Written by Anneka Harry


Small talk, big deal

The news that a Cardiff hair salon has installed a quiet chair has got Anneka Harry thinking about why she finds blather so much easier in some places than others.

woman blowing hair across face with hairdryerI’m sat at the hairdresser’s with my barnet in so many foils I look as though I’m trying to pick up extra-terrestrial TV channels. My coffee is cold; the (insanely outdated) copy of Vogue is spitting split ends all over my lap and the salon’s Hits Remixed CD sounds like something Alvin and the Chipmunks might have produced. But, despite all this, I‘m happier than Larry has ever been. I’m delighted I’ve been left alone for 40 whole minutes of uninterrupted small-talk-free bliss.

I’m not sure why beauty parlour blather bothers me so much. It’s never as trivial as the tripe I can chat with strangers while out and about. Nor is it as banal as the babble that goes down in the first hour of a party full of unknowns. It’s not even as awkward as that infamous smear test scenario – a small talk scene I have previously shut down by asking the nurse if she minded if I “kept my socks on?”

Perhaps the majority of hairdressers really are weather and holiday plan enthusiasts? Whatever the truth may be, the hairdresser’s is, for me, the one place where small talk feels so small it squeaks.

“You have to be genuinely interested and interesting to move from chitchat to conversation – waffle about the weather usually starts and ends at drizzle.”

Despite squirming at the thought of all this tiny talk, I’m quite the expert when it comes down to it. Friends and family often comment on my ability to get on with folk in any situation. I actually see it as a top of the CV-worthy life skill. It’s got me jobs, earned me friends and whiled away hours of otherwise wearisome time.

The real trick lies in turning small talk into conversation. I rely on humour and the avoidance of obvious questions to ensure this gear change (largely because answering ‘what do you do?’ every five seconds has always instantly forced my soul out of my backside.) You have to be genuinely interested and interesting to move from chitchat to conversation – waffle about the weather usually starts and ends at drizzle.

In a world that feels increasingly closed off and silent I would hate to sound like a small talk spoilsport. I spend half of my time, especially in London, longing for more interaction. I simply think there is a time and place for hot air about last night’s telly and phony compliments to fill the gaps. I’m all for a ‘quiet chair’ at the hairdressers to take an hour out from all the blah blah blah.

Just out of interest, I asked my hairdresser what she thought about the idea (my hairdresser who, by the way, had just asked me if I’d bought all my Christmas presents before saying she liked my jumper… even though her eyes were screaming ‘THAT IS A JUMBLE SHOP NIGHTMARE!’).

She gave a knowing smile and simply said, “I would bloody love that.”


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Written by Anneka Harry

Anneka Harry does comedy and hustling for a living. She smells like thrift shops and ambition. Stalk her here http://www.vivienneclore.com/artiste/anneka-harry/ and @Annekaharry.