Marian Keyes: “Hairdressers try and overpower your spirit.”

DISCLAIMER: Since so many people seem to believe (or seem to want to believe) that this article is a legitimate rant against hairdressers, I feel the need to clarify that the original article this post references is indeed satirical in nature. If you’re looking for something to get offended about, look elsewhere. Learn to take a joke, guys, geez. Lighten up a little.

Marian Keyes has a lovely stylist whom she adores and has been loyal to for years, but recently, she had to have her hair blow dried at another establishment while away from home. She recounts the psychologically-scarring affair in a recently released chapter from her upcoming book, Making It Up As I Go Along.

“The second I stepped through the doors, it all came rushing back to me. The power struggle for ownership of your spirit that goes on in most hairdresser’s. The idea is that they break you, break your spirit entirely, and when they’ve reduced you to a nothing with no sense of self, with no voice of your own, they will rebuild you in their image. You will do exactly what they tell you and use the products that they sell you, and perhaps buy a hairdryer and maybe even a house from them.”

“Yes, they own you – soul, hair, everything.”

Keyes goes on to outline a step-by-step protocol to regain your power from the beauty establishment.

The first blow to the client’s self-esteem happens when they walk in the door. “When you arrive, the receptionist will ignore you–they will be on the phone or pretending to check something in their book or on their screen.”

Instead of standing there like “an anxious sap,” Keyes recommends that you take out your phone, call a good friend, and have “a warm and lengthy catch-up.”

After you finish your call, the receptionist will offer to take your coat. “Be vigilant!” Keyes writes. “Some ‘friendly’ comment will be made on your appearance.”

On her visit to the out-of-town salon, an employee said, “Well! You’re very colourful today!” before exchanging a look with his colleague and a silent snigger. Another time, a receptionist stared at her handbag and said, “Is that Prada?” When she confirmed that it was, he said: “From the cheap range?”

Don’t have a coat to give? Doesn’t matter. They’ll still find a way to humiliate you, Keyes writes. “No coat?” they will say, all wide-eyed and scornful. “Well! Let’s hope it doesn’t rain.”

Keyes suggests two ways to deal with this: respond in kind, or stare at them and think the words, “I feel boundless compassion for you,” holding the gaze for longer than is considered mannerly, forcing love out from behind your eyes. “This will badly rattle them,” she says. (I laughed out loud at that part, because the mental image of a client doing that is too much to handle.)

The next step in the humiliation ritual is The Wait.

“‘Elijah will be down in a moment,’ the receptionist will tell you. But as we all know, Elijah will not be down in a moment. Elijah will be down when it suits him.”

“Elijah is on Twitter, trolling his ex. Or Elijah is out back having a cigarette. Or, indeed, Elijah may be doing nothing and may be keen to see you. But he cannot! Alas, he cannot! Because rules are rules and The Wait is vital–it says to the client: ‘Your time is nothing. You are blessed to be in here and it’s important that you know it.'”

Keyes suggests walking out, or drawing up a list of everyone you’ve ever dated–schoolgirl crushes, everything. Don’t look up at damned Elijah until you’re good and done, and when you do “quirk an eyebrow…and say: ‘Ready then?'” Keyes recommends practicing this at home until you’re confident.

No matter what, you’ll lose Round 4–the “dreaded gown”.

“Elijah will hold the gown in a way that no matter how you try to get into it, it will be wrong.”

Keyes says the “key moment in trying to break down your spirit” is the consultation. That bastard Elijah will lift a piece of your hair and “contemptuously” let it fall again. “He will lift another strand and, in disgust, drop it.

“If everyone has done their job right, you will be close to tears at this point.”

“Then Elijah will say: ‘So, what happened here?'” After you ask him what he means, he’ll reply, “‘Well, it’s a disaster. Did you get it cut like this for charity? Sort of like a Movember thing?’ …And the condition! It’s so dry it’s breaking off in my hands.'”

“Then he will ask the most leading question you will be asked in your visit. He will say: ‘What do you use for your home care regime?'”

The rest of the piece can be found here, and it’s absolutely hilarious, unless you’re looking for reasons to be offended today.

I think all of us know professionals like the ones Keyes has been victimized by, and while some are certainly motivated to behave that way to sell product and some are flat-out insecure, many simply consider themselves artists and take their jobs very seriously…maybe a little too seriously.

Some professionals begin to see clients as nothing more than canvasses on which they perform their artistry, losing touch with the person attached to the medium.

These professionals believe (often rightly so) that they know what cuts, colors, and styles will suit the client. After all, this is our passion and our career. However, it’s important to remember that ultimately, the client needs to feel comfortable with the service outcome.

That’s not to say you should gift a client with a mullet or perm if you don’t want your name attached to that atrocity. We have reputations to protect. Feel free to send clients with crazy requests to someone willing to damage theirs for a quick buck, but for the love of god, try to be polite about it.

Some professionals are just insecure. They need to break down their client, falsely believing that doing so will somehow impress them. I’ve seen professionals do this, telling clients, “I’m just looking out for what’s best for you,” and bludgeoning them with their “expertise.”

If you need to tear down a client’s self-esteem to secure their loyalty, you don’t belong in this business.

A beauty professional’s job is to uplift and empower their client, making them feel beautiful. Our job is to inspire confidence. Every guest should be leaving our chairs feeling like superstars. If you’re secure in your abilities, no part of that process should require playing mind games or breaking the client down.

Go read the full article. It’s extracted from Making It Up As I Go Along, Marian’s upcoming book, which will be published on February 11th. To buy a copy, visit (I will be. The article made me laugh out loud.)

What about you? Have you worked with professionals who utilize damaging power plays to secure sales or retain clients? Have you made this mistake yourself without realizing it? What do you think of Marian’s article? Tell us in the comments!


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