My life: a tonsorial narrative

I was talking to the best friend last night about an old schoolmate of ours whom I'd recently seen out and about at Wine Bar, and she asked if the person had recognised me. The answer was no, which prompted a question from EH --- whom I've only known only for the last few years --- about whether I've changed a lot in appearance since I left school.

Well, I should hope the hell so.

Let's start with the hair. As a child, I had short hair for functional reasons: my mother didn't want to have to fuss with a kid with long hair, plus we live in the tropics after all. The short 'do persisted all through my childhood years because the school I attended prohibited students from growing their hair longer than a bob cut. (Hairpins were allowed, but they had to be matte black, the kind that you can buy very cheaply by the 100s and that smells suspiciously oily even when they're brand-new.) (Female students weren't allowed to wear earrings either, as we found out after I got my ears pierced. But that's another story for another time.) (Stellou, this tendency for parenthetical expatiation is totally your fault.)

Then I hit secondary school: liberation --- long hair of any length was permitted. Okay, so it had to be bound up "neatly" with hair accessories that either black or navy blue in colour, which are positively Victorian rules by today's standards, but considering what I'd experienced prior to that, I was grateful for small mercies. So as a teenager, I experimented with long hair for the first time in my life, realised that braiding was a lot tougher than it looked, even under my mother's expert tutelage, and spent a lot of time in the pre-dawn hours (don't forget: school starts at 7:30 am in this workholic country) trying to achieve neat ponytails.

By the time I went on to junior college (translation for non-Singaporean readers: senior high), I was done with long hair. Brutal haircuts and an utter lack of intelligent vanity on my part accelerated my reversion to a hairdo that stopped at the collar, gradually was allowed to become shapeless and overgrown, only to be sheared back to unattractive uniformity again. What a dork I looked.

Colder climes in the university years encouraged me to grow out my hair again, this time without having to bother with funereal hair accessories or, indeed, any hair accessories at all. In the words of some friends: I went all Pocahantas. The thickness of my hair, which can make it a really sweltering mass in tropical Singapore, was for once not a burden, even on staticky winter afternoons, plus lookit all the money I saved from not needing haircuts.

(Guilty confession: between junior college and university, I cut my hair short and permed it. The less said about that time, the better.)

Back in Singapore after graduation, I raged at the weather, the government, my parents --- and steadfastly wore my hair long. Eventually, it was the weather that wore me down. Though I only trimmed my hair once or twice a year, each neatening tamed the edge closer and closer to my shoulders --- till last year I made the fateful decision to chop it all off and settle for chin-length hair for the first time in almost ten years.

It's been good since then. For one thing, I now go to a good hairdresser (thanks for sharing, Ondine!), so I needn't worry that short hair = bad hair. Short hair's easier to manage for running and I think my neck's relishing the fact that it gets to see the sun for a bit. The hair takes less time and fuss to highlight, as and when I decide I want to add a little colour to it, and it doesn't take like three hours after a shower to fully dry.

So the short answer to EH's question is: No, I don't look like I used to in school, at all. There's different hair, there's contacts, and I'd like to think I'm a more interesting person than I used to be.

Conversely, it's funny to think that people who've met me in the last year or so, like my current colleagues or students, have never seen me with long, long hair. I'm not saying they're missing out on anything; it's just that having long hair was a part of who I was for so long, through particularly formative years of my life, and it's odd to think they don't 'see' me in that way.

On the other hand, I'm glad there aren't many people who know me from childhood. There were some really ugly moments back then ...


At 5/07/2005 4:08 am , Blogger Kay said...

Heh. Before we (I can't remember who exactly) got to know what a wonderful person you truly are, we used to bitch about how you'd play with your hair in Chua's classes and look for split ends while you talked. That would be my earliest memory of you. =)

At 5/07/2005 6:31 am , Blogger Tym said...

That's another good reason not to keep long hair --- the damned split ends! And yes, I'm mildly OCD that way. If one split end falls into sight, I'll pick at it, then go hunting for more. I have many twitchy habits :)

At 5/08/2005 11:30 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

Eh Raffles Guys can only use black hair accessories.

And I didn't see you with -that- long hair.

At 5/09/2005 9:50 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother also opted for short hair for me when I was a kid. As i got older and more tomboy-ish, she despaired that I would never grow my hair out. I've had long hair three times in my life, for less than a year each time (my definition of long = past my chin). And my mother has been forced to grudgingly admit that I look better with short hair, wahey!

A lot of people say I haven't changed since secondary school. Which is bad, since I had braces and spots.

At 5/10/2005 12:32 am , Blogger Tym said...

Agagooga --- Yes, I did!! And they had navy blue in my time ... (do I sound like a withered old geezer yet?)

Andrea --- Yah, Asian moms are so practical :) I suppose my mom's partial to short hair because that's how she prefers to wear her own hair.


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