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Braids and Shaves

There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. But let’s be clear here: the little girl was 17 years old, her hair was an annoying frizzy mess, and it wasn’t quite right to say that it was on the middle of her forehead – rather it grew upright away from the forehead and towards the ceiling.

Time was right for a change. In fact, change was very long overdue. But what change to make? She’d had the same hair ‘style’ for so long. Her parents adored her looking like Crystal Tips (anyone who was around in the 70s will currently be visualising a purple mop of lively curls). Unlike Crystal Tipp’s hair, Katie’s hair wasn’t purple, but style-wise it was similar. Let’s just say that, thanks to her strict parents (who adored her hair) she had never, ever had it cut.


But this little girl will be 18 tomorrow. She will legally become an adult who can legally make her own choices - even about hair. But what would she choose to do? There was no question that a choice would be made and a change would follow, but there was so much to consider before making that final choice.

When Katie looked online she was inundated with options, and the inspiration she’d been hoping for had not surfaced: she merely felt overwhelmed. That clearly wasn’t the way to go, so she talked to her boyfriend instead.

Her boyfriend was called Connor, who was 19, with the same kind of retro and proud afro hair. At Connor and Katie were regularly referred to by older family members as the ‘Hair Bear Bunch’ (again, a reference for those of a certain age), but they weren’t a bunch. There were two of them. As Connor would regularly say, ‘You don’t call two bananas a bunch. You call them two bananas’. He had a point.

Connor and Katie were off to Manchester to celebrate the young lady’s 18th birthday. They decided to take the train to town and wander over to Affleck’s Palace. They were to purchase some clothing and to source a haircut which was more than a little off-centre. And when I say ‘a haircut’ what I mean is two haircuts – one haircut apiece. For Connor and Katie were both off to change their signature styles, and possibly to even go for a matching combination. No longer would they be the Hair Bear Bunch.

There was much excitement. On the train it was all they could talk about. Hair this, and hair that: colour and style and shave and cut and braid and tramlines and beads. Both were clear they’d make their decisions as and when they got to the hair studio. And that was what they did.

They soon found themselves squeezed into the small, but extremely friendly hairdresser’s. ‘This is the trendiest place I’ve been in my entire life,’ whispered Katie. Connor nodded, as they scanned through folders of photos. Katie had selected to get her hair cut first, and she shivered with anticipation at the prospect.

‘Right, sweetheart,’ the hairdresser called, and Katie stepped up. ‘What are we doing for you?’ he asked. Katie led his attention to a photo on the wall behind the till. The afro hair was shaved at the sides, leaving a long middle section that had been straightened and made into what 80s teenagers used to call a ‘flick head’. The shaved parts were further cut into with a shaved flower design, and the top section of hair was interspersed with the odd plait and braid and beaded section. The plaits and braids were startlingly coloured. It was bird of paradise perched on the scalp of a beautiful young birthday girl.

Connor winced. Knowing it would take a while, he left to browse the nearby shops.

He soon had purchased one football top from the Arndale and two comics from Forbidden Planet. He’d bought a sandwich from a chain bakery, and had sat in Piccadilly Gardens for a little while to eat it and just watch the world go by. He’d browsed through the vinyl at a dance music shop, but had decided against buying anything as he didn’t own a turntable. He’d enjoyed himself and had viewed the heads of many young men as they walked by, but saw no hairstyles he liked.

When he returned to Affleck’s, he bumped into a young lady in the doorway of the hair studio. She kissed him. ‘Sorry,’ he said, before realising that the bumpee was no other than Katie. She was glowing with happiness. Her first words: ‘I love it. I love it. I love it’.

‘Come on then, mate,’ said the hair dresser to Connor. ‘Your girlfriend looks gorgeous, doesn’t she?’ Connor smiled uneasily, then turned and ran from the studio. ‘Connor!’ Katie shouted, but he didn’t look back. He ran round the higgledy piggledy pathways between stalls and ran down the nearest set of stairs he could find, colliding with a couple of goths in the meantime. He ran out of the door and onto the street, where he sat on a ledge which surrounded the building, sweating and holding his hair protectively in his hands.

It didn’t take long for Katie to find him. ‘What’s up?’ she asked. The question implied concern but her face told a different story. This was a girl who had just undergone the greatest transformation of her whole life, only to be rebuffed by her boyfriend. And, to make matters worse, it was something they were supposed to be getting done together and he had chickened out. She stared. ‘Well?’

‘It’s just…’ he whimpered.

‘Just what?’ she asked, knowing he’d say that he was happy as he was, and that he loved his hair, and anyway, that he’d already spent the money on other things he wanted more. Suddenly she didn’t care.

‘I know,’ she said. ‘And it doesn’t matter. Just look at my hair!’

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