Ibadly need a haircut. My hair is so long now that if I need to access the ends of it, I go in from the side, meeting it just above the small of my back. When I plait it, most of the work is now carried out with the hair pulled over my shoulder, in plain sight. There is so much of it now that I could conceivably make a wig from the bits I no longer need, and the lucky recipient would also have long hair.
You may be familiar with my hair. If you work in television, you may remember it from such moments as ‘Cut! Your hair’s in your face again’, ‘Cut! A bit of it just went into your mouth there’, ‘We can’t actually see your eyes’, and ‘Is there any way we could just smooth down the top of it?’ If you just watch television, you probably know it better from the ‘What the HELL has she done with her hair now?’ moments.
When I was growing up, my hair was the bane of my life. It wasn’t just thick; it was fat. The Purdy — a style that looked slick and light on everyone else — resembled an upturned mixing bowl on my 10-year- old head. Cuts that looked feathery and layered on other heads made me look as though I’d been hastily sectioned in the dark.
When I foolishly got it permed in my teens, I walked around for six months with a sort of messy triangle on my head. ‘That’ll fall in a couple of days,’ the worried hairdresser had hoped. A year later, it was still impossible to get a comb through it.
All the time, though, every hairdresser I encountered promised I’d be glad of my thick hair when I got older. It turns out that in this at least they were right. Years ago, I used to get slightly embarrassed when a colourist had to abandon my head halfway through to mix more colour; now I consider it a badge of honour. It seems unlikely now that I will finish up as one of those unfortunate old women desperately trying to cover up bald patches in their ageing scalp. Whether that entirely compensates for a childhood of unmanageable, fat hair, I’m not yet sure, but hey, we are where we are.
Which, to go back to where I came in, is currently barred from getting my hair cut.
I am dangerously
close to the line between ‘confident
older woman with long hair’ and
‘mad oul’ wan’
For once, I’m working with a television crew who actually don’t wish I’d tame my tresses. It’s a question of continuity, see — for the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a project which is way, way too complicated to explain here, but because it’s being shot out of order and we still have three weeks to go, I am forbidden from undertaking the drastic pruning that my hair desperately needs.
Because all of a sudden, I am dangerously close to the line between looking like an older woman who’s confident enough to wear her hair below her shoulders and just looking like a mad oul’ wan. For all that I rail against the deeply depressing convention that women of a certain age (as Leo Varadkar would class us) should always keep their hair short and nunnish — and for all that I rejoice that the awful tradition of Irish women shearing away their sexuality as soon as they marry seems finally to have passed — I have to acknowledge that older women with unkempt long hair still look a bit mental.
Unless they have a proven and successful record as a bohemian (and I have always been more rover than boh), they tend to look like the kind of troubled craturs who think it a good idea not to return the shopping trolley after they’ve finished in the supermarket. They are women who think nothing of wearing odd shoes, sometimes several of them at the same time. They tend to have more cats than they care to remember.
I wish it weren’t so. I’d love to live in a world where men and women could grow their hair to the floor if they wished, regardless of their age or creative leanings, and people wouldn’t quietly make cuckoo sounds when they pass them. But the world takes small steps only, and I suppose I should give thanks that at least I am permitted to wear my hair in a way that my mother would never, ever have been allowed to.
You might bear that in mind, if you happen to see me and my ridiculous hair out and about. And know that — deep inside — I am crying for a haircut.