On the coldest day of the year so far I find myself with the shortest haircut I have had since I was in my early 20s. I have been going to the same hairdresser for four years and have had broadly the same haircut in all that time. Short, but never too short. I like my hairdresser. She knows my profession and we have wordlessly developed a LETS scheme: she tells me her problems and I get a wet cut for a fiver, which is ridiculously cheap even by arse-end-of-Yorkshire standards. I visited yesterday. She launched into a long and complex tale involving her frail, elderly mother, a curling rug, A&E, the officious Duty Social Worker and the Kafkaesque hoops one must jump through in order to qualify for a modicum of social care. I was in my ex-trouble-making-social-worker element. I gave her a lengthy piece of advice on how to ensure that her mother gets some actual support, which involved citing the National Assistance Act (1948), the Disabled Person’s Act (1980) and the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act (1995): advice designed to make any social work team leader sigh in despair that here is someone who appears to know that she might actually be entitled to something.
This was swiftly followed by “D, what the hell are you doing to my hair?”
“Oh,” she said, “you don’t normally have it that short do you?”
I don’t. I haven’t worn my hair this short since I was a radical young thing in the early 90s, wearing old-style DMs, charity shop clothes and with cheekbones to die for.
I left feeling that I had held up my side of the bargain rather better than usual, but that she had left me looking like a tired extra from Bad Girls. I went to bed feeling very grumpy indeed.
This morning, however, I have had a wave of nostalgia for my Short Hair Days. I had my first short haircut at university, where I hung around with the Women’s Group (or Wimmin’s Group, as we preferred. Oh, Lordy!) The Women’s Group consisted largely of women with names like sheepdogs (Rax, Joo, Kez etc) who looked like they had been sheep-sheared by the farmer. We thought we were sooo cool. I quickly took to cutting my hair myself, and thought I looked quite the radical. The Mother despaired. Job well done, then.
I moved to Stoke Newington after I graduated, way before Stokey had been gentrified and when the Vortex Jazz Bar was the best night out in
I looked like a boy for years, and I liked my androgyny. But now I am a middle-aged women, a stone heavier and with more than a smattering of grey (which, in a man would look ‘distinguished’ but in a woman looks like she can’t be bothered to dye it. The Wimmin’s Group failed in that respect.) I have wrinkles, which I really can’t call laughter lines because I just don’t laugh that much. I am not sure if women my age can really carry off the Very Short Hair look. I think it makes me look hard, not sexily androgynous. So I will grow it out to its normal level of shortness. But I would like to thank D for the memories.