x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The long and short of it

Cutting nine inches of hair proved to be much more than just a simple change in appearance.

Paco was a capricious man. Having grown up in Brooklyn with an eye on Broadway, the sequinned-shirted stylist was no stranger to eccentricity. He explained how his hair devolved into its current bald state by stabbing a comb at products in his small shop in Williamsburg. "Grow it, dye it, mousse it, spray it, gel it, bleach it, fry it." Then he gazed at his reflection with an air resigned for cabaret dancers past their prime and sighed.

"Lose it." Though female pattern baldness wasn't a concern for me when I was 12, I too shared Paco's love of The Hair. Throughout high school, it was dyed to look like a snow cone dipped in fruit syrup, and when I moved to the Middle East I just kept growing it longer and dying it darker, finally reaching the peak of Mediterranean vogue last year with Chaka Khan volume and a tint called Eggplant Night. Paco, who had by then got hair implants, was excessively supportive.

But, as my father learnt in his Woodstock years, and consequently warned me, long hair is a hassle. It requires a lot of maintenance, particularly if it's curly. And when you're living in an emirate like Abu Dhabi, where the air is so thick with water that you can hydrate on your inhalations, it's a nightmare. So it was with little hesitance that I sat in the salon of the Abu Dhabi Health and Fitness Club and looked at my stylist, a sprightly man less capricious than Paco but no less enthusiastic.

"Yalla, Eddie!" I said. And tilting his highlighted head sideways, the Lebanese artiste preceded to take off what I had spent three years growing. As I watched nine inches fall to the floor, memories unexpectedly surfaced. There went Istanbul and Fushcia Flash; Athens and Black Leather; Barcelona and Hot Tamale. But as the final ends were snipped and a sleek line emerged, hearkening back to the bobbed styles of the 1920s, I shook my head in relief. No more mane to contend with at the gym, no more purchasing three bottles of hair dye because one wasn't enough; no triangular-shaped behemoth to wrestle down every morning.

As I admired Eddie's handiwork, I was reminded of last summer, when a friend pushed my hair back from his face while we posed for a picture. Irritated, he patted the last strands down and scolded: "It's not all about your hair, Mishi." But the horrible, despicable, hand-wringing truth of the matter was: it kind of is.