The hairdressing/beauty salon is a tricky place to be, and beautifying oneself is only one of many reasons why women make it a regular session every few weeks.
My trips there have been sparse over the years. As a child, the closest I came to having a salon experience were Saturday or Sunday afternoons spent with my head gripped firmly between the thighs of my auntie as she valiantly attempted to wash and braid my hair under the almond tree. Like most children, my compliance would only be bought after being bribed with copious amounts of sweets, chips, Fanta, new Christmas dresses or any such nonsense that took my fancy. Bless her heart.
Teenage years, having been spent in the short, natural crop of a Ghanaian schoolgirl, presented little hair-raising problems. Remember when you couldn't wait to be done with school so you could grow and perm your hair again? You probably had visions of long, swirling tresses blowing sexily in the wind. Ahem..well, I said 'vision'.
The reality might have been different.
And then there were the times when I would accompany my mother to the salon, and be party to some racy discussion amongst the women, or a full-on bitching session to which I could neither contribute or laugh at because this was clearly an adult session. Somehow, I had to look invisible or pretend not to understand what the other women were saying.
So, far from it merely being a place where you get bits of hair plucked from your eyebrows and other places, or even longer hair sewn into your own, or yet consider a new, funkier you, the salon is also the hub of frank talk between women. It transcends racial and socio-economic barriers, and unites in a way that is unique. Women bond quickly over hair matters, and from there, the talk might turn to sex, relationships, religion, politics etc. It is definitely not the place for inane chatter about the weather.
But in a salon, I'm still very much the child I was all those years ago, because while I can appreciate that it's probably a liberating experience to talk honestly with other women in a relaxed setting, I can't for the life of me understand why people reveal the most intimate details of their lives to a room full of strangers of which I'm the girl cringing in her seat at the far end. Is it thoroughly therapeutic and I've missed the point? Is it the equivalent of having not one or two, but six or seven agony aunts gathered in one room ready to dish out advice?
The last time I went into one, it was obvious I'd walked in on a particularly animated discussion. Two doting boyfriends (I assume) sat there trying to look like they weren't enjoying this rare foray into a woman's world. As soon as I entered, a friendly twentysomething flashed a welcoming smile and asked me my name.
'Davina? Da-VI-da? Um..ok D, tell us your experience of having cervical smears at the doctor's..'
I'm sorry, what?
Seven pairs of eyes (two belonged to the boyfriends, who by this time had given up trying to look bored, and now raised their eyes with interest) waited expectantly for my response...
Oh boy...my cervix? And here I was thinking I'd only come in to have my hair done!