As I look at the photograph of my daughter with her new hairstyle, I suddenly feel like the museum curator in the Mr Bean in America film who says he cannot help respecting Bon Jovi; the singer with ten hairstyles in as many years. You see, I have had one hairstyle all my life; long and longer. Straight across the bottom, plaits or ponytailed. It never occurred to me to ask my mother if I could have it any different. I don’t think I even realised hairstyles were for people like me too. The first time I had my hair cut professionally was in 1985. I had experienced some heart break and when I went to my mother with a wish to have my long hair chopped right back, she knew I needed to do something different and did not refuse.
A year later, I got married and a great towering upstyle was built by the parlour where I was dressed, with extensions, buns and more hairpins than I had seen in my life. No one, not even my mother in law could have guessed at the grape-like clusters of hair that barely fell past my shoulders.
That was the last time I paid someone to touch my hair. It grew in PNG. It grew in Brisbane. It grew more when I had children; something about the hormones. It fell out too, when I gave birth. But it got longer each year. By the time I was in my mid thirties I could sit on it. Finally, I had the very long hair that I had dreamed of; the kind that Rapunzel had; the cloud coloured hair that the peach complexioned Keshavati princess had in my copy of Thakurmar Jhuli or The Grandmother’s Tales. But did I have a golden bed to lay my head on and a silver bed to rest my feet on? Did old Rapunzel really want some prince climbing up her tresses? Who knows.
Something I do know is that when I recently asked my daughter to trim my hair just a little bit and she cut off over a foot of it, it was almost liberating after the initial outpouring of shocked cries on my part. I know, I may have even compared her with Delilah, but it has been such fun to wear my hair down or just stick a barette in it and be ready to go out. So while I am still thinking of the little girl with the long plaits she once was each time I see her haircut, I know that it makes her feel great, it will grow back, if she wants it to, and that a woman who gets a haircut is a woman ready to make things happen. I wish her all success with all of those things.
If there is one little thing that bugs me very slightly, it is this. Does it mean that you are starting to get a little old if you see the fashions of your childhood come back again as fashions almost always do? Vidal Sassoon invented the hair cut our Miss R got for herself when he began sculpting hair using its natural shine and bounce for women such as 60s icon Mary Quant. I am a child of the 60s and it is disconcerting to suddenly see my own child peep at me from under the same hair that I saw in Crystal Palace and Oxford Street in those days. But then good style really never goes out of fashion.
She seems so grown up, as her brothers keep saying since yesterday. Surely, that must mean I am allowed a little nostalgic wallowing, a month short of my fiftieth birthday?
Sassoon’s signature cuts