hair today groomed tomorrow

Dear Uma: How was that for a timely meeting? Edmonton during the Fringe Festival was a great surprise. I'd never heard of it and there it was happening, all famous and international.

Dear Uma:

How was that for a timely meeting? Edmonton during the Fringe Festival was a great surprise. I’d never heard of it and there it was happening, all famous and international. Missing the big mall in favour of ‘Cowboy Mouth’ and ‘The Love Life of Ophelia’ was a no-brainer.

Of course you liked Theo; everybody does, including the people he’s staying with for the rest of the Fringe. He’ll go home from there, having spent exactly four days in Watson Lake and seen more of the North in three weeks than I have managed to see in two years, as well as meeting more people.

It was a culture shock, coming home after those three marvellous, stimulating days at the festival; this weary little place is so utterly bored with itself, illustrating the high cost of misoneism. Even the dogs look apathetic, napping in the middle of the roads, slumped at the end of their ropes or yawning from their pens.

Uma, I am not sure about my new hairdo; how are you feeling about yours? We may have fallen victim to a martini moment because neither one of us had changed our hairstyle in 20 years.

I was reminded of the martini moment in London that led to tattoos; thank goodness we didn’t get them on our foreheads as planned.

Pete is charmed with my hair; he keeps petting my head like I am a dog and says over and over again how much he likes this new look. It makes me sulky: what was the matter with my old look?

I startle myself in the mirror; the sleek hair that swings across the nape of my neck and curves around my jaw is a radical departure from the fuzzy bundle of hair that used to adorn either the top or the back of my head, depending on the strength of the elastic band used to anchor it. The colour, after years of being pale gray, is the most dramatic change; it is making me self-conscious, though at the same time I like it. I think I look pretty good, for me. The few people I have seen since getting home have not recognized me. Cee, too, is impressed, saying she thinks I look like Doris Day—in the days when most people knew what Doris Day looked like, she quickly clarified.

This morning, in this new mood of style-consciousness, I tentatively entered the heretofore unexplored area of hair information, led on by the caption “are you brushing your hair too much?” Now that I am brushing my hair at all, this is the sort of thing I need to know.

Fortunately I will not be obliged to find my hairbrush or buy a new one; it is no longer a recommended practice, which must be aggravating information to those who were advocates of the 100 strokes per night.

It is hard to believe how much there is to say about hair. Apparently, the simple act of getting one’s hair done leads to feeling ‘refreshed, rejuvenated and with a new sense of confidence.’

None of those words would describe my feelings when you and I left that salon in Edmonton. It was more like ‘sober, scared, and ripped off.’

The whole thing took more than three hours for starters. After martinis with lunch, we figured we’d just drop in, get cuts, and carry on with the festival. Three hours later, and sober, we walked out of the place poorer by $200 each and stunned by what we had done.

The hearty approval and undisguised admiration from Pete and Theo, refreshed and rejuvenated from seeing two more plays while we were being coloured and clipped, was what saved that day.

Did you know that before going directly to the hairdresser, we could have paid a consultant $80 to virtually create photos of ourselves in every imaginable hairdo? Now that would have been entertaining; we probably wouldn’t have gotten our hair done at all after viewing ourselves in celebrity hairdos.

It seems we ought to have done the consultation; not only is the shape of one’s face important in choosing the right style, but so is the shape of one’s body.

There are seven face shapes, with oval being the ideal and oblong the most challenging. Between perfection and dejection are round, square, heart, triangle and rectangle-shaped faces.

Studying the shapes, I found myself unable to determine which is mine. Finally, I concluded I was not represented on the chart of human face shapes; mine is a sort of diamond shape, narrow at the top and bottom and wide in the middle.

The body shapes are even more of a challenge.

Ectomorphs are skinny, endomorphs are fat and mesomorphs are just right.

One can be a tall or short version of any of these three.

You, Uma, represent fashion’s ideal, being a tall mesomorph with an oval face. According to those who make the rules, you don’t have to obey them and are free to wear your hair and clothes whichever way you choose. Now I understand why you always look good no matter what you do; it’s not your fault or your intention.

Not only do I have a diamond-shaped face, but I also seem to have a diamond-shaped body. I am a short ecto-endomorph. Uncategorizable shapes must mean that I too may wear my hair and clothes whichever way I choose. What freedom! No more worrying about not worrying about appearance!

Moving ever deeper into the mysteries of hair, I find that hair can be an indicator of one’s health. These experts are referring to physical health and seem to have missed how the condition of one’s hair could likely be a fairly accurate barometer of mental health as well. Whereas before the hair makeover my mental state may have been suspect, this new sleekness clearly demonstrates I am a person of sound mind and high function.

Hair can be tested to determine whether or not the owner has used illicit drugs; if the hair is long enough, one’s drug history is exposed. Ought one to be suspicious of bald politicians?

In light of this drug-use detection from hair, I am just as glad my long locks with their stories of my wasted youth are in Edmonton’s landfill by now. My newly shorn hair would show nothing more sinister than a recent predilection for Gaviscon; oh, that festival food!

The products for hair care are numerous as grains of sand on a beach, and in actual fact, just about as beneficial. There are shampoos and conditioners made from every possible ingredient, all natural and organic and all promising lustrous, shining, hair. If one’s hair is curly, there are products to straighten it and if it is straight there are products to curl it. Should one be a fan of the hairdos that are sculpted and otherwise shaped, there are muds and pastes and goos and sprays.

The most interesting promise made by these hundreds of products is “healthy” hair.

Do you suppose there are really that many people out there who don’t know that their hair is dead? Promising healthy hair is like promising a healthy scarf or a healthy pair of jeans.

The best thing about Edmonton was being with you again; I love how we can immediately pick up and carry on from where we left off, no matter what the lapse in time between meetings. The older I get the more I am aware of the value of friendship; it seems to outlast every other relationship.

I found a quote the other day that describes friendship in a new and novel way:

“Friendship is like peeing your pants; everyone can see it but only you can feel the true warmth.”

With true warmth,


Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.