Fringe benefits

(That joke only works if you’re English. For the Statesiders: More Bangs for your Buck, perhaps? Leave suggestions below.)

This is a story about hair. Are you obsessed with hair too? I am.

Once there was a girl who had a perm. Because she was fifteen, and her hair was frizzy-wavy so wasn’t up to much anyway, and she didn’t realise it would make her teenage years like a tragic deleted scene from Saved By the Bell.

Everyone needs a university makeover, and this girl’s was to ditch the poodle mop, dye it blonde and straighten her hair. Unfortunately that one perm, eons ago, had awakened a dormant abominable snowman in her follicles, and it was now naturally curly. But you can do a lot with GHDs, and the just-stepped-out-of-a-rainstorm look was big just then. Over the years the blonde stayed, the GHDs died of overwork and were replaced, and the hair itself got shorter and more practical until it hung pretty much permanently at shoulder length.

This is the part where I reveal that perm girl WAS ME. Also, Soylent Green is people, it was Earth all along and the chap at the end is a ghost.

Lately I’ve been brooding on a change of hair. Ten years is long enough for a hairstyle, and I needed something fresher to counteract all my new motherhood wrinkles. What if I grew it? And changed the colour a bit? And – wait just a minute – got a fringe?! I hadn’t had a fringe since I was little, and back then it was a bit less of a fashion statement and a bit more of a pudding-basin.

I also needed a change of salon, which is terrifying. Trying a new hair salon is like stepping into a lion pit where some of the lions have thinning shears and poor colouring skills. But I chose one in the end and sallied forth for the afternoon, Cloud Atlas in hand, Henry safely ensconced with friends.

Well. It was brilliant. They had a complimentary drinks menu. The hair washing stations were massage chairs – and it is a bizarre but lovely feeling, having invisible hands pummel your back. Like having a robot servant. And while the girl who cut my hair got a bit obsessed with feathering, they did a brilliant job.

I got a side-sweeping fringe, just to ease me into it. Wish I’d gone the whole hog now. I love it.

I also wish someone had warned me what a fringe looks like the morning after. Hello, hair explosion.

From l to r: 1) there ain’t no party like a pudding basin party; 2) moon river; 3) what’s the latin root of regrowth; 4) fringe n’ wrinkles.

I finished Cloud Atlas that same day, by the way. The hairdressers were very kind and kept bringing it to me so I could read it, because my social skills are really quite advanced in that way. I felt oddly sorrowful once it was done. The interlinking stories are nested within one another, making you read forwards through time and then, gradually, backwards and backwards until you’re squeezed out of their lives forever. Until the optimism of earlier characters is weighted to oblivion by what will come later, but is unbearably touching for all that.

I want to cry a bit, just thinking about it. Damn it, Mitchell.

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