It wasn’t until after lunch on Wednesday that I realised I’d pushed my “meh, I’ll just wash my hair tomorrow” mantra a step too far. My hair had formed two distinct and unique factions, and they were at war atop my head. My fringe was greasy and had formed thick strands, looking like I’d dumped a tablespoon of gel into the roots then had taken to it with a wide-toothed comb. If only I were good at smirking, I would have seamlessly fit into a 90s boy band.
While my fringe strands were binding together to form cohesive units, the rest of my hair had not received the memo about teamwork. It was a fluffy birds nest of disorder and mayhem. Each strand seemed to repel every other strand. One would curl, another would wave, and their third neighbour would rebel against the status quo and stubbornly lie flat.
The worst hair days always pick their timing well. I had dinner plans, and I didn’t realise the horror of my hairdo until about 4pm. After looking at myself in the mirror I was thrown into panic, and emailed my sister. She’s pretty, and her clothes always look nice, and she buys beauty products from places other than New World. I knew I could count on her.
“Just use dry shampoo” she suggested. “Or if you don’t have any of that, some talcum powder”.
I like the world she lives in, where she thinks (a) I would know that dry shampoo existed or (b) I might casually just have some talcum powder in my desk drawer at work.
I went back to the mirror and managed to get my fringe to sit together as just one fat clump instead of several thinner clumps. I wasn’t sure if this was better or worse.
I went back to my sister, this time taking a picture to try and emphasise the gravity of the situation. Worried that my phone might slightly pixelate the image—maybe smoothing some of the more offensive lines—I made sure to make my face match the hair.
“Looks great!” she sent back.
Obviously I was going to have to rely on my own ingenuity.
I stood in the work bathroom and attempted to fix it. I didn’t have a hairbrush, nor any products, so “fixing it” just meant “rearranging it with my fingers, probably introducing more grease to the situation, sighing heavily about the futility of it all”.
I clomped back to my desk and emailed her again.
“Is it crazy to cancel dinner plans because of bad hair?” I asked.
“Yes.” she replied.
Ok, fine. I guess I’ll just rely on my … personality? No. Ok. Back to the bathroom.
I appraised my hair from all angles, deciding that the birds nest was salvageable, it was the fringe that was causing me the most consternation. Reaching a breaking point, I turned the taps on full and dunked my head under, before I had time to decide if this was really a good idea or not.
Now I had a fluffy halo, wet hair in my eyes, and no hairdryer. I attempted to blot it with paper towels, but with ten minutes to go before I had to leave, this was not going to cut it.
I looked at the hand dryer, wondering what would happen if my hair got sucked up into the mechanism and caught on fire. I decided the risk was worth it. I squatted underneath the hand-dryer, waving my left hand around on top of my head to keep the airflow going, fluffing my fringe with my right, hoping that no one would walk in. I’m not sure of the legality behind judging a workmate for their bathroom behaviours, but I feel that in this case, the damage to my reputation would be justified.
Five minutes later and it was dry. Aside from the bits at the side—which were now jauntily flicking outwards like two little ski jumps framing my face—it looked exactly the same. The grease had stayed put, even through its water bath. Part of me was a little proud of its resilience.
Returning to my office, I rummaged in the work drawer for some perfume or lipstick or something, anything, to make me feel like I could approximate a woman who had her life sorted. Nothing. Well, not nothing. An broken eyeliner pencil and a bottle of Mariah Carey’s Honey Lollipop Bling.
Now, to Mariah’s credit, this fragrance does smell a bit like honey. Sadly, it’s a step removed. It’s more like honey-flavoured cough lozenges, dipped in sugar.
Deciding that smelling like a teenager’s medicine cabinet wouldn’t help, I set off to the city, planning to dash through Farmers on the way to dinner to steal a spritz of something fancy that I wouldn’t be able to afford to actually buy. Perhaps if I smelled like Gucci’s idea of a flower, my dinner companions might be tricked into thinking my hair was intentional. Some sort of avant-garde, retro-throwback, half-and-half-juxtaposition ‘do, something they were doing in France, that just wasn’t here yet.
I made it to Farmers and immediately realised their shop layout was going to work against me. Perfumes were displayed in towers, little testers all begging to improve my life … and all behind a counter.
“Um, hi” I said to the woman behind the counter. “Can I smell the um, the new, um, Kenzo?”, picking the first brand I’d heard of.
“Which one, dear?” she asked, immediately calling into question my trend knowledge.
“Oh, I’m not sure. I just, um, travelled internationally, recently, and I smelled something at the airport that I liked” I said, making sure that she knew that I could afford a plane ticket, thank you very much.
Maybe it was wishful thinking, but I swear she stood a little straighter.
“What was it like?” she asked.
“Um, sort of, fresh? Ish?” I said.
She tapped her finger on her chin, thoughtfully, perhaps wondering where on the financial spectrum I sat between “shove her towards the deodorant aisle” and “talk her into Givenchy’s latest aroma”. When she said, “well, Madonna has put out a fragrance?” I won’t lie, I took it personally, and cursed my fringe again.
She sprayed bits of cardboard, I smelled them. She asked me what I thought and I made “mmm?” noises. She talked about base notes and I nodded gravely, staring into the middle distance, trying to look like someone who understood what she was talking about. After declaring I didn’t like lemon, but that I did like cupcakes, we seemed to be narrowing towards a decision, and I felt pressure mounting to pick one.
“This one, the green one? This is good?” I said. “Ooh, Versace” she said. “Lovely choice. Would you like me to package it up?”
“Oh, I might just wear some for the day, I think, then decide tomorrow?” I said, hoping she’d leave me alone to apply it in privacy. My plan was thwarted when she gestured for me to roll up my sleeves and I realised in horror she wasn’t going to leave, and that I was going to get a shop-assistant-applied, barely-there spritz, instead of the full-body douse I’d been planning on.
I was tempted again to just cancel. Then I remembered the Body Shop.
Ten minutes later I sat at dinner, sporting a 90s fringe with 60s side-flicks, wild birds nest hair, and a vague hint of Versace under a liberal application of something called ‘Love Etc’.
I was exhausted. Thank goodness I wouldn’t have to rely on personality.