Like many babies, I was born bald, and since have nurtured my scalp with a genetic disposition for fine hair. Not only on my head, but also in other places which are relatively hairless. I’m so lucky, apparently, as I don’t have to shave or wax.
If there were a statistic it would be one in four women have fine hair because I am one of four sisters and they all have thick, glorious, healthy hair.
My absolute joy when presented with my son over the sheet from a C section, the first thing that struck me was his gorgeous shock of thick, jet black, sticky hair-every first time Mother’s question “Where did you come from!”- for me coupled with this sentiment -“where did you get all that hair?” Dressed in a white bonds wondersoft jumpsuit, he looked like a mini Elvis, you just had to lift the collar and add a toy microphone!
My Mother comes from a line of hairdressers that started with her Father. He served in the military where he learnt the trade of a barber. He fashioned one hairstyle on numerous heads repeatedly, establishing his livelihood and three generations of hairdressers followed. He encouraged all three sons to become barbers. As the only girl in the family, my mother was not allowed to become a hairdresser.
Women of this era grew their hair long, plaited and wound in a halo. She too longed to be inducted in the skill of dressing hair- it was an injustice of sorts- one of many. With migration and changing hairstyles, my mother cut her plait and kept it coiled in a draw in her room, like a secret, reference to another time and place.
It did not stop her practicing on us though, because going to the hairdressers cost money, and there was not a great deal to splash on things that did not matter. How hard could it be to cut hair? And so she cut our hair short for practical reasons. I have the proof in primary school photos.
It wasn’t until one of my uncles who also married a hairdresser, and together started a business, that we ventured for our once in a blue moon hair cut. It was called “Pink Feathers”. I was drawn to the pictures on the wall when asked what style I might like, I would point, “That one!” Much to my disappointment the final reveal didn’t make the cut. I was told that it was because of the cowlicks in my hairline. Bloody cow!
At aged 8, with the condition of my hair as mentioned, non-existent; mother’s instruction to my uncle was to give me a number two, that apparently would stimulate the hair follicles and thicken my hair. Imagine a little girl who worshipped Rapunzel, Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin with their luscious, long and luminous hair. During pretend play, I used to wear a pillowcase pinned to my hairline to emulate the sense of a cascading mane down my back to my bum. To have hair down to your bum was a girl’s longest desire.
After the number two, an injustice and one of many, I wore a hooded coat to school, hiding. Asked by the teacher to remove it, everyone, her included pissed themselves laughing at my sudden skin head look. Sinade O’Connor was not yet discovered. It was the era of Grease is the word, pony tales, perms and Hair the musical! Humiliating! Not to mention that my hair never thickened.
It was year 9 when much to my shock, a dauntless Tim Tobin ran his hand up the back of my leg, to assess whether “This (Italian) girl shaved her legs”, his assumption of course that “all Italians are hairy and don’t shave”. It was what 14 year old boys did in class, flirting. His assessment was that my legs felt so smooth to touch, unlike the prickles he was expecting.
During my University days, limited cash saw me attend the Academy in Elizabeth Street, bravely offering my head to young apprentices. I was eager to hair model for the catwalk and competitions. I had the ideal head and hair because it would grow out quickly or could be refashioned with finesse.
At this time my cousin also chose this profession and travelled to Melbourne for classes. I so enjoyed that she practiced on me. Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics inspired the bleached blonde skin-head look and I loved that it suited me. I sported a diverse pinache of styles as a student, and attempted to grow it long when I became a teacher.
I have now settled on a simple short bob and return to have the same wash, cut, color and blow dry. Each time, I ask the same question -“Does it look like it’s gotten thicker?” Literally my hair is becoming “Quattro pili” after a diagnosis of alopecia. Friends offer solutions:
“Shave it off!”
“Wear a Wig.”
“Don’t worry about it!”
“What’s better – go grey or bald?”
The lesson for me is really about how we make the most of what we have.
“Cu quisi quattro pili!, as my mother would say, meaning that with just a few hairs what is all the fuss about? This sentiment echoes time and again, absolutely nothing to worry about, “niente”!
And it’s true- there is – nothing.