First off, let’s just get this out of the way: When The Mom says I look ‘pulled together’ the image you need to picture is not anything like a picture you might see in a magazine, or on TV. I don’t mean to say I’m not Photoshopped, I mean rather that pulled together in my world means wearing clean clothes. Or at least clean-ish. The jumper I’m wearing today, in fact, is a good example. It doesn’t have any holes, but I’ve been wearing it around the house for the better part of a week.
Anyhow and never mind.
I’m wearing this jumper with my fancy new hair which doesn’t look that much different to my old hair really, it’s just that The Mom and I Skyped whilst my hair was ‘in process’.
It’s been grey or white or both for some years now. But I’ve been colouring it since I was sixteen – a variety of different colours as The Mom rightly asserts – so I never really know what the actual colour is. And you know how, on the hair colouring boxes that you buy to do your hair at home, how they have specific instructions for doing your roots? Yeah, I don’t follow those. At all. What I do instead, is whack the whole bottle of colour on my head, wait thirty minutes, and hope for the best. I’m not usually going for any specific colour, rather I’m going for not grey. It’s so much easier!
But recently, I went into London for a friend’s birthday and we spent the weekend drinking, and at one point, we got to talking about hair colour and my friend looked at me in all seriousness and said, “You look like a woman in crisis with that hair. It looks badly dyed. You need to fix it.”
This friend is the kind of friend everyone needs to have. I don’t need people who will tell me I look fine when I don’t. I need people to tell me to get my shit together. After this conversation, I returned to Bristol and booked myself into the local hair place to have my hair seen to properly.
Now, the other thing is that I am cheap. I begrudge paying good money for someone to do a thing I can do for a fraction of the price myself. I also dislike having my hair done, and all the attendant fussing. My local place has a night school, and so I booked in there, after discussing my hair with the girl on the desk. She explained to me that I needed to remove the colour from my hair so they could really do a good job and make it lighter should I want that.
Some scant directions were scribbled on a piece of paper, and off I went to Boots to get the colour remover. I did it on a Sunday morning, and my hair appointment was Tuesday evening. I work from home on a Monday and Tuesday, so the only people who had to see my weird hair colour were the lifeguards at the pool, and The Mom.
Once I’d removed the colour, my hair was a gross, washed out kind of coral-type colour. It did not suit me at all, but The Mom always gets excited about a new hair colour, in a way.
“What in the hell have you done to your hair?” she screeched over Skype.
“Stripped the colour. Don’t worry, this is only part of the process.”
“Thank God, I mean, you cannot go to work looking like that.”
“They did not hire me because I have nice hair. They hired me because I’m clever and write nice.”
“Yes dear, of course, but I hate to break it to you, but the world judges women on their appearances.”
“No!” I replied in mock shock. “When did this happen? Why was I not informed?”
Rolling her eyes, The Mom replied, “Besides which, that colour makes you look pale and tired. You’ll be fired immediately. I’d fired you if you came in looking like that.”
Yes, well. Anyhow, I presented myself to the school and we talked about what colour I wanted, and eventually they realised that I didn’t know or really care, so just chose something nice themselves, which is exactly how I like it. I’m not a hairdresser, and I’m not that great with colours. That’s why I pay someone to fix it.
The exciting thing is that, because it was the night school, it was quiet and not busy, and I was left, whilst my hair absorbed its colour, to write in peace. No loud music, no massages, no frills. It was sublime.
They even moved up my cut from the next day, to do it that night because the overall transformation would be that much more impressive. Gone is the old man comb-over I’ve had for years and years, and in its place is a fringe that I’m still learning to cope with (it requires a hairbrush, and is thus tricky).
I was trotted around so the manager could see the good work of her students, and pictures – before and after – were taken to be put in a rogues’ gallery of transformations.
I was paying up and they asked when I’d like to come back and have my roots done. Whereupon I paused. My hair does look very nice. I would like it to continue to look nice. I know I am not good and doing this on my own, since I just grab the box of hair colour that seems closest but is never the same. But also as I said, I am cheap. But the night school is there for me – bridging the gap between my cheapness and not wanting to look like a woman in crisis.