“Hiroshima Head” was one of the more incentive nicknames concocted by my merciless schoolmates

I like to think I’ve mellowed as I’ve got older – and that I’m more tolerant than I was as a headstrong teen. 

In reality, there are many things – things that do not affect me in any way, shape or form – that are guaranteed to push me into a state of red-faced apoplexy, despite my attempts to meditate (“feel your body as it makes contact with the chair”) or count slowly to 10,000. 

One of those is shyness: I mean, c’mon, what’s the point? It might be down to my absolute inability to even feign same – after all, aren’t most irrational dislikes borne of jealousy – but I can’t for the life of me understand why one would go through life being afraid of speaking up or making oneself be heard. 

My number one, though: people’s outright refusal to change hairstyles. I have a friend, let’s call her Raisin, who has the most incredible hair you’ve ever seen. She’s never dyed it and goes for regular trims; it’s dark brown and luscious, and falls in (natural) waves to the middle of her back. In short, it’s perfect – and has been identical for the 25-odd years I’ve known her, with the exception of a glorious two years in primary school when her mother cut in a blunt, pudding-bowl fringe.

All of our friends agree that Raisin has the Best. Hair. Ever. Which is why they get so agitated when I object. “Wouldn’t you like to try something different?” I ask – then, never one for half measures: “What about a nice pixie crop? You have the face for it.” (She really does.)

I sometimes fantasise about going camping with Raisin, and waiting for her to fall fast asleep in the damp heat of our sweaty tent before taking out my hairdressing scissors (family heirlooms; my grandfather was a hairdresser in the 1950s, so I imagine I’d be very good at it) and slicing her ponytail clean off. It’s no surprise, then, that Raisin is always too busy for my proposed weekend jaunts. 

In my defence, I practise what I preach – with varying results. At the tender age of 12 I, with my mother’s imprimatur, instructed the hairdresser to give me a number seven. I had a glorious summer, washing and drying my hair in 60 seconds flat – although things entered a steep downward spiral when I started secondary school and my curly mop began to grow back. “Hiroshima Head” was one of the more incentive nicknames concocted by my merciless schoolmates. 

From then on, my barnet was in a constant state of flux. Pink at the age of 13; purple a few months later; navy in my moody mid-teens; various shades of platinum blonde, chocolate brown and, for a fleeting and exhausting few weeks, pillar box red (not worth the upkeep). 

I’ve been short and long; I’ve had a form of mullet (easier to get away with on curly hair than on straight, but ill-advised all the same); I’ve gone super-short, like a chubby Marion Cotillard; it’s stretched past my nipples, like a beautiful Botticelli painting (albeit one with blonde ombré). 

rosemary's new hair

New hair!

I’m currently in the hairdresser (Aviary Lane, in case you care) watching the lovely Matthew Feeney paint bleach on to my strands, hoping to achieve some form of peachy-pink blonde hipster coiffure. I’m fully aware that this may not suit me – but in hair, really, nothing is disastrous. After all, it (usually) grows back.