I find myself at a parting of the ways where I was prepared only for an unmarked minor road.
I find myself confronted, quite literally head-on, with the process of ageing, gracefully or otherwise.
I have had a bad haircut.
When I say bad, what I really mean is technically excellent, though perhaps on someone else’s head. I mean three inches shorter than normal, than agreed; grazing chin(s) rather than shoulder(s). I am shorn, a sheep with a style (notionally, at least) much like every second thirtysomething woman around me.
I don’t know what my hairdresser was thinking. Was she tired; did her concentration lapse; have I been tipping her too little over the years? Or, wonders a small, paranoid (slightly chilly) voice in my head, had she decided to do a necessary she knew I would never brave myself? Have I reached that age where Long Hair is simply Too Young? Among all my knowing fashion crimes, was an unwitting mutton lurking too?
I have long suspected that those of us who are ginger run the risk of having hair where others have personality. It’s always there, always noticed, shorthand for everything from a short temper to a roving eye. From loathing it as a child, to tolerating it as a teen, to finally reaching a state of resigned truce in my thirties, I have always had a complicated relationship with my hair. There have never really been styles, more variously successful attempts to tame and coexist. I thought that we had reached a compromise, my hair and I: long enough to let the colour show, but more importantly that gravity would help co-ordinate the bits that corkscrewed, the bits that hung poker straight, the frankly weird, wavy, wiry bits; short and kempt enough to avoid the Celtic revival look. Always, always, the ability to battle it into submission, screwed out of the way into a bun (or a cottage loaf) on the back of my head.
No longer. Now, it is age-appropriately tailored. When straightened, cunning, it sleeks and swishes and frames. Left to its own devices, it is as wide and as high as it is long; a carroty Afro the shape and size of a motorbike helmet but minus the shine. Worst of all, it is too short to tie back.
It is just hair, of course, and it really doesn’t matter. It is a pain, it will mean a lot more (ie some) time spent styling it, rather than the lazy can’t-do-a-thing-with-it shoulder shrugging I have always fallen back on, but it is the season of hats and hoods, it is just hair and it will grow back.
Or will it? I’ve always looked at the hair of my mum and her friends, my gran and her peers, and marvelled at the fact that their styles were all slight variations on a generational theme. I wondered when you knew that the time had come to go short, assuming you hadn’t had the bravery or bone structure to do it at an earlier stage. Was it like the period talk; did someone take you to one side and murmur that the days of the ponytail were behind you now? Is this my cue? I suspect it is. I just wish I’d had the chance not to be able to do anything with it one last time.