True gripes: Hairdressers

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This week I'm going to have my hair cut. I'm dreading it. Not because of the cost. Or because, as usual, I'll end up looking like Diana Ross. But because the hairdresser will talk to me.

Hairdressers are the most boring people in the world, capable of discoursing at length upon an infinite range of mind-numbingly dull subjects. Pets, politics, holidays, kitchen appliances - you name it, hairdressers have an enormous amount to say about it. And they'll do so whether you want to hear it or not.

You are, after all, a captive audience. Wedged in a chair with a pair of scissors inches from your jugular, you're unlikely to say: "Shut up, please. You're boring." It doesn't do any good anyway. I once told a barber I wanted to sit in silence and he said he quite understood, then spent the next half hour describing how noisy it is in Croydon.

It starts as soon as you enter the salon. They clock you in the mirror, and begin analysing you. Phrases such as "Lovely weather!" might seem innocuous, but are actually a test. A response marks you out as easy prey. Silence indicates you'll need some softening up. Once in the chair, the chatter starts in earnest. A favourite opening gambit is "Good heavens, sir, who cut your hair last time?" You're forced to confess that you did, then you're subjected to a lecture on how haircutting is best left to the professionals. What you don't say is that you only cut your own hair because the professionals are so boring.

One barber told me he could list every British monarch from Edward the Confessor to the present day, with dates. "You don't believe me, do you sir?" he challenged. "Yes I do," I said. "Right," he said, "I'll show you." And he was off. Another in France started crying because his cat had died. Is there a way of deterring hairdressers from talking? You could pretend you're Latvian and don't understand them, or deaf and can't hear them, but chances are they'll have just finished an MA in Baltic literature with sign language.

No, the only real solution is to shave your hair off, or else not cut it at all. Either way you'll look ridiculous, but that's a small price to pay to know that never again will you be wrapped in a bib, patted with malodorous powder and exhorted "not to worry, sir; Sylvester Stallone's is greasy too".