Damage Control: Women on the therapists, beauticians, and trainers who navigate their bodies (edited by Emma Forrest).
You may remember that this was one of my recent Amazon purchases – as I said at the time, I love Emma Forrest’s writing and was fascinated to hear her views on such an interesting subject. She has also roped in some great women to talk about this issue in essay form – including my perennial favourites Julie Burchill and Barbara Ellen, the beautiful actress Rose McGowan, and others.
It really is an intriguing subject, and one that affects us all in so many ways, the more you think about it. On the rare occasions that I get a Brazilian wax, I am exposing bits of myself that few have seen, without a second thought, usually whilst casually discussing the X-Factor and the current contents of Heat magazine, and marveling that the girl who does my waxing is so sensible when she’s more than a decade younger than me. My yoga teacher sometimes seems to know more about my moods than I do.
For me, it’s hairdressers that are the big one. We put so much power in the hands of someone who, in some cases, we don’t even know. For me, hair is probably the most important of any grooming ritual, as it can say so much about us – my hair has been crew-cut, hippie-long, jet black, bleached-blonde, pillar box red, bright purple. All of these transformations have been considered with the utmost seriousness – I think hair is so important to me because I care more about semiotics than about beauty. That’s to say, I have had some fugly hair-dos that have made me feel awesome.
The day I had all my hair cut off and dyed bright red, in Camden Market, aged sixteen – well, that felt like the day I discovered my coolness. My friend Ali had her bellybutton pierced at the same time, and I will remember it forever as an important day. I can still picture the girl who cut it, and myself in that chair. This is the power that hairdressers have!
For years, a friend used to cut mine. When he moved to Miami, I didn’t visit another hairdresser regularly for about three years. I would just cut it myself, rather than endure the horror of someone who doesn’t give a shit how you feel or what you want, who you then have to pay vast amounts of money to at the end!
Then I met Jonathan. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most important relationships of my life. Luckily, my friend Charlotte has amazing hair and so I trusted her enough to believe her when she promised me that he was a hair god. I love him and ideally do not want anyone else to cut my hair as long as I live. I have recommended him to all the cool girls I know (and my boyfriend), and everyone has come away feeling excellent (which is of course the most important thing).
The single most crucial factor for me is: a hairdresser who gets my cultural references. When I said I wanted a Karen O bowl, I didn’t need to say another word. When I turned up with a whole moodboard (that’s another thing, hairdressers have to appreciate my moodboards – I know, I’m a nightmare!) of Keith Richards, he didn’t think that was weird. He calls me ‘PJ’ because we both love her and I look a bit like her – the fact that he even noticed this filled me with joy.
The second most important thing is atmosphere. I hate being in a salon that feels like a party I’m not invited to – i.e., 99% of all salons. That’s even worse than going to Toni & Guy and them just completely ignoring you whilst giving you the Toni & Guy house haircut. In Jonathan’s salon, there is a dog and a biscuit tin and a lovely kitchen table to sit at while your hair dye is on. Everyone looks cool, but no-one’s a dick. If it gets late and it’s quiet, he might pour a glass of wine and put some Nick Cave on. It’s that sort of place. I want to live there.
So, this has turned into nothing but a love letter to my hairdresser, but that’s appropriate, really – see, these are important people in our lives. If you agree, “Damage Control” is a brilliant book.
There are stories both positive and negative, of course. I could completely relate to Marian Keyes’s tale of a hairdressing experience from hell, and to Barbara Ellen’s description of being made to feel rubbish by the people in her gym. I loved Rose McGowan’s essay, ‘It Takes A Village’ – in part, because it was so refreshing to hear such a perfect-looking actress admit that it takes her a lot of work.
In fact, I don’t think there was a weak link in the lot. I just wish that there were perhaps multiple volumes of this, because I could pretty much listen to these sorts of stories forever.