I am rebelling.
I have not cut my hair in a year.
It all started last summer when I visited a Korean hair salon. My hairdresser confessed that his English was limited, but I figured that showing him pictures of caramel highlights would be enough. I was mistaken.
I had to go into work looking like I was auditioning for NSYNC. The kinder students asked why my hair was so bright, and others said I looked like a scary tiger.
I arranged an emergency fix two days later and shuffled into the salon wearing a cap. The hairdresser was clearly affronted that I’d returned to get my colours sorted, and showed her annoyance through an extra rough blowdrying. I wanted the ground to swallow me up, Sweeney Todd style if necessary. Afterwards, the stripes were gone but I ended up more of a strawberry blonde. The children then asked me why my hair was orange.
I’d never really experimented with my look before, except chopping off my hair just after I quit my old job back in 2016. I suppose living abroad gave me the confidence to try something new. Before, I always just had long hair which I cut maybe twice a year to the disdain of my hairdressers, who tried to cajole me into having it done every 6 weeks. Who can afford that at £45 a pop in London?
I’ve never had much luck in beautifying myself. Just before a trek to Peru, I decided that it would be sensible to wax my armpits as I wouldn’t be able to shower on the trail for a week. I rubbed the wax strip between my fingers until it was warm and applied the blue gel to my skin. When I ripped it off, half the skin went with it. I had to pop to the doctor’s and have a cotton patch taped there for a week.
When I had my nose pierced in India before a friend’s wedding, I ended up with the wrong type – it was a normal earring stud with a push-on back that stuck into my nostril. When I went to buy a different nose ring in London, the shop assistant laughed at me and said I would need to get it redone. I didn’t. I just bought some online and did it myself at home.
I did not have a bikini wax until my mid-twenties. It was an uncomfortable experience having a stranger doing something so intimate. The Ukranian lady was very professional though and put me at ease. I visited her a few times until she told me that the reason I hadn’t been proposed to was because I didn’t have a wax sooner.
When I found a waxing salon in Singapore, I booked an appointment before my diving holiday. The women were friendly enough, if a little pushy on the sales front. The owner kept offering to shape my eyebrows, which I have always just plucked myself. Eventually I relented. She removed hair from the top of the line and then proceeded to draw a long extension in black pencil all the way down to my cheekbones. I left the salon looking ridiculous and cringed on the train home.
I once tried to apply some Veet to my upper lip, which was regrettable as the smell is as pungent as rotten eggs. The hair wiped away after some minutes but I was left with a faint pink tinge like I’d been drinking too much Ribena.
Last Christmas, I tried the disgusting phenomenon of Baby Foot Peels. Sadly, the site I bought from did not deliver the official brand I had ordered. The silver pack did not even have any instructions. After reading some translated instructions online, I soaked my feet before popping them into the plastic booties. The chemicals smelt fruity. After 20 minutes or so, I took the socks off. I immediately realised my mistake – I had not removed my nail varnish beforehand. An orange stain smudged over my nails and around the cuticles, the only remnants of my red polish. The results were disappointing and I am still stuck with discoloured nails.
While I was having a trim, my hairdresser was idly chatting to me. Then, she suddenly pointed out that I had large pores, and had I noticed the effects of ageing on my forehead? I felt it was a low blow, but instead of telling her where to go, I allowed her to up-sell me. They offered a quick facial that took an hour, so I agreed to give it a go. The process was microdermabrasion which I had never heard of before. According to their site, Corundum Crystals are blasted at the skin to exfoliate the top layer, before a vacuum sucks away the dead skin. I left the salon, not feeling invigorated, but deflated. I had just handed over nearly S$200 for something a S$10 scrub could have done.
For years I have been harvesting all these experiences in secret shame. But they are not rare. It was a revelation to discover that my female friends had suffered the same humiliations I had. It also hasn’t put me off completely – in a fortnight I’m off to Batam with a mate for some pampering, and hopefully a decent facial. I can put the money I’m saving on haircuts towards it.