Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The First Cut is the Deepest

Today, after a gap of I can't think how many months, I finally went to have my hair cut. Although people occasionally comment on how nice my hair is, I've never been one of those people who do a lot with their hair. As a little child my mum would have our hair cut shoulder length with a straight fringe-I was one of those children with really fine blonde hair on who such a cut looks OK. And although the fringe has since grown out, and my hair's gone a little further beyond my shoulders than it used to be, I've never really bothered doing anything serious with it. Luckily it's a lot thicker now than it used to be (I blame the nightly nit-checks with a comb that pulled out more hair than it left in), and also a lot frizzier, despite a variety of 'sleek and smooth' shampoos. But investing in straighteners and curling tongs and expensive product just seemed like such a waste when my hair was fine to begin with.

Last time I went to the hairdressers I tentatively asked for layers that turned out invisible and did absolutely nothing. This time I went in a little braver. "Um, I was thinking of maybe doing something to the front? You know, to make it more interesting, because it's all the same length and it's kind of boring."
The hairdresser-a vaguely camp-looking man with a developing paunch and an indie t-shirt-looked rather delighted by this suggestion, and began mussing up my hair with his hands while running through all the fantastic things he could do to make it look presentable. By the end of his little spiel I had discovered that to complement my "well, it's sort of rectangular-shaped, isn't it" face I should have a long side fringe, with layered hair that was just below the shoulder and shorter at the back to 'soften it up a little'. Privately I wondered if perhaps this man was going a bit mad with all the ideas, but he was the expert, not me-and anyway, I reasoned, how bad could it turn out?

I must say I had a few misgivings when the first few snips cut off a good inch more than I'd been expecting, but it was a bit late now. My mother didn't help by enquiring three times in the first five minutes if I was "all right, darling?", either. To my right my brother's plain inch-off cut was completed, but still the man was snipping away, drying a little, holding up another section and wildly cutting at the edges to 'roughen it up a tad'. But as my hair slowly dried, and he started brushing more and cutting less, I realised that for the first time I was receiving not just a cut, but a style. I watched, fascinated, as he blow-dried my normally straight and slightly frizzy hair into a sleek bob-yes, I am now the owner of a real bob, something I would never have imagined myself having in a million years-which curled inwards at the front and had a magical volume that came from nowhere and will, no doubt, vanish into nowhere too the minute I wash it. After a solid twenty minutes of styling, he stepped back a little and allowed me to take in his creation.

I've never really understood why people pay exorbitant amounts of money for the latest celebrity hairdresser, or how characters in books feel 'a million dollars' after having a drastic new haircut. It's not that I don't appreciate how much a haircut can change a face-it's just that investing in some designer clothes or having a makeover always seemed, to me, to be the better and more dramatic option. But looking in the mirror at my new cut, complete with a choppy, layered bob and long side fringe, I came a lot closer to understanding why people become so attached to their hairdressers.

The sun had firmly retreated behind the clouds as I walked out in my t-shirt and flip-flops (I painted my nails yesterday, OK, and it was really warm when I left the house!) but, however cheesy it sounds, I genuinely couldn't keep a smile off my face as I walked home. I hope that vaguely camp hairdresser realises that he made my day, if not even my week! As I turned off the high street I though to myself, "Dammit! I never even asked his name."

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