I was never happy with my hair. I think it’s because – when I was born the nurses (apparently) flocked to see my mass of wavy locks because “it looked so unusual,” said mum. “Odd,” confided dad when I was older and out of earshot of mum. And at school my hair styles were never conventional. I did short and cropped; I did fierce and ‘mohicaned;’ I did permed, shaggy, straight, shaved, curly, crimped, you name it, I did it; all in an attempt to hide my natural look which was… ‘messy.’ But nothing worked. My hair, it seemed, was always in a permanent state of dishevelment and it bothered me.
And it finally came to a head (my head) shortly after I’d signed up to do a spot of part-time nannying for an agency.
My first assignment was to a mum who’d just given birth and wanted help with ironing and with occupying her three year old son. This sounded right up my street. So I went to the house, I knocked on the door and it was opened by a perfect mother with perfect hair wearing perfectly ironed clothes who then proceeded to lead me into a perfectly styled lounge to meet her perfect little baby and three year old boy. I felt like I’d stepped into a ‘Hello’ magazine.
Anyway, I introduced myself, I made friends with my charge and then I began to carry out my duties. No problem. And all was going (I don’t want to say ‘perfectly’ but it was so, do you mind if I do?) perfectly until the boy suddenly blurted out:
Why is your hair so messy?
Well, I tell you, for a split second time stood still. And then a tidal wave of feelings swept over me. I felt embarrassment and anger; I felt inadequacy, helplessness and confusion.
“Why do children always have to say it as it is?” I thought. “It was bad enough the time that little girl told me I had a yellow tooth in the middle of the check-out queue at Sainsburys. Why, oh, why do these things keep happening to me?”
But then, you know, a strange thing happened. As the wave gently began to recede, acknowledgement, acceptance and – very slowly – gratitude began to reveal themselves to me. I suddenly realized, as I stood there on this woman’s pure white carpet trying hard not to simultaneously cry and stress-wee, that resistance was futile. I would always have wayward follicles; it was my fate. So why try to fight it? And so I stopped. And from that day on, ‘messy’ officially became ‘a style’ in my books.
And I didn’t say it at the time (because he were only small) but, “thank you, three year old boy for dissing my hair. You helped me learn to love it.”