Sunday 15 September 2019

Shaving my head as a quiet revolution

On a practical level, it means freedom from hair gel, which is very liberating
On a practical level, it means freedom from hair gel, which is very liberating
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

It was gradually dawning on me that most people were working hard to studiously avoid mentioning the fact that I had shaved all my hair off. A female colleague who came out a door and hadn't time to think or compose herself, blurted out, "Oh Jesus, your hair!"

When the kids saw me the younger one said, "Your hair's all gone!" and ran and hid behind the sofa. It reminded me of when both of them were younger, when my wife would get her hair cut, and there'd be much wailing and gnashing of teeth and they'd be afraid of her for a day or two, wanting their old Mummy back.

The older one, who has developed some sangfroid, laughed in my face, and said, "Your hair's… em… nice?"

After I had the hair done I forgot about it and met two guys for lunch. It turned out to be a sympathy lunch. They were concerned about me, due to ongoing events. I could see they were vaguely treating me with kid gloves. Then I went to the bathroom after lunch and saw my hair in the mirror, and I realised that I looked like someone who had escaped from a secure facility. So I was there telling them, 'No really, I'm fine'. But presumably all the time they were thinking, 'He's not well in the head, poor chap'.

Initially I wasn't sure what the fuss was. I've done this at the start of summer the last few years. I suppose it's somewhat of a bid for freedom. On a practical level it means freedom from hair gel, which is very liberating. And on a more philosophical level, I think it is some kind of statement too, a quiet revolution, a form of self-harm, some attempt to smash my old self, free myself from my ego, to strip away some layer of artifice. Obviously I don't think of any of this at the time. It's just a gut feeling. I get sick of having hair and the sun comes out and I want it off. I want to be sheared like a sheep, to start again. I feel lighter, sleeker, free.

What am I rebelling against? Well, as the man said, what have you got?

I probably don't have the head for a skinhead in ways. I'm no Sinead O'Connor. Hair probably softens out my features, which can look a bit angry and slightly heavy in a certain light - OK, in a lot of light. Without hair, I can tend to look like a Russian bouncer, or maybe an oligarch, which is essentially a Russian bouncer with money.

It can depend how you dress too. I tried to put on sunglasses to walk to work this morning and whichever pair I tried, with my coat, I just looked like a member of Madness crossed with a member of Bad Manners.

I suspect we may have gone shorter than usual this time. My problem was I didn't have the reference selfie from last year to hand - whenever I get a good haircut I take a reference selfie. I suspect we left a bit more hair last year. But when we had left a bit on this time, we agreed my head was like a tennis ball, so we went again with a more severe blade. I suspect that last time I had it cut this severely was years back, as a young writer here at the Sunday Indo, and I was sent up to queue with the ladies for tea at Daniel's house, back when Daniel was still a bit of a joke to us city slickers. I was much bigger then than I am now, and I was wearing a large trench coat and had a very big angry shaved head on me. Daniel, I remember, was quite nervous of me.

Anyway, we are all getting used to it. Initially my head felt slightly chilly after the sun that inspired the shave went back in again, but I am enjoying the airiness of it now. The older child has taken to rubbing the head, which she enjoys. Anyway, one day in, it is growing back. That's the thing about my hair, some of you would love it; it keeps coming, stronger all the time. And on it goes.

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