You've got to make an appointment, arrive on time, put on a waterproof cape, walk over to the basin, close your eyes and let the water trickle softly through your hair until the hairdresser's magic fingers unravel your deepest thoughts. This is just the first step, entering a perfumed world where there is comfort, solace, foolproof solutions for happiness and advice on how to avoid life's pitfalls. The hair salon is a public forum, a helpline for stress, a walk-in clinic and a monument to acceptance. Common sense billows out with the hot air of the hairdryer, white-haired wisdom changes colour, the smooth path is waved and the knotted one is smoothed.
Hairdressers are therapists who listen, who pull a face when they don't know what else to say, who ask about your kids, your mum and dad or the grandchildren. They take on board and unfaltering go along with, the droning on while suggesting some highlights, becoming a platinum blond or adding some loose curls. The customers lined up on the counters, next to the mirrors, wrapped in silver foil or with their heads covered in clips, let rip their weapons as if they were a line of crack reality troops. They analyse your life, slag off the government, downplay damage, rage against whoever and put to rights what otherwise cannot be put to rights.
In this sacred space, all female customers have a voice; and I mean all females as, except for a few honourable exceptions, men would rather go off to the barbers. Men are intimidated by the hormonal world of small things. However outlandish or intimate the things that we are taken into their confidence about, nobody shoots down another's opinion; they might go quiet or talk about their right to disagree but perish the thought they should pick you apart or put you down. Putting up with contradictions keeps the balance and sense of harmony.
Over the years I have seen how hairdos, cuts, looks and women have changed. Especially the women. But, sometimes, there are still those who keep their silence and smile gently to themselves until one blessed day they open their mouths, nervously and falteringly, and offload among the fumes of hair spray and shampoo, a confession that strikes the forum dumb.
There are still women who live under tyranny, with no voice or life of their own, who have spent their whole lives like little mice, with the job of an unpaid housewife, dreaming, as much as they can, that somebody will come and rescue them.
A customer shared their tale: when they were at their happiest was on Thursdays, when they went to get their hair done.