Autistic World – A trip to the hairdresser


I can’t speak out loud right now. That’s how it is for me after a trip to the hairdressers.

It’s been 6 months since the last haircut and my attempts at hacking at it in the meantime have meant that I really need to get it fixed. I’d happily shave it all off again, except my 3 year old son is deeply attached to my hair. He calls me his ‘girl with long orange hair’.

I spent 3 months of Googling and searching the city for a hairdresser that met my requirements – cheap (there’s no way I’m paying $100 for a haircut), walk ins permitted (I can never commit to an actual booking, who knows how I’ll be feeling on the day?) and a sound system that’s set to mild discomfort rather than earth thumping. You can’t wear your noise cancelling headphones while having your hair cut. It’s a problem.

Having found somewhere on a day that I felt up to it, in I went. I had a picture of a haircut to show her. That’s easier than talking. I was the only one in the place, so it started ok. Then she said she had to wash it and I failed to say no. This is what happens to me at hairdressers. I have strong internal dialogue reminding myself to say out loud in real words that I don’t want it washed, I don’t want it blow dried and I don’t want any sticky ‘product’ in it.

I got all three.

Of course I did. I check my power at the door at these places. I don’t accurately remember exactly what happened in the one hour that I was in there (a whole fucking hour??). I just remember the feelings. Intense aversion when she washed my hair and MASSAGED MY SCALP. Please stop it, I screamed. But only in my head.

Panic settling in for a long stay when the blow dryer was aimed at my face and the hot air mixed with chemical smell and I couldn’t take an in breath even though I knew I’d have to soon or I’d slowly lose consciousness and surely she has to stop soon because how can anyone manage this experience and survive? I sort of gulped in air when I felt myself grow dangerously dizzy and some how survived.

Anger when she spent over 30 minutes straightening my hair when I’d told her I wear it natural. Why would anyone iron their hair? It smells bad. It pulls on your scalp. And I looked nothing like me when it was done.

By now the internal voice was just a scream and I accepted that it was all wrong and the only way through this was to take myself far away outside of my body. This is a skill I have developed over the years so I used it then to float fragile like over to the left of my body, remembering to breath in and out as required.

Of course I told her it was perfect. I had no script for ‘I just paid you $70 for an experience that I will now need to spend a whole week recovering from and it’s highly likely I’m done with hairdressers forever after this’.

I scampered off to the nearest bathroom and used as much water as I could to make the straightening go away and return me to me. Covered in sticky smell, I at least managed to leave the bathroom with enough self recognition that I could inhabit my body again.

And of course I hate it. It’s nothing like the picture I showed her. But getting it fixed means going through the whole ordeal again and fuck that for another 6 months. Maybe forever if I can convince someone I know to learn to cut hair.

I told my husband not to mention my hair. He’s left me alone with my Lego. He may not be happy when I tell him it’s probably up to him to fix the hair.

I’m not really talking out loud again yet. I can still feel the blow drying, her hands on my scalp and the straightening iron pulling at my head. I can still feel the disappointment of once again not being able to clearly communicate that I just want my hair cut and no blow dry and no torture devices and no hair wash and no sticky goo and no small talk.

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