Chutney and cheese, but mostly hair

Yesterday evening, I spent £204 on my hair. This might seem like a lot. That’s because it is a lot. It’s an obscene amount of money, and sometimes I’m not sure why I pay it. I have my reasons – I assemble them every 12 weeks, when the wedge of roots at my parting is thick, but collected, on a page, in a list, I’m not sure they’re enough. It’s half my monthly rent. It’s what I paid for a pair of boots, eight years ago, when I learned that someone I loved had kissed someone I liked, and even then I could only bring myself to pay half (one boot, if you will), as a down-payment. And then I went to a lecture and saw them together, and went back the same day and bought the other boot. I still have them. The point of that being – it was so difficult for me to spend that much money on boots that it took two goes to do it, even when I was angry and sad and out-of-sorts, and now I spend that same money every 12 weeks on my hair.

George, though. When I sit in his chair and look at him reflected back at me, I feel the same way I do when I get on a long flight: like every responsibility I have at that time is gone, for a few hours. They’ve introduced WIFI on planes, now, but I’ve so far managed to pretend that they haven’t, so I can salvage those few hours of contact-free time, in which to watch a bad movie (preferably one I’ve seen before), and drink two glasses of wine, and fall asleep with my mouth open.

It’s not quite the same in George’s chair, because I do have my phone, and I do answer emails, and I do look at Instagram and Twitter. But I can’t go anywhere. I can’t really do anything. So last night I sat and watched my reflection (reddened nose from two days of a cold, eyebrows in need of attention, eyes completely free of eyeliner for maybe the first time in 15 years because I keep sneezing it off) as George applied pieces of foil to it for an hour and a half, then left me sitting under a heat lamp for 45 minutes, then rinsed and toned for another 30 minutes, then cut and finished for the final 30. When you tot it up, you understand why it costs what it does. I’ve spent more time with George in the last few years than I have with my Dad.

It’s never quite perfect, because I am very exacting. Turning hair that was born brown, and has been manipulated through varying shades of ginger, black, purple and red red red over all the years, blonde is not an easy task, particularly when it keeps on growing like it does. When you think about it, it’s some sort of chemical mastery: to take two inches of grown-out virgin hair, and paint dye on every second strand, and watch it take under hot lights, until it looks as close to the rest of the hair on my head as possible. Every two inches of my hair has been dyed at a different time. I’m a patchwork. I’m a mish-mash. I’m a lot of hard work.

Anyway, four hours isn’t always that easy to come by, not when your hairdresser doesn’t work every day of the week and you don’t finish work until six at the earliest and your weekends are packed full of birthdays abroad, and leaving parties, and brunches (this isn’t a plea for pity, obviously, only an honest appraisal of the hours of a week). So I took a half day – quite a decision when you’ve only got two days of leave left for the entire year, an inevitability when you have three jobs and nine overseas holidays in a 365 day period – and abandoned my work for George, and four hours of being massaged and tugged and stroked. Maybe I don’t pay George enough.

When I left his chair it was nearly 6pm, and very dark. I roll my eyes at every person who exclaims surprise at the darkening evenings, but I do it myself. It is very dark at 4pm, and 5pm, and still very dark at 6pm. Because it was very dark, and because I have the sense of direction of a rock, I walked down a different road to my usual, and I walked past a specialist condiments shop. It calls itself a deli, which makes sense because it is one, but all I saw in the darkness was a window stacked high with hundreds of different kinds of chutney.

You might not know this about me, but I really love chutney. I love it with a passion. There are limitations to this passion, because I really only love it as an accompaniment to cheese, but when the two are paired, my love knows no bounds. If I could eat nothing for the rest of my life but strong blue cheese and caramelised onion chutney, I would be content. Smelly, and slightly mouldy, and well-preserved, and content.

They were closing up, because it was after six, at least five staff sweeping and dusting and packing away big chunks of cheese. They all said hello to me. None of them said they liked my hair. I asked to be directed to the savoury chutneys, and the tallest one showed me the way. “We arrange them by brand,” he said. “But if you don’t know which brand you like best, try these.” A wicker basket, with a Christmas ribbon, filled with small £2 pots of chutney in all different flavours. He left me to choose, and I chose three: caramelised onion, Spicy English, and Christmas chutney. “Well done”, he said, as I approached the till. And I did feel like I had done some good work, that day.

