I love getting my hair cut. I love the smell of shampoos and dye and clean hair gently roasting under a curling iron. I love the old magazines, the chhck chhck of the scissors and the idiotic banter. But most of all I love the attention.
When I was at my heaviest, I loved having that 45 minutes or so when I was made to feel like a beautiful princess instead of an invisible fat nobody. Sure, I was paying for the privelege, but it felt good nonetheless. I’d especially love it when they’d say Let’s try something different today. I’d watch closely as they snipped and coloured away and hoped for a miracle transformation.
Now that I look back, I don’t think I ever actually looked at my face during a haircut. I’d maybe glimpse at my eyebrows, but somehow managed to focus solely on the stylists and the hair itself. After it was over and they’d hold the mirror behind my head, I’d nod and grin and say That is a gorgeous cut, thank you so much.
It wasn’t until a few days later, at home and trying to recreate the style, that I realised while it was a great cut, it looked rather lost and ordinary when perched atop my great flabby face. I’d frown into the mirror, trying to rearrange my locks, adding pomades or lotions or sprays, scrunching or smoothing, trying to make it look right. But it never did.
Six weeks later I’d go back for another cut and hope again they’d Try Something Different. I had supershort. I had bangs. I had blonde highlights. I went brunette. I grew it out, I grew it long. I started over time and time again.
And then one day, late 2000 I think it was, I looked up at the stylist who had that glazed, faraway look of concentration. Then my eyes moved down to my eyebrows. Down my nose, over my rounded cheeks, to where my chins spilled over the top of the black plastic cape.
It finally dawned on me. No haircut in the world was going to make me look smaller.
The power of my own denial never ceases to amaze me. How can one tiny 45g Frys Peppermint Cream hurt me? It won’t, until you eat six in a week. And how can missing one Body Pump class do any harm? It can’t, until you miss ten on the trot. It’s so easy to block out the bigger picture, to ignore how over time your tiny little Just This Once incidents add up to extra pounds, bigger undies, additional chins.
I still use the hairdresser as a guage of my progress. The last five cuts or so, I’ve sat down in the chair and looked in the mirror and thought my face looked a little fuller. Nah, must be funny lighting, I’ve said. Or, My period’s due any day. But I’m happy to report I’m over that bullshit. It’s time to get honest with myself and change those cumulative bad habits into ongoing good ones.
But I will still keep doing crazy shit to my hair.