Harriet Walker: I am never going to cut my hair again


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The Independent Online

This party season, I shall mostly be wearing my old self again. After a year of frankly rubbish goings on (broken leg, broken heart), I’m finally back to normal.

You can tell because I’ve started flicking my hair again. This is not  entirely thanks to naturally fulsome follicles. I depleted what I had last year by bleaching my coiff to within an inch of its life, turning it a beautiful silvery-grey colour and, in the process, making my scalp bleed and itch like a biblical plague. At the time I thought it looked great – in hindsight, it clashed terribly with my permanently pink face.

Still, it wasn’t until I was in hospital with snapped bones and little else to focus on that I realised my hair was also snapping, coming out in handfuls and cascading wispily down my state-issue nightie. Something to do with the stress of the operation, they said. That and a bucketload of hydrogen peroxide.

So I spent last Christmas (and that jolly period in the run-up when everyone is pissed and more enthusiastic than usual about even the most boring things) on crutches with a severe, black bowl-cut. The picture above right might not  do me much justice (it’s bad lighting,  I promise; I’m allergic to cameras,  ahem) but I think you’ll agree that  even that tangled yellow frizz is better than a black bowl-cut.

So that’s what I have again. “Goodness me,” you’ll no doubt be murmuring, “doesn’t she have healthy, resilient, supernaturally fast-growing hair?” And that’s exactly what I want  you to think. But I don’t: it’s fake. I have glorious extensions, and I love them. And before you quibble: they’re ethical; they’re not sourced from children or endangered animals, and they were stuck to my head by the extension expert Inanch, barnet-gluer to the stars of The Only Way is Essex. That’s just about where any affiliation I have with the cast of that programme ends, I think.

My fashion-fabulous friend has started referring to it as my “weave”;  I prefer to think of it as a new pet that needs constant attention, love and  a strict regime.

I realise that these may sound like the ramblings of a vain and empty-headed bimbo. So shoot me. The fact is, everyone feels better when they have nice hair.

Last week, I had to spend  a day talking down my successful, very serious and not-at-all vain friend, who had DIY-treated her hair with olive oil the night before and was an emotional wreck thanks to a stubborn greasy forelock that insisted on sticking to the rim of her glasses. “I’ve been to the  loos to wash it out twice!” she  wailed. “Still greasy!”

There’s no greater guarantee  of feeling uncomfortable than knowing your hair is in some way deficient or a bit crap-looking. What I have learnt from this whole episode (besides never to put olive oil on my head) is that, in fact, I am never going to cut my hair again.  I am going to let it grow for the rest of  my life until it is long enough to wear as  a winding sheet on my ecologically sound, humanist funeral pyre. I’ve spent so much time this year – not to mention money – on potions and unguents  to be rubbed into the scalp with all  the desperation of  a hereditarily balding man; taking vitamins, and eating red meat as if I were  a pregnant vampire. All to so little success that I eventually thought,  why the hell not do it the easy way?  Et voilà: le glue-gun. I am a member  of the MTV generation, after all, and  hair takes a very long time to grow.

The power of hair is a bit like the power of a tan, or of a new pair of  shoes. It’s a boost, and everyone needs one of them every once in a while.  And for those who feel hair extensions are just a hop, skip and a jump away  from a nose job, I say this: once my actual hair has grown back, I won’t need them any more. I will set them  down lovingly, brush them all out  and be mindful – you can’t say that about a fake nose.

It’s thanks in part to this fakery that I feel like myself again for the first time in 12 months. People have remarked on it, not even noticing that my hair has grown six inches in the two weeks since they last saw me, thinking instead that I have, metaphorically at least, grown about 2ft taller. I’m not limping any more, or not walking like I’ve been hit by a train. People can tell that I’m happy again. Clearly, this is not all down to the weave, but I’d say the weave is behind a good 30 per cent of the refreshed and serene glow.

The other 70 per cent is down to  a heady, seasonal mix of family, friends, soppy stuff and wine. Just the usual, really – but it hasn’t felt quite usual until now. It sure is good to be back.