It is a nice world we live in where you can walk past a specialty chutney shop, and buy three different kinds for £6, and it felt like a nice world as I sat on my couch on a Friday night and tried my three different kinds of chutney with two different types of blue cheese (one from Sainsbury’s, one from Neal’s Yard, after I’d wandered in with with my departing best friend on a cold lunch break, and been taken on a spontaneous tour of the female cheesemakers of England). The onion one was the best, because it always is. The spicy one was good. And the Christmas one went perfectly with my female cheese. At the end, I was all crumbs and bits and perfect hair, licking chutney off my wrist. On the screen, Dakota Johnson ordered a quinoa salad.

THE 7 STAGES OF GROWING OUT YOUR FRINGE

Before I begin, let me just say that I have been be-fringed for the better part of 8 years.

The 7 Stages of Growing Out Your Fringe

And by fringe, I do not speak of whispy-side-bangs, or a wee spikey toothbrush affair. I’m talking one thick, heavy wall of hair from hairline to eye-lid. My eyebrows have been Fritzeled by my hair; they have not seen sunlight in years. My boyfriend and I have a code, by which I understand the phrase “the children are peeping out of the attic window” to mean that I have a gap in my fringe curtain (yes, really). One time, I biked around Ibiza for a whole day, and the breeze that accompanied my travels swept my hair off my forehead and I suffered from truly dire, blistering sunburn on that secret part of me that had seen fewer UV rays than my very sphincter.

The 7 Stages of Growing Out Your Fringe

One day, not long ago, I said “Enough”: I am tired.

Tired of straightening it into submission, tired of twice-monthly trims, tired of my entire word-view being 15% impeded at all times. I have now achieved FringeLessNess but it was not easy. It was not fast. And there were many stages to growing out your fringe.

The Decision Not To Trim: whereupon you pick up the scissors, look in the mirror and decideenough. Enough.

The 7 Stages of Growing Out Your Fringe

The Keeping Of The Decision Not To Trim: whereupon your vision becomes 30%, then 40% impeded, and it is not long enough to sweep behind your ears, and you are too accustomed to Flattering Fringing to pin back the errant strands, and so you live your life in partial darkness, with spiky vengeful ends of hair often in your eyes.

The 7 Stages of Growing Out Your Fringe

The Eyebrow Issue: whereupon you are forced to face the fact that neglecting to pluck your eyebrows for 8 years has resulted in something between barbed wire and the pubic region of a large chimp and you must do something, even if that involves borrowing the tweezers that your boyfriend purchased solely for use on his nostrils. Somewhat mitigated by the fact that Sperm Brows were the thing when you last your brows saw daylight, and Cara Delevingne Eyebrows have taken their place so you are in.

The Forehead Contemplation: whereupon you contemplate whether it has always been this big? And… shiny?

The First Outing: whereupon your over-long fringe parts neatly in the middle, and your pale, pale forehead peeps through like a virgin from a hairy bower and people say things like “You look different” and “You have changed your hair” but they do not say “You look nice” because you don’t say that to people who have their skirt caught in their knickers and are exposing their bare bottom, even if it is a very nice bare bottom.

The 7 Stages of Growing Out Your Fringe

The Drunken Scissor Battle: whereupon you arrive home, slightly tearful from an overlarge lot of gin, look at yourself in the mirror and Scorn Your Forehead. Your scissors are still in the bathroom from the last fringe trim and so you hold them, you stare, you poise for the chop – you stop. Because you have willpower and because Diagonal Bangs are Not In Fashion and because you just remembered that you bought a Big Mac and it is still in your handbag.

The Relearning of The Art Of The Hat: whereupon you realize that while no one really needed to teach you how to wear a hat in the first place (Step One: Put on head), you do in fact need to relearn the wearing of hats and beanies and hair accessories because the positioning is all different and now there are eyebrows and hairlines to consider and is this too hard maybe should grow your fringe back?!?!?!

The 7 Stages of Growing Out Your Fringe

The Arrival of Acceptance: whereupon you have embraced your forehead as a central part of anatomy and attractiveness and realise that the decision ever to cover this beautiful mass of smooth skin with hair was a terrible, awful mishap in your life and who am I kidding get me some fucking scissors.