Lovely readers, I must begin with a confession… of my vanity: Way back in late 2013, before being diagnosed with a brain tumour, and later, in early 2014, after diagnosis but before surgery, I took how I looked totally for granted…
I am 5’ 8” tall and was generally a size 10 (sometimes an 8, sometimes a 12 depending on the cut of a particular brand); I was blessed with thick, healthy hair, good skin and if I look back at photos, I realise I was passably pretty for a woman of 62.
Then came surgery for the tumour’s removal, followed by total loss of motor function, loss of dexterity and significant weight gain due to a winning combo of inactivity and the steroids I was put on the moment the tumour was discovered.
If I say I hated how I looked and detested my reflection every time I looked in a mirror it is because the “me” who looked back was not the “me” I had become accustomed to seeing for the previous 25 or so years. To put that into context, I need to also confess that – like many women of my generation (i.e a Baby-Boomer) – I am a graduate of LSE. Sadly not the fine academic institution attached to London University, but the college of Low Self Esteem. It took me to my late 30s to shake off feelings of inferiority relating to my appearance. Of course, because of my work (as a journalist) I had developed strategies to avoid revealing my low self-esteem, but the feelings of inadequacy didn’t truly leave me until I made major changes in my personal life in my mid-forties.
So, having, in my late 40s and 50s become a far happier person and happier with how I looked, suddenly in mid-2014, I was 2 stone heavier and with limited mobility and dexterity…
I have written previously about the “dexterity” issue and its impact on my ability to apply make-up, but maybe not on its impact on other superficial issues such as not being able to deal easily with buttons and zips on clothing, and in the difficulties of managing my long hair.
Previously, I had always been able to wield a spiral brush and a hair-dryer to manage my hair between blow-dries. Post-surgery, the lovely and infinitely patient Chloe at Mia, my local hair salon in Friern Barnet (once also patronised by the late Linda Bellingham) keeps my hair in good condition and in good shape, literally. But a photograph of me with Cyndy in The Times rather graphically demonstrated to me how out of control my hair had become between Saturday blow-dry and Wednesday photo-shoot.
Looking at the picture I was reminded of the straggly locks of Prof Mary Beard, which was ironic as just a week earlier we had published a blog about the academic and a radio programme she had presented, and were not very complimentary about her hair.
When I wailed to my daughters about how much I hated The Times photo, they were both very sweet and supportive, as was my husband. One of my daughters very tactfully mentioned the impact of my lack of dexterity and suggested “a more manageable style” and possibly a Brazilian – that’s the keratin hair-straightening treatment, by the way, not the wax!
I decided, instead, to get it cut dramatically. No more trims but a major change! I have had long hair since 1988, and for much of my life before that, too, so anything short would be a big change. I have what hairdressers diplomatically call “strong” hair – what I call wayward hair. If my hair is cut very short it does its own thing (i.e. it sticks up in various directions) and would need to be blow-dried every day, which would add to my hair woes rather than provide a solution. So I decided on a medium-length cut – a variation on a bob… I did my research as per the brilliant hair videos on SoSensational and found pictures of very contemporary cuts I liked and downloaded pictures from Google, also as recommended in our videos. There was a bob I especially liked on American actress Julie Bowen, who plays Claire in Modern Family and had previously appeared in Boston Legal.
My younger daughter took one look at the picture and declared that I’d “need a wand” to maintain the twirly curls – yup, a fairy wand that could actually grant wishes (e.g please make my stupid hands work properly)! And she was right; I would need a wand (formerly known as curling tongs), the use of which would be positively perilous with my dysfunctional hands. So Bowen’s curly bob had to be replaced with something more manageable… and it was: a heavily chopped into bob with a bit of scrunching at the sides achieved with sea salt spray, which is considerably less dangerous to use than curling tongs.
As it turns out, one of my grandkids – Isabel, 6, in Vancouver – also had her hair cut dramatically short the same week. To go with her chop, she acquired a bold Spiderman tattoo on her neck. I considered doing the same but dismissed the idea…Spiderman’s colourway of red-and-black just won’t work for me this summer!
What do you think of Jan’s new chop? Let us know below…
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