Hairy Experiences


Recently I noticed a small, circular, bald patch on the side of my head about an inch or so above my right ear. It’s about the size of a twenty pence piece, and I’m not sure what caused it or when it first appeared: I suppose it could have been prompted by my overuse of ghds, or those corn rows I had put in last June (but I’m sure I would have noticed before now if it was traction alopecia); or it could simply be stress-related brought onby my recent life-changing cirumstances (although, to be honest, I’ve felt much more relaxed overall since I got the hell out ofRenfrew).

The thing is, I’ve spent so much time and energy over the years attacking my hair both physically and mentally that it probably serves me right: I’ve had it sheared short, tied back, waxed and gelled down flat, and even braided close to the scalp in a bid to keep it under my control. Nothing has worked for long. And aside from my barnet being bigger than anyone else’s I know (the girl who did my cornrows actually exclaimed mid-hairdo ‘you have the thickest hair I’ve ever saw on a white person’), my main (mane) moan is that it is neither completely straight nor completely curly, but a strange mingle of ringlets, semi-crimped clumps and occasional perpendicular strands.

My gran had hair like mine. At least that’s what I’m told. I saw an old sepia photograph once that more or less backed up that claim. But that’s not how I remember her. No, my gran’s most distinguishing feature was her almost completely bald head. Alopecia robbed her of her locks long before I knew her, save a few white whisps that grew around her ears and down the back of her neck. She didn’t like to wear hairpieces either because the one she got from the NHS irritated her scalp.

I often used to think about shaving my head so that I could wear a wig. I liked the idea of having lego hair that I could swap on a whim. I thought it would be so much easier for things like swimming because I wouldn’t have to wash’n’go – plus I could finally wear a swimming cap which was something I could never fit over my head because of my voluminous tresses.

As an adult, people often say to me now: ‘I wish I had hair like yours’; then they’ll follow it up with comments about how thick and glossy it is and how I’ve got lovely curls. Plus, they’ll ask shock-horror-style why on earth I waste two hours straightening it!?

But people weren’t always this kind: during high school, my hairdo was the bane of my existence and the butt of many jokes: ‘Hairdo’, ‘Scare cut’, ‘Hedge-hopper’ (who knows how the last one came into being or what the logic behind it was) these were just some of the nicknames I was plagued with. I was also once asked by a bitchy fourth year girl in my class if I’d had a perm that ‘went wrong’, and as a result I wore my hair in a pony tail plastered with products for the next two and half years.

Years ago, I wrote a teenage character with alopecia into my first novel (‘Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz’). She was partly inspired by my ex-girlfriend’s little sister who lost her hair during childhood. But Kirsten Best aka Princess Zest was a lighthearted and quirky wee soul who – on the surface at least – appeared to accept her baldness with amazing gusto; so I never really got to the root of describing the hairy angst that she went through, or my own shaggy demons.

Then in January this year, Magi Gibson, the writer, asked me to compile a short piece about hair during one of her Wild Women Writing Workshops. And, although I gave it a go, I didn’t get very far on that occasion, but I’ll admit it’s been a bit of a bugbear ever since.

Now, I don’t know if or when my hair will grow back, but I can only wait and hope. And next time be a little more grateful, and careful of what I wish for. Because I’ve just been doing a bit of googling, and decent wigs are not cheap.

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