They say a change is as good as a holiday. I always remind myself of this when contemplating a haircut. Let me just say, for the avoidance of doubt, that high maintenance is not my style. A trim once a year is about my speed. But, today I had 5 inches of hair cut off and and new style crafted by Trina from Perth. This has been coming on for some time. I had Googled celebrities with short cropped locks for a few hours last week and felt relatively convinced that it was time for a change. I have often mused about doing a Sharon Stone or Ginnifer what's her name, but without the make-up, jewellery or facial structure to carry those off, I had doubts. I noted that style journalists think Kate Middleton needs a new look. Luckily and serendipitously, I am now up to series 4 in the Friends Series Rewatch of Winter 2010-11 (where Monica sports several short "dos"). So, while it seemed spur of the moment, it was actually a long time brewing, this decision, and not such a big deal to secure a walk-in appointment and announce proudly that I wanted them to "take it all off".
In hindsight, as I recalling the wet tresses tumbling laconically to the floor, I should have collected that hair and sold it like Jo of "Little Women". I suppose at a deep unconscious level, given the clients marching in for their weekly wash and blow-dry sessions, I knew it would be ridiculous to do so - to reveal a morbid self-love or worse, display my current state of penury.
Which is more or less where the haircut gets its inspiration from. Not morbid self-love. But given my struggle to find purposeful employment that plays to my strengths and an outlet for my myriad talents, I have been suffering a sort of malaise, an energy low, if you will. When one feels like that a new haircut is often the answer. Its benefits are three-fold. First, it distracts. For a few days one enjoys the new look, playing around with the style and popping pins and bows in here and there, trying on hats and coats and seeing oneself afresh. Second, it sparks conversation. It is in some ways a cry for attention and validation - one feels pampered, one gets noticed by people who never normally acknowledge one, friends are curious - What were you thinking? they say, innocently - secretly miffed that something deeply personal was going on that one did not share with them. Third, inevitably, as all that weighty old dead stuff is removed, one feels lighter, purer and fresher. One recovers some zest for life. If for no other reason than the thrill of facing a stranger in the mirror through the fogs of sleep on a dark January morning, it has to be worth doing.
A lot of bang for the buck, you see!
Now in most cases, two days later after a gruelling workout and a rushed shampoo, the cute and glossy style is long gone and the hair looks shabby and frizzy, asserting its own mind once more and one is left frustrated and sorrowful, lamenting the loss of the option of throwing it up in a pony tail and knowing all would be fine...
But no. This time I am mindfully intent on having no regrets.Life is too short. There is still good coffee and great books to enjoy.
Also, even if I do not look like Katie Holmes strolling out of Starbucks with my toddler bedecked in patent high heels beside me, the cut is a good one and has taken years off me (or so I have convinced myself by putting that ladybird clip in!).
It is not easy to navigate the "hair ways" of life. You see we are a product of our home lives. My late mother was always of the view that women of a certain age look better with shorter hair. Indeed this seems to be the prevailing opinion in Australia where long hair on anyone over 45 who is not in showbiz is a rarity. But here in London and across the northern hemisphere as a whole, this is not the case. Indeed in a concerted effort to prove my commitment to fundraising for the Off-Spring's school at the PTA Christmas Fair late last year, I offered to auction snips of my long locks, only to be met with gasps of horror and exclamations of "No - you must not!" from the assembled committee. Indeed given the overwhelming lack of response to most of my ideas and initiatives as chair of the PTA, it was a startling reminder that people do express emotion and can form an opinion when the subject matter is important to them (nb women with short hair and cooking with children seem to be matters that invite a spirited response).
In a similar vein, I was met with absolute horror at school pick-up today when I collected the Off-Spring. Number 3 was home ill - not that ill really, just tired - and accompanied me to the salon. where the fun of sitting in high chairs, spraying water on wigs and being consulted on matters of style and appearance rendered him supportive and thoroughly engaged. Number 2 smiled at me with delight from afar but told me I looked hideous. Number 1 could barely look at me such was his devastation, saying I was ugly and disgusting.
Thankfully Number 1 resiled from this viewpoint after an hour when a clip with a flower on it was pulled through the side of the hair and also I suspect after some introspective musings about the true nature of love and acceptance. Number 2 is a pushover. A pure aesthete - for him the issue was the change rather than the style.
At the end of the evening no one was too bothered. I explained to them that (unlike Sampson whose strength lay in his long locks) I would be a more fun and laid back person with my new hip, cool and funky do and if they gave it a chance they might find things were better under the new regime. I certainly inspired them to new heights of homework concentration and energy, so who knows....
Does one's hair really matter that much? Apparently, yes!
I could make all sorts of statements about the relative value of appearance and haircare as opposed to curing cancer and diabetes and eradicating poverty, but seriously, who would listen?
I know now, only too well, the value of a nice fresh style; of letting go of old ways of being. (Imagine, some people look and feel great all the time!) And to top it off, as I saw with the Off-Spring, haircuts help people to adapt to change and accept differences in each other.
Hair as a concept, as a form of self-expression, as a symbol of our identity or lack thereof and as a reflection of our values and beliefs is crucial to our personal growth and development and the evolution of the species as a whole. We have but to consider hair through the ages to see how important it is as a barometer of societal stability, prosperity and cultural progress. I am not qualified, nor wish, to analyse the significance of hair and style and all that it means to people. Suffice to say, it is a big business for a reason. It is after all, (body art, clothes and plastic surgery aside) the only thing we have about our person that we can affect or influence. It is the sole physical canvas upon which to create something truly representative of our inner self.
Sure, I like seeing what people are doing with their hair. Good style is always attractive. Glossy, shiny, healthy tresses are beautiful. But I have denied the obvious for too long. I hate to admit it after years of wanton maltreatment of my hair; I have missed the boat! What messages have I been sending about myself? What opportunities have I missed to show the world who I am! Expensive hats? Inner work? Intellectual pursuits? To what end, I ask you?
Hair is a phenomenological and semiotic minefield.
But it is never too late!
If Justin Bieber can do it...