Let me start off by saying that I am not about to get on my high horse here about the earnest yet futile desire to reinvent oneself in the new year. We have all been there. January rolls around and thousands of us, who are (by and large) reasonably rational people, inevitably become swept up in the ‘New Year, New Me’ narrative. With this, “it’s probably time for trim” rapidly becomes “Once I get my hair cut, I’ll be an unstoppable force of nature, a goddess, transformed, glowing and radiant…”. You get the idea.
Quick snap march down to the already inundated and harassed hairdressers. “I want to jazz it up a bit, you know, do something a bit different with it”. You smile knowingly to yourself. Snip snap and my fortunes will change, crowds will cheer, bachelors will flock. You picture yourself emerging into a La-La-Land existence of dancing, sunshine and jazzy musical numbers. There you are, centre stage, your flowing locks dazzling everyone in sight… has this tipped from relatable New Year’s fantasy into clinical narcissism? Potentially.
Several hours later. “Would you like to have a look?” – a question always laced with subtle apprehension – your hairdresser is not under any illusions, she’s seen this sad act one too many times. The moment has arrived. You almost know what’s coming before you glance up from the three-year old copy of Tatler, balanced precariously on your slippery, bibbed lap, the throbbing hope and anticipation swiftly fading. There, in that obscenely sized mirror, you meet your own perturbed gaze. Crickets vibrate in the distance.
Where’s the glittery theatrical transformation, the celebratory songs or flying champagne corks? All I see is me with suspiciously clean looking hair. Outrageous. Yet somewhere, very deep down in the depths of your psyche, you knew this was coming. There’s only so much a haircut can change – your hair. The bubble of hopeless optimism had to be burst. “That’ll be £50 please.” What an ordeal.
But I will not fall victim to the eternal trap this January. 2021 – New year, new lockdown. Not an open hairdresser in sight. Huzzah! Who said there wouldn’t be silver linings? This will be the year I stop making such rash decisions, I decree, and this seems a pretty easy resolution to make simply out of a lack of opportunity. Currently my rashest daily decision is whether to opt for a sweet or savoury breakfast. In fact, the only threat to my current persona is resisting a premature slip into middle age, in amongst the scheduled morning walks and freshly baked sourdough of a third national lockdown. Or so I thought…
Enter Claudia Winkleman’s new book, ‘Quite’, in which an exceptionally convincing case is made for the fringe, again binding it up neatly with the notion of self-identity. To be fair to Winkleman, she explicitly writes that she is not specifying or requesting that you follow suit re Fringe (a point I decided to overlook). However, she does advertise the power of a defining look to make you memorable, distinguishable, employable. This was the tipping point. Somewhere, deep in my impoverished student brain, a bulb-studded dollar sign lit up, cha-ching! (Am I broken?!). Is this my moment to discover my USP (unique selling point), a chance for prospects amidst a pandemic? Count me in.
I galloped straight to the bathroom, scissors (shortly discovered to be blunt) triumphantly in hand, and lobbed off a chunk on each side of my parting, to just above my jaw line (a good four inches).
Stillness, silence. My hair is in the sink.
I look up. A perplexed me is staring with frustrated and desperate concern out of the mirror. Quit while you’re not ahead, she pleads. Let’s opt for mild embarrassment over cataclysmic catastrophe. (You may think I hyperbolise here, I do not).
But to her credit, or in fact my own I suppose, I stopped. Yes, two tendrils of hair, now out of reach of any hair tying arrangement, are now my cheeks’ constant companions. However, this year 95% of my hair has remained unchanged – arguably a success story.
What does this semi-fringe say about me? What statement do I make? Forget a sense of self-identity, try confused.com. But then again, if you can’t be blatantly and damningly confused in your twenties when can you be?
In short (no pun intended), New Year need not mean new hair or new you. Feeling groundless and in need of definition? Don’t pick up the scissors! Just give yourself a big hug and keep muddling through. Besides, if you’ve got to seek refuge in your hairstyle as a mark of identity, most likely your personality is long overdue a little cultivation, tender love and affection (Sorry Claudia!).