Sometimes I think I'm confident, other times I gather dumb complexes about what the good Lord gave me in order to keep myself humble. It's true, I do this. Here's one of my favourite complexes: I hate my hair. Wait, hate is a bad word, let me rephrase: I strongly dislike my hair. There, I said it. I don't like my hair, ok? My best friend also has hair like a Brazillian mermaid- which doesn’t help. I ask her to pray for me (to whom much is given, much is expected).
Clearly, she doesn't spend enough time on her knees. You see, my hair is an exact blend of my Father’s floating, dark inexplicably thin hair and my Mother’s fair and thick waves. Usually, half-half hair mixes work out well- like Betty Crocker cupcake packs. Not in my case, nope my chromosomes were indecisive. “I’ll get it.” “No, I’ll get it.”
No one got it, and I've had to pay for it (literally) ever since, but more on that later.
As a child I was blonde (and adorable), but as the years passed my hair faded to the colour which makes all hair dressers rub their hands in glee and picture holiday homes, this hair colour is titled “mousy.” Yes, my hair colour is named after a small running rodent. How's that for a start in life?
The Vietnam Episode- Fried.
If you scroll for long enough on Facebook you will find out I spent a chunk of my life traveling (look for the really really bad photos). I lived off rice and soy sauce, and spent any cash I had left on plane tickets and flea infested backpacker hostels. It was wonderful. How I have ended up in these strange countries I’ve lived in, I barely know. To this day my dear Mother looks at me, shakes her head, and asks: “why couldn’t you be a normal child?” I look at the floor: the woman who carried me in her womb has called me “not-normal” and referred to me as a child at the age of 30. I should question many things.
I lived in Vietnam for 4 months. Yup, I can say back in ‘Nam and not refer to a rap song. While I was there the time came, as it always does, to try convince the Asians I was truly semi European, or white (the last name Thring did not help this) and transform my mousy locks into blonde. I ask you, what would any intelligent pale girl with thin Western hair inherited from her Father do in this situation? Go to the Western Hair Salon. Is this what I did? No. Traveling Fran saw dreams of her next flight go out the window when she glanced at the prices of Tony & Guy, so she went to a Vietnamese Salon. I kid you not, I remember I drew a picture of what I wanted for my hair. The family of hairdressers held up the paper, grimaced, discussed, smiled, nodded, grimaced, nodded , pointed and placed me in a chair. It'll be fine, I told myself, put your feet up and relax (not literally, having your feet above your body is rude in many Asian cultures).
It was not fine. 3 long long agonising hours later I emerged from the Vietnamese hair salon. My poor poor thin mousy hair (Dad’s genes) hair was a burnt bright orange. I ran my fingers through my head and pieces broke off like bits of pie crust. I cried. It was traumatic. Me and a shrivelled self esteem left Vietnam a week later.
The London Episode- Sliced
Never far from a new adventure, I planned a move to London. Before I caught the flight I decided it was time to write my own version of the flight song and fight back against the copper broken mouse on my head (lovely, right?). Now, I declared, is my time to go dark. In the past I had teetered on the blonde side of the anti-mouse campaign, but as this had caused me pain and sorrow, like a bitter mistress I was done. I took things into my own hands, visited the local Pharmacy and dyed my hair black.
In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the best way to deal with the situation. When I emerged from the shower I looked like Amy Winehouse. And I looked like I needed a lot of rehab. Also, my hair had a slimy green tone like a kid who spent their weekend diving into chlorine pools. Well done Fran.
A few weeks after my touch with the dark side (literally) my hair breakage became so bad I left a trail around London like an old labrador. The black green then washed out and my hair turned copper green.
Time for my next wise hair decision, still unprepared to pay London Hair Salon prices I booked myself into the Vidal Sasson Hair College in London where students cut your hair for a fraction. It was cheap for a reason, you didn’t have a say in what the hairdressers did. I figured: what could be worse, I've done it all? I sat down, tried to pretend the copper-green head in the mirror did not belong to me and waited for my hairdresser.
The Hairdresser I was chosen was metro, Japanese and wore eye liner. I already had trust issues with Asian hair dressers, this didn’t help. When we thought the hair situation couldn’t get any worse, it did. Mr Japan took one look at my fractured flaking pie hair ends and saw the perfect opportunity to try out the latest hair fashion statement in Japan: punk. He whipped out his training scissors and sliced my hair all off. It was short, I looked like a boy. I suddenly missed my copper-green hair. Then I cried. I hid in my bedroom for a week. The only way I convinced myself to rejoin society was by repeating a daily matra which sounded like this: “you look like Winona Ryder.”
After the London Episode came the “I Let My Disabled Best Friend Dye My Hair Episode” and the “I Arrived For Work With Purple Hair Episode”.
3 years ago I decided to be a real live adult and go to an actual hairdresser. Recovery has been slow, painful, and costly, but me and my hair are making progress. The other day someone commented on my Instagram account and said “Great hair!” "Great what?" Little did they know I lit up like glow worm bioluminescence. Eventually, it seemed I had won the battle of the anti-mouse campaign! Could this be real?
I like telling you these stories because I find it reminds me that it’s so easy to look at someone and make assumptions when we don't know their back story.
If I look back, I’m not ashamed of the crazy, creative and impulsive person I was. Far from it: l like that I’ve never had to be the hottest girl in the room. I like that I’ve cared far more about people, fun and adventure than looking perfect- perfect is overrated anyway. My hair story reminds me everyone goes through good and bad. Highlights and lowlights (haha) and each part of your story has it's own cool twist. Go for it, I say. Make the mistakes, make the stories, but pay for a hairdresser if you can- that would be my take home.