A friend was telling me the other day that although her elderly parents won’t permit her or her sister to enter their house over Christmas for fear of coronavirus, her mother is still planning on going to the hairdresser tomorrow.
Most of us probably think that’s a bit weird, to say the least. The risk of catching coronavirus at the hairdresser is probably much higher than it is from allowing members of your own family to enter your house with suitably washed hands. And if you’re scorning all visitors it doesn’t matter what your hair looks like anyway.
There are two questions here; firstly, why does her mother still want to go to the hairdresser, and secondly, how does she react to that? I’m only going to deal with the first here, but the second may appear in a subsequent blog.
Now Panic and Freak Out
This is a time of crisis, in case you haven’t noticed. Crises make people behave in odd ways. Just look at the whole loo roll thing. Why loo roll? Why not milk or bread or clean underwear? It all comes down to a need for control. If I have loo roll I can wipe my arse like a civilized person and civilization is therefore safe. If I have nice hair I look like a civilized person and therefore all is well. When the world is going to pieces around us, we tend to snatch at anything we can control and hold onto it for dear life. And of course having nice hair is also important for people’s self-esteem. Just as you wouldn’t want to be rushed to hospital in dirty underwear, you wouldn’t want to be taken ill with poorly styled hair.
Going to the hairdresser represents normality. If you’ve always gone to the hairdresser on the last Thursday in the month, continuing to do so indicates that things are still normal. Normality is safe and comforting and reassuring. Habits and rituals are other forms of normality and these provide enormous comfort to people. Part of the reason religion does so well is because it’s full of rituals that followers have been observing since they were children. People say they find comfort in God, but actually it’s often the rituals they take comfort from. There are rituals around Christmas too, but they don't happen often enough to have the same power as a ritual you follow all year round.
People don’t like change at the best of times, which this certainly is not. So the last thing they want to do is change things they don’t need to change.
I cannot be-leeve it
A lot of people make an emotional connection with their hairdresser and use them as a kind of informal counsellor. At a time like this when they’re worried, they want to talk to someone understanding about how worried they are. They want to share stories about how they’re affected and how bad things are for people they know. And they want to be able to express their opinions about the tier system, the Government’s response, whether it’s adequate or not, and if not, what should be happening instead. They can’t do any of that if they don't go anywhere.
And of course, it’s not always all about them. They may like their hairdresser and genuinely want to support their business. If they stop having their hair done the hairdresser might close, which would be very sad. Who would do their hair then? My hairdresser received actual hate mail when he moved his salon 5 miles up the road, so you can imagine the disaster it would be if he were to close down altogether.
You might be thinking that they could air their opinions and observe rituals without going to the hairdresser, and certainly if they’re going to the hairdresser they could let their children enter the house for Christmas dinner. But people don’t think clearly in a crisis. They just need to maintain normality. They also know they also need to take precautions to avoid infection, and by banning their children from the house they’ve done that too. It makes perfect sense.
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Caeredwen is a counsellor, coach and physical therapist based in Coleford in the Forest of Dean. If this blog has touched you and you would like to contact her in confidence, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website at www.magichandscalmminds.com.