Hair today, gone tomorrow

Shirley Manson of Garbage performs onstage at the MTV World Stage Monterrey Mexico 2012 at Arena Monterrey on September 12, 2012 in Monterrey, Mexico.

A couple of months ago, I suffered a disastrous salon hair-dye job.

It all started because Shirley Manson, the flame- haired singer of American band Garbage, came to town and I was inspired by her to become a redhead.

I went for a professional colour treatment for the first time, not realising that I was allergic to hair dye. And, even though I warned the stylist and hair technician that my skin and scalp are sensitive, no patch test was administered.

Instead, they proceeded to merrily dump a mixture of chemicals on my newbie head.

Nobody warned me about what was going to happen.

Within 24 hours, my face was raw and red. Contact with my dyed locks left small chemical burns on my face, neck and shoulders.

Screaming in horror, I hopped into the shower and tried to wash off as much of the dye as possible. As the shampoo suds cascaded down my neck and back, the rinsed-off dye continued to eat minutely into my skin.

Still, tonnes of dye remained and every time a strand of hair touched my face, it left a little crater.

By then, it was the middle of the night and I could only wait until daybreak to hoist myself off to a budget hair salon to get rid of my Medusa snake tresses.

At the budget hair salon, I pleaded: Please take it all off, so that nothing touches my face.

The result was a buzz cut, a la Faye Wong's in 1994. I wanted to look like Manson and I ended up looking like Annie Lennox from the 1980s. I promptly wore a suit, like the one Lennox wore in the Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These) video, for a friend's retro party.

For a while, I was quite happy rocking this look, thinking that the worst was over. Then, my hair started to fall out.

Every morning, I examined the ever-widening bald spots on the top and sides of my head. I took countless photos of my pate with my husband's iPhone, to try and get a better look at the angles I couldn't see in the mirror.

There was no denying it: I was going bald.

It took me a while to screw up the courage, but I finally decided to take a scorched-earth policy to the problem. Sick of counting all the hairs blocking my bathroom drain, I went to my now-favourite budget hair salon and shaved it all off.

It's been a week since I officially became botak.

The Supportive Spouse, probably reliving his army days as a physical-training instructor, periodically calls me "Recruit!"

My two sons took a while to warm up to my new image. Upon my playful invitation, Julian, 61/2, touched my shorn head tentatively, then ran away. His younger brother, Lucien, who is almost three, started to cry and asked me to put on a scarf.

Over the next few days, I tried to get them used to the various possibilities of Bald Mummy. I showed them that I could bathe in record time, now that I didn't need to wash my hair. I paraded a bunch of hats for them. I demonstrated the myriad ways of tying a headscarf: The babushka, the side rosette, the Axl Rose.

I started a wig collection. Lucien hates my pink reverse-bleached one, and demands that I take it off when I wear it. The slightly more-normal black one has fared better with my menfolk - even though it has a fringe that covers my eyes and an asymmetric cut. But, mostly, I just go out bare-headed.

It doesn't really matter to me that people stare. After all, I have decided that bald is beautiful. Just look at Amber Rose, the statuesque American model-actress who is now expecting a baby with rapper Wiz Khalifa. Rose looks edgy and beautiful with platinum stubble on her head and is none the less feminine for it.

I didn't go bald because I have cancer, or to raise funds for charity. But I like to think that I am showing my sons that it is okay to be different from others and that, as cliched as it may sound, it's what inside that counts.

clarac@sph.com.sg

 


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