There’s a certain type of person in the world who thinks that, if they ask you something, and the answer is “no”, that they should just keep annoying you about it and going on and on until the answer changes. My sister is one of them.
This isn’t about her.
It is about two someones who did a largely similar thing with disastrous results. I think I give off a smell that makes people like this think it’s okay to continually push at my personal boundaries until they get what they want.
When I was at university I had a dear friend, who, like all of us, had her foibles. Many foibles. Enough foibles to decorate a Christmas tree. We shall call her Beth. One day in 2008 I was around her house (we always spent time at hers) and she pulled out a packet of hair dye and a pair of scissors.
“Torie, could you cut and colour my hair please?”
“Me? Why?” I had an interest in hair but there was a world of difference between playing with my own, and doing someone else’s.
“I can’t afford the hairdresser this month.”
“I’ve never cut anyone’s hair.”
“You cut yours.”
It was true. I’d cut my own since I started uni and been trimming and colouring it myself since I was 16, with some exceptions in sixth form.
“What if I do it wrong?”
“Then I will still need a hair appointment.”
You can’t argue with that logic.
What I should have said was “no.” Instead I said, “Ok. How do you want it?”
I mean, if Beth was desperate enough to ask me she must really not care how her hair turned out, right?
I cut Beth’s hair. I coloured it with the box she’d chosen. I did a pretty good job. She looked in the mirror and lost it.
“I hate it. This is terrible. It’s too dark and my hair is such a mess! Why did you do this? You are paying for a hairdresser to fix it!”
“No, I’m not. I told you I’d never cut anyone’s hair before.”
Anyway Beth threw me out and said she wasn’t speaking to me then when she started getting compliments she lied and said the hairdresser had done it.
Anyway, this misadventure wasn’t that shortlived. I was recounting this to another friend who also only saw me if I visited her. We shall call her Gemma.
Her response was, “Can you do mine?”
I laughed because I thought she was joking.
Readers, she wasn’t joking.
“C’mon, I can’t afford the hairdresser,” she said.
“I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t cut your hair.”
“Come on, you can do it right now.”
“I really can’t.”
I made an excuse and left, thinking she’d get the hint.
GUESS what happened next? Two days later I was visiting when Gemma asked me again. I shook my head.
“I really don’t think I can do this.”
“Of course you can. Think positive. Here’s some scissors.”
Not knowing how to say no any more clearly without losing a friend, I took the scissors.
“How do you want it?”
“Can you do it in a bob?”
No. I can’t cut hair. WTF?
“I don’t think so.”
“Yeah you can. Do a bob. It’s easy. Everyone has a bob. How hard can it be?” (I have to point out for younger readers that the current long hair trend was not always how people wore their hair and when I was at uni most people had bobs or mid-length hair in a ponytail).
I did know one thing about bobs. “There’s like a million different kinds of bob.”
“I want the normal one.”
“What’s the normal one?” I was getting a bit frustrated but I didn’t express it.
“You know. The normal one. The one everyone has.”
“Which one that everyone has?” I mean seriously? I had no idea how to get out of this at this point without cutting her hair.
“I want the one that’s a bit higher at the back and those long bits at the front.”
I had no idea what she was talking about because at the time I’d never really seen a Karen bob.
I took a deep breath because I didn’t know how to get out of here without either cutting her hair or telling her to fuck off. And I wasted an hour of my life cutting Gemma’s hair.
I tried my best. There’s a reason people pay money to hairdressers and it’s because you can’t just pick up a pair of scissors and cut someone else’s hair in a perfect on-trend look. Even if you know a lot about hair and do your own.
I finished, straightened it and showed her.
“That’s amazing. Thank you so much. See? You could do it.”
Full of relief, I smiled and nodded, hoping I could sit down now (sidenote, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia, aka POTS, is a bitch).
No mention of payment was made. I left before Gemma asked me for a bloody facelift or gastric bypass surgery next.
Two days later I went back round (the first haircut was speaking to me again by now but denying all knowledge of the fact I’d cut her hair). Gemma’s hair was completely different in cut and colour.
“Oh your hair looks great,” I said, a bit confused that she’d decided to get it done again so soon after pleading poverty and pushing me into cutting it when I didn’t want to.
She gave me an odd look. “My sister paid for me to go to the hairdresser’s because you made such a mess of it.”
I think I was a lot more tolerant of people like this when I was younger where nowadays I’d tell her what I was thinking. And what I was thinking was, you demanded I stand up for over an hour cutting your hair during what was supposed to be a social visit, you told me you were happy with it, and now you’re acting like I ran over your cat with my pushbike.
What I said was, “Oh, did you change your mind then?”
“It was awful. My sister said it was the worst haircut she’d ever seen in her life.”
“I did say that I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“You shouldn’t have done it. It was awful.”
I didn’t understand how this was my fault. She’d completely cornered me. “But you kept asking me.”
“And you should have said no. It cost forty quid to fix it.” I knew Supercuts would have sorted it for about £15. It was clear the subtext was that she wanted–no, expected–me to offer to pay. But I didn’t. I finally stood my ground. Forty quid was a huge amount of money to me, if I’d had it, I wouldn’t have been cutting my own hair!
“But I didn’t want to cut your hair.” It felt so unfair that she’d badgered me into doing her hair then was so rude and ungrateful and expected me to pay her. Especially when she’d seemed happy with it at the time and I could have tried to fix it if she’d had a real issue with it.
“But you did cut it, and you did a really terrible job. It was forty quid to put it right.”
Now was a great time to start saying no to her. Mostly because I didn’t have forty quid. I have no idea why she thought I would. It was time to cool things for a week or two.
I saw some other friends that Sunday. I went to visit my now-husband’s ex-girlfriend who we’ll call Lisa. She was seeing my husband at the time.
I recounted the week’s batshittery with these bloody haircuts.
“Oh, can you do mine?” she asked.
I blinked several times and widened my eyes. What part of this story was making people think I was looking for more people’s hair to cut?
“No worries. I’ll do it myself.”
I decided right then that was the difference between a decent person and a pisstaking arsehole. A good friend respects your boundaries and understands that no means no.
I’d like to say that was the last time Gemma took advantage of me but it wasn’t. Other corkers included trying to convince me and her sister to rent a house with her and her boyfriend. She wanted to split the rent and bills three ways while skimming off the top so our “bill” money would conveniently cover the rest of the rent (so I and Gemma’s sister would each pay £450 and she and her boyfriend would each pay £0) and generously offered us a cupboard each in the kitchen and occasional use of the bathroom. I don’t know what her sister said because I’d never actually met her. But I said no.
Gemma generally treated me as a cash cow for another year. She constantly gave me sob stories about how she couldn’t afford electric/phone topup/tobacco etc so I’d feel bad for her and go to the corner shop and pay for her, and then when I moved to a different country she got mad at me for not visiting her and started making snarky comments when I finally returned to England.
Last I heard of Gemma she was trying to crowdfund a silver-service wedding. I don’t know how that turned out for her because I eventually lost her phone number (about 5 years too late).