Whenever I have a haircut, the sensations take me back to one of the more, I could even say most, pleasant memories from boarding school (age 8-12).
I can’t remember how often we were lined up for a haircut. Maybe only once a term. But it became special because it was the ONLY opportunity to receive anything like safe and intimate touch; the gentle tugging of my hair, that felt so similar to the maternal strokes that I associated with being persuaded to drop off to sleep by my mother when I was an infant.
In reality the hairdresser who came to school seemed physically gross to us. He had one leg shorter than the other, an ugly built-up shoe and an ungainly limping walk.
But once I was in the seat with my eyes closed, and he set about his impersonal scissor work, I quickly dropped into a sea of dreamy sensuousness that my whole being longed for and missed so much. Imagining perhaps it was my mother’s hands or at least that someone cared for me and was soothing my inner pain.
We know now just how vital touch is for healthy child development. Safe touch. And this was something so absent and so taboo in my day at an all-boys prep school.
I believe we all suffered for lack of hands-on care, but it was so normalised that none of us ever spoke of it at the time. We knew we weren’t happy in lots of subtle ways but could never have identified what was so fundamentally lacking.
Sadly the consequences tend to follow us throughout our adult years.