Saturday, July 14

ask no questions, tell no lies

I tell lies at the hairdresser. Isn’t that awful?

I believe most women like getting their hair done at the salon – but I am not most women. I can’t appreciate anything about it until I am safely home admiring the outcome. I actually find it quite a detestable experience. It’s not just that I look so hideous with that black protective cape wrapped around me, my ugly head sticking up through the middle, surrounded by limp’s mostly the conversation with the person doing the cutting. 


It was a Friday afternoon when I entered the salon.

“Did you get an afternoon off work?” asked my stylist.
“No, I don’t work actually.”
“Oh, so are you a university student?”

I hate these questions, I hate that my life is so complicated to talk about. At this point I’m thinking ok Danielle, just say ‘I’m recovering from an illness, it’s a long story, I won’t go into it now’ and end conversation. But my ‘friendly people pleaser’ side takes over and derides all my plans for non-communication on this topic.
Check out my professional people pleaser post if you’re confused.

“No, I had to withdraw from uni. I’ve actually got a chronic illness...” I say in a near whisper, lest anyone else hear and want to chime into my interrogation.
“Like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?”

Damn, you clued in hairdresser, I think. How did she pick it?! And from then on she wants to know all the intimate details of a life lived with this illness, when it might end, what I do to treat it and more. Delightful, she is, as she tells me it will end. That I just have to be positive because if I’m not I will get depression (what makes her think I don’t?) I really do appreciate her kindness, because I can see she’s a caring woman. But, I can’t bear discussing these issues with a perfect stranger however kind; I feel so very miserable and vulnerable as we discuss me and my illness; this is no everyday chit-chat at the hairdresser, this is my very challenging personal life which I foolishly told her about. Talking about university, my work place, the weather...oh for those to be things we could discuss! I long to be ‘normal’. 

By now I am feeling distressed and exhausted from the emotional drain of this conversation. I try to ask her some things, but she doesn’t take the hint. Not only does she keep asking more and more questions which I find nearly impossible to answer, I am thinking about my hair pulling issues. I can see how thin the hair is on the side of my hair that I generally pull from. I tense every muscle waiting for her to comment on the abnormal thickness of my hair in some places...tell me that I’m slightly balding somewhere...

“So how is your family coping with it?”
“Oh they’re very supportive, which is great.”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”

My heart sinks. Not the boyfriend question, please! Before I have time to think about it, I blurt out,
“Yes, I do.” There it goes, the lie. Now she thinks I have a boyfriend because I am feeling  so uncomfortable and frazzled I can’t bear telling her that I actually have a husband – I have not the fortitude to endure all those exclamations of how very young I am blah blah blah.

“Oh that’s nice. Do you live with him?”

“Yes,” I reply, and then remember that I’m wearing a big engagement ring and a shiny wedding band, which will expose my lie shamefully if she sees it when I pay at the counter.
Underneath that black cape I usually so detest, I carefully slip off my two rings without her noticing. These are desperate times. I place them carefully in my coat pocket, relieved to have removed all traces of the truth.

She finishes off my hair, and being very satisfied with my tidy locks, I hurry out of the chair and pay. As I withdraw my credit card at the desk, I see on the front the bold words:

Mrs Danielle S Martin

She takes my card, and I wish with all my heart that she will not see the Mrs. Please no, don’t let her read the card and discover the discrepancy. My relief is immense as I half run from the salon, and not until I’m a few meters down the road do I pull out my two rings and slip them onto my naked finger. 

My husband and I laugh hysterically on the way home as I admit to taking them off to save face at the hairdresser. The worst thing is that I have done this before, at a different hairdresser. I only do it at the hairdresser, which I think shows how very stressed I get. I wish with all my heart that I had handled it better. I also wish that hairdressers didn’t need to converse - what is wrong with a pleasant silence? I think it unlikely that hairdressers will change in this regard, so I have decided I will do the changing, and have resolved afresh to learn to give a closed answer about my health so as not to become so very distressed. I did role plays with Ben for the next 30 minutes, practicing over and over closing down the questions about my personal life – he pretended to be a hairdresser, a stranger at the gym, a sales assistant and I, for the millionth time said confidently,

“I’m actually recovering from an illness. It’s a bit of a long story, I’d probably rather not talk about it.”

I’m grateful for such a terrible trip to the hairdresser; it motivated me to seriously prepare for future conversations. I feel empowered, ready to face these questions with a sure reply, a confidence that I am under no obligation to talk about my private life. No more lies at the hairdresser!

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