Got to the point where the only way I could tolerate my hair so long was to tie it up hard then put it up in a thing with a spike through it, which device probably has a name but I don't know it, it's made of leather and wood and looks like the prototype might have been found in a bronze age archaeological site as part of some female hunter-gatherer's grave goods. Also, when it gets past a critical length it starts falling out and blocking the plug hole.
So off I went to the hairdresser, one of a chain with a particularly horrible yellow and grey décor, whose main attraction is you don't make an appointment, and rarely have to wait more than half an hour which is about the limit of my tolerance for reading old copies of Paris-Match (I seldom remember to bring a book, but anyway I see hairdresser's and doctor's waiting rooms as a salutary opportunity to dip my toe into the cultural milieu of my host country via its popular magazines; as I say, the wait in both places is not usually too long but usually quite long enough).
But the hairdressers are always nice, and not frumpy or incompetent, and this time I got quite a trendy young one. I told her I was fed up with the length, and would like quite a bit off. About to here? she indicated roughly the level of my chin. Fine, I said, then tentatively asked if perhaps she could cut the back shorter than the front, just by way of a change...
Her eyes lit up:
'Carré plongeant!* C'est très à la môde!'
Well that's a first, I thought. She set to work with energy and a will, darting and snipping with her little scissors. How blithely we trust hairdressers, I thought, with their razor-sharp blades and dagger-like points around our necks, ears, eyes and throats. The tips of her scissors scored and prickled my neck but never hurt; she was clearly enjoying herself. Could she cut it quite short at the back? she asked, and what about the fringe (bangs if you're American, which always sounds bizarre to me), could she do that at an angle?
Why not, I said, so delighted with the novel experience of a hairdresser enthusiastically engaged with my hair, rather than just sighing boredly and asking why don't I colour it? The best bit was when she did the sides, holding a wide section down and drawing the scissors through all of it on the diagonal with a satisfying slicing sound, just like a haberdasher cutting through a length of calico. She shaped it and dried it with a big round brush and generally sculpted it in ways I didn't imagine possible with my grizzled mop. I left with a spring in my step, invigorated by the fresh breeze on the back of my neck, and allowed her to sell me an expensive thing of conditioner to help maintain it.
It's hopeless, of course. I have neither the kind of hair, the kind of face not the kind of life that permits a très à la môde, beautifully sculpted carré plongeant hair-do. Within twenty-four hours the whole is a mass of different length ends blowing about in the wind, the cow-licks on either side of my forehead have re-established themselves with a vengeance and the spiffy sharp points at the corners of the plunging square are hanging down all on their own like pot-hooks. I knew it would happen, but I don't care, we had fun, and it's still so good to feel the air on the back of my neck again.
The photos were taken on the same day, while it was still just about holding together, in the rather unpleasant livid light of the old downstairs bathroom.
* Literally a 'plunging square'; I've tried to find a translation, the best seems to be 'angled bob'. My mum used to talk about shingled hair, from the 1920s, which I always liked the sound of.