Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Guest post: On cutting one's hair

My cousin Marlene, who lives in France, updated her Facebook photo earlier in the week. Quelle revelation!

At my request, she has written the following guest post:

In 1975 I walked into the hairdressing salon in Harrods and had my hair cut. It was such a success that I kept that cut until last week. During this time there have been two hiccups: a pregnancy in 1986 which rendered my scalp so hot that I felt I was wearing a mink hat and then in 2001, my daughter became a weekly boarder at her lycée. On both of these occasions I had what I can only describe as a compromise cut – much shorter, but not short.

The original shape was what they call a lion cut. Short on top and miraculously layered to shoulder length. The maintenance involved was regular cuts which became progressively more challenging as the overall length grew, and regular professional conditioning treatments. This look was hugely popular with rock stars, some of whom sensibly wore wigs.

During the last 32 years two strange and inexplicable things have happened, I am no longer size 12, and most of the visible lines on my face are vertical.:

Long hair doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years and the physical habit of having this matter caressing your neck and shoulders is strong and comforting. There have been signs during the years which would have lead any impartial observer to yell “CUT IT OFF”. The fact that every time I put my hair up in the last 20 years, everyone applauded – especially my mother – made me even more defiant.

When clothes stopped fitting beautifully and my jaw-line became more rounded, I said to myself, “my hair still looks great” I have shoulders on which you could land aircraft. I also have a smallish head. This combination yelled “BIG HAIR”. A year ago, I had chocolaty streaks put in my almost black hair. Everyone loved the colour and were silent about the shape.

When many things both practical and physical start going seriously pear-shaped in your life, how wonderfully comforting to have something which has stood the test of time – something unchangeable. Sadly, or maybe fortunately, everything changes – if you don’t accommodate those changes you’re living in a permanent battlefield of ineffectual and tiring compromise.

Getting my hair cut short is nothing to do with wanting to look younger – it’s more to do with invisibility and visibility. My hair was huge and very long – it is now pixiish and very short. Instead of disappearing, I have appeared.

Recently, I looked in the mirror and said two things to myself: If this was the hair of a good friend, I would take her to one side and with great love and firmness, tell her what she must already know: “It’s OVER. Get it cut off. Marlène, you never were, nor will be a member of a successful 1980’s rock band.”

There was neither hesitation nor agonising; just the knowledge that the time had come to move on. This is not unlike the feeling when you end a long-term relationship which has not been working for many years. You had a dilemma, you agonised, you wallowed in guilt, you bored your friends rigid and then finally, you float out into the calm waters of indifference, free of all hesitation and fear.

Thirty-two years go, wearing tight jeans, no bra, a black t-shirt and black pearls, I let Nick McLean in Harrods salon work his magic on my hair. Last week, Thierry at the Jacques Dessange salon in Divonne-les-Bains in France, did likewise, leaving ten inches of my mane and my useless baggage on the floor.

The acid test of a radical change in hairstyle is your first sighting of yourself in the morning mirror. Hair crushed out of shape, face plump with repose and eyes like two peeled prawns. So far my reaction has been identical every morning – “why didn’t I do this years ago?”



Deja Pseu said...

Wit seems to run in your family.

I too keep ending up with short hair. It's thin, straight and fine, and looks like limp hell once it gets to a length somewhere between my earlobe and chin. I've been trying to grow it out a bit again, but I'm in another one of my "cut it all off!" moods today, so this may push me over the edge.

htwollin said...

deja pseu - I get those moods seemingly three times a year and it's all my hair dresser can do to prevent me from shaving my head. She actually does interventions over the phone.
The first time I gave up my long hair was when my first child learned to stand up on my lap by grabbing onto my hair and pulling herself up by it. Impressed as I was by her evident arm strength, the pain was a little too much. I handed off the little urchin to her father, walked out of the restaurant into the hair dressers next door with "cut it all off" on my lips. I've never looked back.

Thomas said...

For the last ten years I've had hair ranging from past the shoulder to about 3 mm off my head. Every time I would cut my hair I'd start to miss it, and eventually I'd grow it out long again, enduring the stabbing your eyes phase and up your nose phase and in your food phase with grim determination.

Now I'm with someone who doesn't like long hair on men, and who in fact claims to not have noticed me until I got my recent affectation - the mid-hawk, or executive mo as my hair dresser calls it.

But honestly - I still sometimes miss it. Especially when I look at photos of Tadanobu Asano...

Evadney said...

You made me crack up - I'm a hairdresser. People are funny they come me and ask for a hair cut. when I finish it by asking "is it ok?" They say I want it shorter! Freaks sake, it is having two hair cuts for price of one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! check it out lol!!!