When I think about the enduring struggles I have had with my body since childhood, there are two areas that have always been at the root: my stomach and my hair. And while my stomach is not so easily controlled, over the years I have sought to gain control of my hair through different tactics.
My nan has always liked my hair curly (it is naturally wavy) and dark (it is naturally brown, but I was blond as a child). My mother has always liked my hair on the long-ish side, and dark. One thing I believe most of us can relate to is the fact that whatever pleases our immediate family is bound to irk us, and vice versa. Once I was old enough to have a say in these matters, I knew that I wanted to wear my hair short; I wished I had been born with straight hair because not only would it have stopped my nan cooing over my soft curls, but it would have been much easier to control in the morning. As I grew older and my hair grew darker, I wished that there was a way I could put the blond back in; I tried sunbathing, adding lemon juice, begging my mother to let me have highlights… but to no avail.
I think my mother’s attitude to and perseverance with her own hair has also played a big role. Every morning, she puts her rollers in and through judicious use of hairspray and teasing, creates a blonde, fluffy Farrah Fawcett-esque do (but without the fringe). Nothing happens until my mother’s hair and make-up is done, and she certainly doesn’t show herself in public without going through this daily routine. But even when she’s not going out in the morning, she still does it – for herself. Every couple of months, her mobile hairdresser Kevin comes round and gives her a little trim, and puts highlights on her hair (with the purple paint and the alien cap, which I always found fascinating, and slightly disconcerting as a child). I guess that this is where I learned to have high standards for my own personal grooming and maintenance. My mother however has had the same hairstyle since I was born; she’s timeless. I am not; because I am fickle. Although my clothing style is slowly settling into a classic groove, my hair still bores me if I keep it the same way for a while. I remember trying some copper hair mascara because it was in Boots and it was cheap; but it also looked disastrous. I was too timid to dye my hair, but at 11 years old I took some scissors to my hair and chopped off the front. Stupidly, I left the hair on the floor; my mother came an hour or so later and said to me “have you cut your hair?” I tried to deny it, even though she had the fistful of brown locks in her hand as she asked me.
My mother generally hasn’t reacted well to me cutting my hair. After bleaching my hair during my first year of university and achieving shades which could be best described as somewhere between honey-coloured and ginger, I decided that Channing Tatum should be my style role model. I did a Britney before Britney did it, and shaved the whole thing off. Not only did it save me precious minutes in the morning (which felt like a delicious taste of freedom), but a few other people at university ended up shaving their hair within the next few weeks. Coincidence? Well, it’s not like I’m the first person ever to shave my head either. When I came home to see my parents in the middle of the term, my mother was distraught; she told me I looked like a convict, and that I would never get a job with hair like that. I reminded her that hair grows (she responded that I deserved to go bald), and that I could have shaved it even shorter (not a good idea). She told me I didn’t look like myself. I guess that that was part of the point; but even more so was the fact that I had finally, at least for the short-term, won the battle against my hair and against tortuous mornings of trying to tame it after sleeping on one side and creating an indomitable near-mohawk, or smooshing the sides down so that I didn’t look like a fool.
I learned to master the clippers, and people admired (and still do, although I tend not to let it slip too much in case people examine my hair closely and find bits I have missed) that I cut my own hair. I also cut my father’s hair now, which is quite a big compliment. Though my mother wishes that the first couple of weeks post-haircut weren’t quite so short, she has come to terms with it somewhat and the power I have gained over my hair is something I have fought hard for, which I don’t plan to relinquish. My experiments with colour have also come along way since those tentative and unsuccessful experiments with hair mascara – I went through a phase of dyeing my hair black which lasted approximately two years; I also flirted with a dark cherry-red a couple of times (inspired by Cheryl Cole’s look à la “Promise This”) which I quite enjoyed, but I don’t think I could get away with it at my current job. In my last year of university, I bought some GHD hair straighteners from my friend Sarah and abused my hair in a new way: heat and smoke pressed it into a new style that I quite enjoyed; again, I think my boss would raise her eyebrows if she saw my straightened look at work (because she’s a little conservative with her fashion tastes – though she dyes her hair red too).
The other reason why I would never risk straightening my hair for work is because I haven’t quite mastered it, and the results can be a little hit and miss; once or twice, I’ve washed my hair after straightening it because I didn’t like the result. As of late, I tend to persevere with it a bit more because the initial stages of Dragonball Z Japanese animé character can usually be muted; but not always! But with all of these doors I have opened over the years to changing my hairstyle, I still feel somewhat restless. I haven’t dyed my hair in over 8 months, and some people who have only known me more recently didn’t realise that brown was my natural hair colour at first; other people have complimented me and said how relaxed and genuine I look. Rather than gel, I now use Lush’s R&B hair moisturiser, which allows me to have a degree of styling control over my hair while still enabling me to run my fingers through it (which I do habitually throughout the day). But sometimes I like a little bit of severity – the drama queen in me longs to make statements. With the help of GQ Australia, I took a few of the recommended hairstyles that I wish to have in the future:
I think my favourite one is the one in the middle, which is a little more subtle than the blond, super-high do, but has a bit more gloss and texture than the far right. But with all of the blow-drying and early-morning styling that it would take to achieve such a look before I left the house, I still feel a sense of fear – could I achieve this on a day to day basis?
I like the simply blow-dried, more natural feel and blond highlights in this version of the hairstyle too. Is it too high to look professional? Another big question I have is that I haven’t entrusted my hair to a barber or hairdresser in six years; while I am aware I could go into a salon and ask for one of the above looks and they would hopefully do a pretty good job of fulfilling my request, could I bear to give someone else power over my hair? Am I willing to spend money on a haircut after six years of not having had to do so? Do I even need to change my hairstyle? All of the above experiences (whether ill-advised or a success) have taught me a lot about the way my hair works. At what point do we become satisfied with the cards that nature and genetics dealt us, and learn to say “this will do?” As Lady Gaga sings, “I am my hair”, but I am also more than my hair; with two feet firmly in adulthood, I hope that I master the art of maintaining a fashionable style (such as those pictured above) before it’s too late to do so.