Rarely has one reason in life to make a dramatic change to one’s looks, and when such reason arises it is normally bound to professional requirements or life-or-death necessity. So, an actress might change her hair and weight to suit the perfect part. A spy might don a cunning disguise for some undercover detecting, a criminal to escape undetected. A man may decide he can only truly live contentedly if he wears a dress, a woman may bind her breasts to become pope.
As for me? Last week I needed a haircut. And a blog. And thus a perfect opportunity to slaughter two little birdies with one cruel albeit metaphorical pebble presented itself. For while I have on occasion this year devised some slightly peculiar challenges in my quest to do almost anything so long as it was a new thing every week, there is one everyday-to-most-women experience I’ve somehow never had the urge to do hitherto in my life. Which is: dyeing my hair.
In fact, dyeing aside, I’ve never done anything approaching the honour of the term “dramatic” with my hair. I’ve had the same feathered-at-the-front, layered at the back look in varying lengths since my teens. And if you’ve been adhering to the same pattern for over a decade, and if the hair cut to it is too heavy and straight to mould into anything very elaborate anyway, it comes pretty unnatural to one to imagine it being at all different, let alone better. My hair is simply the hair I’ve been given, I’ve never considered myself to have much choice in what it looks like.
However, once the idea of dyeing was planted in my mind, and was fed with the realisation that actually, change mightn’t be impossible, my imagination grew faster than Jack’s beanstalk. If I was to dye my hair, I may as well take the opportunity to attempt a whole new look.
First then, to the dye. My natural colour is light brown and straw-like, tentatively nudging towards blonde after extended exposure to the sun. But as I live on a cloudy grey island it is normally what my Grandmater, when asked for her opinion, deems “indiscriminate”. Which is not a word you see often cropping up in novels– “and then she appeared, the great beauty of Birmingham, strutting into the room on legs as long and firm as the Eiffel Tower, her mouth full and pouting, her hair – a sort of indiscriminate brownish hue”.
Having been topped by an undefinable mop my whole life, I determined that my new colour should be bold. Black was my first thought. This would not only be noticeably different, but would also allow me to attempt to imitate the style I most admired: that of the 1920s flapper.
Or rather, one flapper in particular. On the mirror in my bedroom is tacked a postcard of a photograph from 1928. The woman in the photograph has a short, clipped black bob and fringe, the edges of her cut sharp and clear against her pale white skin. She wears a black dress and stands against a black backdrop, against which, asides from her face, the only thing that stands out is her long string of glistening white pearls.
It was with this coiffure in mind that I walked into the hairdressers: I wanted a short black bob and fringe. And that was almost exactly what I came away with.
My plan only altered in the shade of dye. My hairdresser advised that I would look frankly strange with black hair, as nobody is naturally black, and so after agonising over an overwhelming number of hair samples, fretful lest selecting a shade too light or dark in the wrong direction would result in me needing to shave my hair off or cover it in a shawl for six months, I went for dark brunette. The hurdle of colour over, my nerve again wavered before the cut almost to the point of rejecting a fringe. This was after all to be my first fringe since reaching puberty. And my childhood years hardly tally among my coolest, and are therefore a dubious period to regress too: I couldn’t pronounce my r’s, I hated having my hair brushed, and an awful lot of my clothes had pictures of horses on them.
Yet my hairdresser refused to be dissuaded from hacking in to the front of my hair. That a bob-cut demanded a fringe was in her opinion irrefutable. And although my first reaction upon seeing it form was “Oh good God, I’ve subconsciously asked for a Beatles’ haircut”, I have since grown used to having hair dangle on my forehead where it did not used to dangle. And, as much as I adore the Beatles, I have thankfully also since noticed more feminine resemblances to my new style, ranging from Thelma in Scooby Doo to the slut who seduces Alan Rickman in Love Actually. My sister’s reaction, bless her woolly mittens, was that I looked like a cast member of Chicago; so needless to say I am going to be especially generous with her Christmas presents this year.
Whoever it is I do look like, one thing I have decided on: it is possible to look unlike oneself. And while I haven’t yet noticed my personality alter or changed my name by deedpoll, the consequent implication that it is possible to reinvent oneself, to be more than one person in one life, is tantalising.
Whether this first attempt is a reinvention for better or worse, I’ll leave you to judge from this, the before…