It’s the world’s oldest excuse. I can’t go out tonight- I have to wash my hair. Surely this can’t be a more enjoyably night than even the most mediocre date? I would disagree. I spend hours on my hair. It’s long, it’s naturally platinum blonde, it’s my best feature. When I have a night out, I have a long hair ritual; deep conditioning, washing, blow drying, straightening, curling, twisting it up, teasing it out, combing it down. When the first hairstyle doesn’t work, I start again; brushing and combing my hair, sometimes washing the product back out. Only when it looks perfect to I select an outfit and start doing my make-up.
This obsessive self grooming before a night out is tolerated by my friends- who often get asked if it looks ok, have I done the back properly, do they think it would look better up. They laugh when it gets ruined by taking a jumper off, or by the rain, or when someone touches it. They can appreciate that it gives me pleasure to look nice when I am on a date, or out dancing, but I can’t help but wonder if the revelation of the extent of this obsession would make them think badly of me? Would my hair-retreat be criticised as overly vain?
The truth about this obsession with my hair is that it is not a routine I save only for social occasions. I have created a ritual so enjoyable nothing relaxes me more than it. I get in from a long day, shoes off, into the bath, music on and off I go. Hours of being blissfully disconnected to the world; no phone, no television, no worrying about emails left unanswered and deadlines left unprepared for.
Plenty of people have similar routines. I have a friend who unplugs her internet, phone and T.V every Tuesday for a few hours, another who lights candles and gets in the bath. One young mother that I know takes a book and physically locks herself into her toilet for a few blissful chapters before the baby starts crying. These escapist coping mechanisms are not something that you admit to your green grocer, but equally are not something you hide from your nearest and dearest; yes, it is selfish to let your husband deal with your baby while you pretend to be on the loo, and uneconomical to re-fill the bath with hot water for hours and hours, but none of these traits are as condemnable as that of vanity.
Well, for the friends reliable and committed enough to read the articles I write, here is my justification.
When we were children, we played with each other’s hair constantly- I remember one particular occasion where at the end of break time my teacher made the boys and girls line up and the girls’ line was perfectly straight because we were each playing with the hair of the girl in front, and having our hair played with in return. Partly this was a learning experience; we used the opportunity to try out things that we couldn’t do on our own heads without straining our arms and balancing mirrors. This was a time when I learned to plait, the most basic of all hair techniques upon which all others are built. My nights in with my hairbrush are partially an advanced version of this, practicing things I see on the latest catwalk or on shoots for ENVY.
We also play with each other’s hair because it promotes intimacy. The gentle touch of hair being agitated releases endorphins which make us happy, and the act of touching hair makes us feel intimate and accepted. Perhaps the realisation of the intimacy of the act is what stops us playing with any hair which sits in front of us in a line, and restricts the list of people afforded that privilege to lovers and hairdressers.
My question is; if we all love having our hair touched so much that we are willing to pay extortionate amounts of money every 6-8 weeks, why not give ourselves a little pampering? Feel intimate, relaxed and happy with our own company? Should I be made to feel guilt for my seemingly vain past time? On a night in with my hairbrush I am guaranteed no pressure intimacy and sweat free endorphins, how many nights out can offer the same?
So I can’t go out tonight, I’m washing my hair.