If I hear the phrase ‘mental health’ one more time, I think I’ll go crazy. [Go? – Ed.] Throughout my life, so far, there have been various reasons for me to undergo the always risky business of visiting the barber for a haircut. Risky because the outcome was never guaranteed, even if the barber remained the same. My hair has a life, and legend, of its own, and generally if it leaves me alone, I leave it alone. I am intrigued, though, as to what it gets up to in the middle of the night. No matter which side I lie on to go to sleep, when I wake up, my hair looks as if it has gone fifteen rounds with Muhammad Ali in his prime. A bit like this, to continue the boxing references, but not so blue.
But every two months or so, the hair will get into such a state that I will have to risk the whole barbershop experience to impose some sort of order on the chaos. And it is usually a barber these days – I have left my visits to unisex salons behind me. Mostly because the woman who understood my head the best is in semi-retirement and it is increasingly difficult to win an appointment with her in the complicated lottery system she has set up.
Other, rarer reasons for going for a haircut include letting those Turkish guys set my nose and ear hair on fire, and discombobulating the odd FBI or CIA tail. Nothing screws up someone who is following you worse than your suddenly walking into a hairdressing emporium. I mean, what is your tail going to do? Follow you in and get a haircut he doesn’t need as he already has the regulation short back and sides on? And, in the process, let you get a good look at his face and eavesdrop on his conversation.
“Going anywhere nice for holidays this year, Sir?”
“Wherever buddy in the other chair is going, if I’m on duty that month.”
What I have never done is to visit the barber for the reason given on the News last night as the first reason members of the opposite sex will welcome the news that hairdressing salons are to come out of lockdown soon. Now, what women, particularly women I am financially responsible for, get up to when they go to get the hair ‘done’ is a mystery deeper than the seventh secret of Fatima, and I am quite happy for it to stay that way. (You thought there were only three, didn’t you?) The reporter on the news stated that women will be visiting the hairdresser for “mental health reasons”, a statement which caused me to splurt out the mouthful of tea and to so frighten the cat. If women have been going to the hairdresser for mental health reasons all along that would certainly go some way to explaining the extortionate bill that follows them out the door. But are hairdressers actually qualified to deal with mental health issues? And, if not, what do psychiatrists have to say about these amateurs muscling in on their territory?
Maybe there is something different about female hair that makes it grow not only outwards from the root the way male hair does, but also inwards from the root. If so, the roots delving deep into the brain matter could, I suppose, affect the operation of that organ, and, in those unlikely circumstances, I could see how a visit to the hairdresser to curtail their growth might have a beneficial effect on the mental capabilities and stability of the rootee. But that is really pushing at the bounds of probabilties, and I am more inclined to believe that the news reporter made an error and mixed up two different stories.
As for the ubiquity of the term ‘mental health’ everywhere else I look, I think there are two aspects to it that annoy me more than just its pervasiveness. It is without doubt a first World problem, and, as such, not worthy of my serious attention. The other niggle is that the preceding adjective is redundant. Mental health is the same thing as health, as if you think you are sick, then you are sick. Have these people not read St Thomas Acquinas? Or anyone else? There is no separation between mind and body, so ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ health are just actually health. If you break your leg, you do not feel guilty or embarrassed about going to get it fixed. Similarly, if you break your brain, there should be no social taboos involved in going to the headshrink to get it fixed. But do not ask the psychiatrist for a haircut while you are in with him.
mens sana in corpore sanoSatires of Juvenal (ad c. 60–c. 130)
With a subtle blue highlight, please.