If you saw me now, you'd call me a holy show. I'm a cross between the Wild Woman of Borneo and the Madwoman of Chaillot. It's the hair. It's a sight. Everyone's locks have grown during lockdown, but some people have lucky hair, which just looks longer and fuller. Mine just sprouts in annoying wisps all over the place.
Yes, I miss the dear loved ones I cannot see to hug in lockdown and I miss meeting friends for a coffee, or a meal, and I miss dreadfully not being able to go anywhere: but by Heaven, I miss my hairdresser.
Not that I'm usually a very regular devotee of the hair salon. (I've known American ladies who visited "the beauty parlour" every single day.)
I don't fuss all that much about my hair and I'm a dedicated hat-wearer, anyway.
But the increasing presence of Zoom communications - I'm Zooming three or four times a week now - has drawn painful attention to a witch-like appearance of unkempt hair, magnified on screen.
A good hairdresser, in addition to making you look civilised, can be a kind of therapist. Women confide in their hairdressers. Perhaps a difference between women's coiffeur and men's barber lies in this well-worn anecdote.
Barber to male client: "How would you like your hair cut?" Client: "In silence." The story allegedly goes back to ancient Athens. Women share their problems: men bottle them up.
Within living memory, it was considered a little daring for a woman to dye her hair. There was a famous hair advert which asked, "Does she, or doesn't she?" You could take the insinuation any way you liked, but the implication was that a woman who coloured her hair still wanted to pretend it was "natural". And "only her hairdresser knows for sure". Because only her hairdresser knew her personal secrets.
When Miss Clairol first introduced hair dyes in the 1940s, some salons had separate entrances and exits for dyeing clients - to keep the procedure discreet. The "peroxide blonde" was a phrase of disparagement - this was a woman who was cheap, brassy, false. In John Betjeman's famed poem about the town of Slough, near London ("Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!"), he deplores the shallowness and artificiality of modern, industrialised life - "tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned beans" and the dim young wives who "frizz out peroxide hair".
The last woman to be hanged in Britain, in 1955, Ruth Ellis, was routinely described as a "peroxide blonde" in reports, with all that implied. We've got rid of that nonsense now about peroxide blondes. We colour our hair any which way we please, although some theories remain.
I read a social report recently, which claimed that young women with hair dyed blue were more likely to say yes to sex.
The rise of the celebrity hairdresser changed many attitudes to hair colouration. Although, these are not called "hairdressers" any more - they're "hair stylists".
Personally, I'm a little intimidated by celebrity hairstylists, or even posh hair salons. Would I want to take my barnet to Jen Atkin, stylist to the Kardashians, or Chris McMillan, who fashions Jennifer Aniston's tresses? I fear it might be a little like being introduced to a diva. Overwhelming.
I like my own friendly, kind, understanding hairdresser who accommodates me unpretentiously and doesn't make a fuss. I did once interview Nicky Clarke, the celebrity London coiffeur. Nicky is one of those hairstylists who markets his own brand of product. He was accompanied in the interview by his sister, Norma, and she turned out to be rather more interesting.
Norma Clarke was - and is - a professor of English literature, who has published acclaimed histories of women of letters. The siblings were from a family of six, with a Greek mother, which perhaps explained their divergent careers.
A hairdressing salon is a good location in which to set a play, but I only know of one such: Steel Magnolias, by Robert Harling, set in Louisiana. It captures the intimate club-like ambience of a hairdressing salon and if the business is about appearances, the storyline is about facing up to loss. Probably the best known movie about hairdressing is Shampoo, with Warren Beatty weaponising the blow-dryer like a phallic symbol.
Hairdressers have been followers of fashion and makers of trends. In my mother's day - which is going back a bit - there was a fashionable fad called a "Marcel wave" invented by Hollywood hairstylists.
It comes into an amusing, self-mocking song called Keep Young and Beautiful, which Annie Lennox performs to perfection on YouTube.
"If you're wise, exercise all the fat off/Take it off, off of here, off of there/When you're seen anywhere with your hat off/Wear a Marcel wave in your hair."
The Marcel wave was created with professional curling tongs, but I remember seeing a kind of squeezing steel gadget with interlocking teeth that fiercely gripped your hair into waves.
I would describe the hairdresser as an essential frontline worker. "Grooming" is something that our most primitive ancestors did for one another and that chimps and primates perform with care.
My hair is certainly in a dreadful state and will need serious rescuing when I get out of this lockdown: but maybe the need for the coiffeur's art is psychological as well as follicle.