FIONA LOONEY

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - KITCHEN SINK DRAMA Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

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.

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