The worst haircut, ever.
I am guilty of hair torture too. Terribly guilty. I have only to close my eyes and waves of traumatically shattering memories wash over me, unbidden and unrelenting. But one hideous memory scalds the most. And it was not one of my own making.
It was the summer 1985, and I was enjoying my 13th year on this Earth. I had-through no fault of my own- fallen madly in love with a four foot nothing boy called Gary who liked me as a 'friend'. He in turn was mad about some hussy girl from Coolock who didn't know Gary existed.
It was all a bit tense in our mixed group, hormones boiled, affections and fancying were rampant yet unspoken about, jokes could be cruel and the first sign of weakness could lead to the pack turning. Because of being the youngest I had to work extra hard to be accepted. I always felt unworldly and unsophisticated and slightly stupid compared to the 15 and 16 year olds who were my peers. A fringe performer, gamma to their alpha.
We hung around arcades, played 23 hours of space invaders a day, went bonkers as soon as the sun set and resisted until the last possible second commands to return home. I let Gary know I was in love with him by being unspeakably rude to him at all times and rolling my eyes whenever he spoke to me.
But no matter which way I played the 'notice me' game, Gary was oblivious to my charms. I wore items of clothing stolen from Gamma's second husband's chest, granddaddy shirts with enormous belts, huge v-neck sweaters that smelled of mothballs and pipe tobacco and hung to my knees. I wore rubber bangles all the way up my arm, I cinched my wast in with butterfly belts, I wore plastic button earrings, I wore one green plimsoll and one yellow at the same time, I learned all the lyrics to Thriller the album, including Paul McCartney's lines in 'Say Say Say'. I was snarky, I was charming, I told jokes, I was a fast runner, I could blow smoke rings without gagging, I could jump off the swings at a really high arc, I had the highest score in Space Invaders until some lisping Cure head beat it ( I was outraged and we played doubles until neither of us could feel our fingers) I was everything a boy could want...as a friend.
Seriously hampered by a lack of boobage and the inability not to blush whenever anyone made a joke about my 'affections' I had all but given up my love quest by that hot August bank holiday weekend. With little option, I decided to be content to trail in Gary's wake, punching him in the arms and ignoring him when he spoke.
Then fate stepped in in a most unique way. My terrier-a sulky beast who looked like Freeway from Hart to Hart, bit Gary's younger brother on the calf- well I say bit, he pretty much removed a fair chunk of Gary's brother's leg, terriers shake their heads a lot when they bite things, it can and did get nasty. Then Gary's mom gave out to me, then I cried, then Gary put his arms around me, then-realising this way my opening- I sobbed all the more- then that stupid bitch started to like him, because he was 'kind'. Then I plotted to poison her. But I didn't know how.
When they snogged behind the Wendy House I pretended I didn't care, but I ran home weeping tears of rage and jealously and heart broken anguish.
Oh it was like a Greek tragedy. Unloved and broken hearted I moped around the house, getting under every one's feet, recording broken hearted songs on my Casio recorder, writing heartfelt poetry the likes the world has never seen before.
'His arms are blistered by the summer sun.
I am undone.
wise and open
do not see,
(the songs were worse)
Forlorn, dejected, miserable and rejected, I trailed around after my father sighing, waiting to be asked what was wrong, so that I could sag and reply, 'Nothing.'
But it was summer and my father was busy with things arable and so my misery festered and grew like a bacteria on a damp doody. Even Etheline,-who was a bundle of rage herself because our mother had enrolled her in piano classes with a harridan in WIcklow Town whose idea of teaching was to strike her pupil's fingers when they made a mistake- gave up trying to annoy me. I was unreachable, I was besotted, I was heartsick and weary.
But then my Greek tragedy turned into an Irish travesty. And the cause of this travesty was called Carmel.
Carmel is my mother's friend. She is also an amateur hairdresser. She used to go up to an old folk's home on the weekend and set and curl hair. Because most of those old folk were in comas and not exactly compos-mentis, Carmel's confidence in her hair dressing abilities exceeded her actual skill by light years, LIGHT YEARS.
MY mother- the lilac couch, the biological incubator- had her part to play in this too. Fed up with me sighing and not eating, she went out of her way to get to the bottom of my woe. Upon learning that I was 'too ugly for life' her solution to my wretchedness lay in convincing me, a lass with shoulder length multi layered glossy hair, that my style was too 'flat' and that if I- and get this- got a 'body wave' in it, it would look so much nicer and by extension I would look so much prettier.
Now at thirteen I had yet to recognise the passive aggressive fury with which my mother regarded her youngest daughter. Back then I just thought she was a mad furious pot clatterer who took a lot of tablets, and took little notice of her. I was unaware the reach of her deviousness. And thus, in my head this 'body wave' she spoke of only meant one thing. With unflat hair I would snare Gary without having to go to the considerable trouble of training the dogs to kill on sight the hussy who had vexed me so.
And so we went to Carmel's.
I should have known I was doomed when I saw the tiny tiny curlers. For what could tiny tiny curlers produce only tiny tiny curls?
I should have realised short choppy layered hair did not suddenly sprout Rapunzel like lengths when curled. I should not have allowed her to 'give it a trim' first I should have understood that Carmel wouldn't know the difference between a 'body wave' and a camel. She was my mother's friend was she not? Who the fuck knew what kind of legally prescribed drugs they were on, nor what they saw in their own alternate universe?
I should have questioned the length she left the 'solution ' on my tightly packed bonce. Her 'whoops, I nearly forgot about you' should have pre-warned me to the coming horror, as should the slight burning of my tender scalp.
She undid the curlers and I looked with growing stomach churning fear as each tightly bound corkscrew of hair fled her stubby fingers and retreated back to my scalp.
Then she blow dried it.
And that's when the full atrocity came galloping home.
I was a mushroom.
Tight densely packed curls rose straight up halo like from my head. I looked like the world's ugliest lamb. I was Sean Penn In Carlito's Way. I was Bozo the Clowns uglier unmade up sister.
I was destroyed.
'Well.' Carmel said hovering over my shoulder. 'It will relax a bit now in the next day or so.'
MY mother put down her tea and cocked her head to one side. 'At least it has a good sensible cut to it Carmel, sure it won't be long growing out.'
I said nothing, I was rendered dumbstruck.
I was a mushroom, and mushrooms don't talk.
Suffice to say it did NOT relax any over the next few days. It stayed tightly packed until my straight hair started to grow out, this enabled me to look both flat and curly at the same time, like some Lous XIIII reject. Also the solution fried the ends to a crisp, changing the colour so that I was a piebald mushroom. I stayed close to home for the reminder of that summer composing different types of poetry.
'Evil womb bearer,
from Satan's side
you did appear
to torment and
The 'body wave' took eight months to cut out and when the final frizzled curl fell I was utterly scalped. Short haired. Boyish. But as luck would have it my boobs decided to grow, my face lost some of it's kiddish chub and my hair style suddenly looked gamine and stylish. My mother glanced at it one day and suggested I should grow it into a bob.
I nodded and smiled and ran back upstairs to my room. I took my birthday money from FatPig and got my father to give me a lift to the hairdresser in Wicklow Town.
I sat in front of the mirror, swaddled in towels.
'So what would you like me to do?' She asked.
I smiled. 'Take it all off please. A number one all over.'
'Are you sure? It's going to be very short.'
'Yes I am.'
Labels: And not a shitake neither.