Hair Cuts and the Invasion of Personal Space

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             Recently I made an appointment at my local salon for a much-needed hair cut, and when I arrived I followed the normal procedure of going to the back and having my hair washed before the actual cutting session. As I’m lying back in the chair with my head hanging over a sink and a strange man shampooing my locks, I was suddenly struck with how odd it is that this activity is considered completely common.

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Humans are very strange about others invading their personal space. Even accidentally, if you disturb someone’s “personal bubble,” you apologize. You feel embarrassed. You wonder if the violated person thinks you’re rude.

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But then you go to a hair salon and have a complete stranger massage your head. Your head! That’s one of the most personal parts of your body (beside your genitals, of course.) If someone walked up to you and started caressing your head, you would freak out! Only those people you consider really close to you tend to be allowed to touch your head. Running your fingers through a loved one’s hair or massaging someone’s temple is reserved for the most intimate moments. You can get by touching a stranger’s shoulder or maybe even hand for a new acquaintance, but no one introduces themselves by rubbing someone’s head. It would be beyond weird!

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So why do we regularly participate in a seemingly mundane activity such as getting one’s hair cut that involves such an intense invasion of privacy and personal space without a second thought? Truthfully, I don’t know. I imagine we have a sense of comfort in the activity since it’s something we have dealt with on a relatively regular basis for our entire lives. Whereas when we visit the doctor and they poke and prod us in just as obtrusive areas many of us have extreme panic attacks and most of us deal with significant discomfort at the thought of the situation. Visiting the dentist is similar as well. Again we allow someone to stick their fingers and sharp metal objects into our mouths and poke around inside some very personal regions but not without fear, apprehension, and discomfort. This isn’t even mentioning the gynecologist or the gastroenterologist. Ergh…

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Those are all doctors though. They have degrees. They’ve spent years and countless dollars studying and training to poke into your personal spaces with grace, efficiency, and intelligence.

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When we get our hair washed at a hair salon, it’s usually by some high school or college kid whose other duties include such menial tasks as answering the phones and sweeping up rogue hairs, not the trained hair stylist. (I have little issue with the hairstylist washing my hair. I feel like their credibility is a little closer to that of a doctor in their own field of practice.) Somehow though, we’ve come to accept un-credentialed strangers washing our hair as perfectly normal. Now that I’ve realized the oddity of this phenomenon, I may never be able to comfortably have my hair washed in a hair salon ever again.

Enlightenment can be an unfortunate thing sometimes.

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