Little did I realise this was just the beginning.
“You’re just not meant to be a blonde hun,” she says, shaking her angry Uma Thurman-in-Pulp-fiction bob.
I explain that I’ve been one for my whole life. She giggles like a sugarbaby about to walk into Louis Vuitton with someone else’s Amex and shakes her head. Clearly she thinks I am joking.
“We’ve just had a cancellation for bleach on scalp. We can fix this… you need this more than whatever you had planned for the afternoon.”
“I’ll get Kelvin to get you a drink,” she says, beckoning over a willowy, pale, Machine Gun Kelly type with a peroxide blonde hedgehog haircut, slightly green tinged at the edges. I eye him suspiciously, wondering if Hairzilla has anything to say about her apprentice’s haircut, or even worse, what I would look like if that ends up being today’s outcome for me.
Anticipating the incoming debacle, I most definitely am ready for a drink. It’s only 10am but hell yes I’d like a wine. I do not care who judges me, this is supposed to be my chill time and peppermint tea is clearly not going to cut it. Machine Gun Kelvin obliges with an approving nod.
Hairzilla returns as I am enthusiastically slurping down my breakfast pinot grigio. She can barely hide her disgust for me. As I grudgingly commit to her prescription for my “emergency rescue” she softens slightly.
The customary chit chat begins.
“So what do you do for work then?”
I realise I’m in this for the long haul, so I take a gorgeous grapey gulp of smalltalk juice.
“You work in media??” she is visibly aghast.
“But you’re not actually on TV though are you?” she clearly thinks it’s an impossible suggestion that anyone without voluminous hair extensions down to their ass crack could possibly be in front of a camera.
Wrapped in foil and doused in burning hot sauce, I feel like leftover kebab, slowly baking in my own self loathing. As my scalp starts to buzz like wasps have burrowed under the surface, I surrender to life in the chair.
Three hours later, I’m high on bleach, sugar buzzed on complementary almond biscuits and half pissed on a third glass of vino courtesy of Machine Gun Kelvin, AKA my saving grace. He hands me another biscotti under the table like he’s passing me a baggie under the watchful eye of a doorman at Revs. Crunch. Pop. Fizz. Gulp.
Is that tingle supposed to be there, I wonder? I swear it never feels like someone poured acid on my head when I DIY. I stare at myself gloomily in the mirror; hair pulled back, face pale and crinkly like a slept on pillow, eyes dark rimmed, looking like one of those weird fish discovered in the deep sea that sometimes float into your nightmares. I consider asking Kelvin for the remote to change the channel in the mirror, but instead ask him for another biccy.
“Why don’t you order some Uber Eats babe?” he suggests with genuine concern.
I have a horrific vision of myself chowing down on Door Dash sushi spread with bleach instead of wasabi.
“I’ll be OK thanks darling,” I say weakly, my head vibrating with bleach buzz and the crunch of the biscuit, crumbs everywhere.
I begin to wonder if Hairzilla stuck popping candy in my follicles for shits and giggs.
She stalks over with the ever critical eye. I feel like I’m in the scene of Jurassic Park where the T-Rex is nudging the car and I am one of the kids hiding under it.
I wonder what my fate will be, will she chew me up and spit me out, or will I run free, hair streaked with blood and rain, to shampoo, safety and…
“OK Kelvin, she’s ready for the basin, thanks.”
Oh what an ambrosial, soothing feeling to be free of the foil. To feel the departing colourant rinse my sins away. To smell the salvation of sweet, aromatic conditioner. To get the head massage to end all head massages from my new favourite human, Machine Gun Kelvin.
I’m almost brought to tears of joy and relief when Hairzilla ushers Kelvin away as he goes to tell her I’m ready for Round 2.
“You can do the cut,” she says to him with a wily smirk, ready for the TKO punchline.
“Won’t be too complicated, there’s not much of it.”
I feel myself coming back to life. As he blow dries at just the right temperature, I dare to make eye contact with myself in the mirror and no longer see the kraken, or a drowned rat, but me again, emerging from beneath the haystack. He even goes easy on the spray and gives me the tousled, ruffled volume that I can usually only achieve by Day 3 of a music festival . Dusted down, off with the gown and Hairzilla is waiting at the counter.
“A definite improvement,” she says, looking me directly in the eye. Met with such a disparaging gaze, I feel like I am standing in front of my high school history teacher. I feel like she really wants to add “could do better” in red pen at the end, but stops herself. Well there’s a first.
She steadies her gaze and smiles a digital smile, as if the alien who is programming her inside finally located the “smile” button.
“Just promise me that you’ll never touch a box dye again,” she reprimands.
“Would you like to buy any products to help with your condition?” -hang on isn’t it supposed to be help keep your hair conditioned?
My eyes say no, but knowing my ego is at rock bottom, she seizes her opportunity and starts walking me through all the things she will try to convince me I need to buy to be socially acceptable. Fuck it, I think, grabbing thickening serum and heat protector. May as well cultivate some good habits and see if this mop top actually has hidden potential.
“That’ll be $704,” Hairzilla says in robot, without flinching.
I’d pay triple that to get out of there and never return.
Walking to the tram stop, I catch a glimpse of my hair in a shop window. In all honesty, it looks fine. But not damn fine. Fine as in “your fine hair still looks very fine.”
I see the tram snaking round the corner but keep walking past the stop. I see a pharmacy and stroll in, making a beeline for the hair aisle. Airbrushed glamour women with mega watt smiles glow at me from the boxes of dye. It’s my crew. Hey bitches, I missed you! I pick up three boxes of the usual, with a pink wash for the cherry on the top, stroking the boxes like old friends and feeling better already.