Hairdressers are more dangerous than psychics. A psychic has to make the first move; their job is to know what to say before you tell them what they should be talking about. If a psychic has a false start, they’re done for. Your disbelief is suspended only as long as they can keep pumping out vague connections and suggestions.
Hairdressers are an entirely different story. With a hairdresser, you start the exchange – they will stand there and glare at the back of your head and clip clip clip until finally you feel the intense need to break the silence. The clicking of the scissors eventually overwhelms you, and you open up your mouth to speak. Even then the burden isn’t on the hairdresser, because for all they care you could talk to yourself in the mirror the entire time. That’s what the mirror is there for, afterall.
And so you talk and talk to your own reflection until finally you strike upon a topic. Astrology. South Philadelphia. White trash. Divorced parents. Heat waves. And, suddenly, you are putty in their hands.
This is how hairdressers operate. They lie in wait like a spider at the center of a web just waiting for a fly to catch its leg on the tiniest strand. And then the pounce – yes, they know just what you mean about living in South Philly a mile away from the projects and trying to pick the nicest street to take up to South and oh my aren’t those little old ladies that live next door the friendliest thing ever? I sometimes think hairdressers all take classes in character acting and do regional surveys so they can be anyone they need to be for you to talk to; the only reason that they have a shampoo girl is because they are at their station slipping to right character for you.
Hairdressers bait and switch. Trash South Philadelphia but then mention that you just moved in a block away from my house. Talk about how astrology never works and then talk about how your boyfriend’s sign is perfect for you. Mention how the news overhypes heat waves and then lament the heat-related deaths. And then joke about them. Because, the haircut is immaterial, really. I know plenty of people who consistently get bad haircuts but keep crawling back for the same damned happy banter. Hairdressers are our pop-psychologist, our armchair psychic, our trendy aunt with the cool hairdo and hip belt. Their opinions matter, and they are forever waiting for you to just say the right words.