I am not a groomed person. I love clothes and making an effort to look nice but those little extra details are beyond me. I'm talking manicures, pedicures, professional waxing, blow-dried hair, fake tan... I've had a manicure once in my life, on the beach on Vietnam (not a great idea as it turns out; sand, intense heat and freshly painted nails don't really mix).
I can see why it might feel good to make that added effort to be immaculately turned out, but I'm the kind of person who sees putting on some eyeliner as pushing the cosmetic boat out, and I have to accept that.
So it won't come as much surprise fore readers to learn that I'm not a regular at the hair salon. Getting my hair cut is very low down on my list of pleasurable ways to spend an hour. I hate having to sit in front of a mirror for a long period of time, and I hate having to make awkward chit chat over my shoulder.
But most of all I hate being made to take responsibility for my hair and trying to answer that awful question: "So, what are we doing today?" I don't know what we're doing today, or any day. My hair is thick, curly and terminally unbiddable. I want the stylist to tell me what to do with it. If they can't, then we're really screwed.
I usually mutter something about just wanting a trim and a few layers, before they cut, dry and straighten it into ramrod submission. Which is all very well, but I don't have the patience or the skill to style it at home, so after the first wash it always springs back into a slightly more shaped version of the mop it was before I sat down in that chair.
I then put off the next visit for as long as I possibly can before trying somewhere else. I've lost count of the number of salons I've visited over the years. This is partly because I keep moving but also because I can't bear going back to the same place, only to have the same conversation with the same person all over again, with the same results.
I was at this point again when a friend metioned that she'd been into Altered Image on Alma Vale Road and how friendly they seemed. It's seconds from where I work and I was getting to one of those stages where I had more split ends than actual hair.
So I popped in to make an apppointment. Darrell, one half of the couple who run and own the salon, chided me for leaving it so long since my last cut. But he made me laugh at the same time, and told me that Vince would be doing my hair because he was an expert with curls. I instantly felt at ease and cautiously optimistic.
When I went back for the actual cut it was just me, Vince and Darrell in the salon. Usually that would be my worst nightmare as all the focus was on me and my hair, but they were so friendly, relaxed and funny that I sat down to have my hair washed and didn't stop gossiping until I left about 45 minutes later.
When Vince asked what I wanted done I mumbled my usual vague suggestions. Miraculously, he actually seemed to understand me and my hair and, realising that I simply wanted him to make it look as good as possible without takling too much off or drastically changing it, he gently took over.
I completely trusted him and it is a measure of his success that, while I used almost always to shove my hair up in a top knot, I now wear it down much more often. This may not sound like much of an achievement but believe me, with my unruly mane, it really is. As my boyfriend put it when he saw me for the first time after the cut, my hair finally "makes sense".
I've been back twice since and now I wouldn't go anywhere else. I never thought I'd be the kind of girl who had "my" hairdresser. But Vince and Darrell are not only great stylists, they're also brilliant company. They've even offered me advice on how to trick my boyfriend into marrying me (it wasn't very practical so I probably won't be acting on it, but I appreciated the thought).
I don't think I'll ever look forward to going to the hairdressers - there's still that sitting in front of the mirror thing - but now when I do have to go, I actually rather enjoy it.