Monday 16 September 2019

Hair today...

Niamh Greene

I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. On a good day, it's a shiny mass of bouncing curls. On a bad day, it's an uncontrollable mop that has a life of its own and refuses to do anything I tell it. Unfortunately for me, I seem to have lots of bad hair days.

I spent my childhood believing that 'strong' hair was a blessing and that girls who had poker-straight silky locks were simply jealous when they called me Frizzy Lizzy. But, even back then, I must have suspected that having such thick hair was unusual. There was so much of it that it wouldn't all fit into one plait -- I used to have it braided into two and then pinned on top of my head in a take on the Heidi look that I thought was only gorgeous. It never occurred to me that no-one else wore their hair like that -- in my head, I was a fashion trendsetter.

It was only when I hit my teenage years that I realised that having 'strong' hair could be a serious disadvantage. Suddenly, girls who had straight tresses seemed to be getting all the attention. They somehow mysteriously managed to look like Madonna with one flick of a hairbrush. I, meanwhile, would have been happy enough to look like Cyndi Lauper, but even hours spent emptying tubes of maxi-strength gel on my head to try to tame my curls didn't work.

Halfway through my teens, I decided I needed a new style. I remember storming into the hairdressers one day and demanding she cut the whole lot off -- I wanted the cute, pixie look and I wanted it now.

Trouble was, to carry off a pixie haircut you have to possess exquisite bone structure and it turned out that I didn't have that either. I looked like Kevin Keegan in a miniskirt. It took me two years to grow it all back, a painstaking process that involved lots of ponytails, hairgrips and crying.

I spent most of my twenties putting my hair in the hands of an endless stream of hairdressers, desperately hoping that someone would be able to transform me into Meg Ryan. Sadly, most of them were completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume involved.

Many of them got attacks of nervous giggles when I tried to explain what I wanted. Many more told me how they had never seen hair quite so thick. Ever. Not in all their training. Or their travels. One once claimed that her arm simply wasn't strong enough to comb the conditioner through and she would have to call in reinforcements. Another suggested I try dreadlocks.

I remember the blow-drying years with particular fondness. This was when, in a last ditch attempt to looked groomed and polished, I spent a small fortune on getting my crowning glory straightened every week in salons across the country. Of course, I had to endure the "You have the thickest hair I've ever seen" conversation every time, but if I pretended to be slightly deaf I could just about bear it.

Then ceramic hair straighteners rolled into town. I thought I had it made -- at last I would be able to achieve glossy hair at the flick of a switch in the comfort of my own home. There would be no more humiliating trips to salons. I was inconsolable when I discovered that I needed three hands and eyes in the back of my head to use the things properly.

When I had children, my hair lost its curl. It also started to fall out in sizeable chunks. Other women would have panicked. I was delighted. In fact, I almost threw a party. Every morning I waved another swathe of it down the plughole and fantasised that I would finally be in charge of my hair and not the other way round. This blissful period was short-lived because slowly and surely it started to grow back -- and this time it was thicker than ever.

Now that I'm older and wiser I have come to terms with my hair -- at least it's natural, I suppose. Well, except for the colour, of course. But that's another story.

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