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That time I got a bob and lost my identity

It’s August 2004 and tears are threatening to spill over my bottom eyelashes as I stare back at my reflection in the hairdresser’s mirror. There are chunks of black hair all over me and I daren’t look at what’s on the floor. My palms are clammy and I feel weak as the hairdresser gives my hair a final brush then unhooks me from my gown. I daren’t meet my twin sister’s eyes. Her long, glossy black mane (so like Princess Jasmine’s) now seems like a cruel reminder of my former glory.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Jacqueline Wilson’s Double Act where twin Ruby cuts off her hair to look poles apart from Garnet. But, in my life, there was no major twin fight, no break up with a summer love or even a friendship break up. Instead, I had spent most of the summer fantasising about sashaying through the school gates looking a million times more grown up. The hot trends – yeti boots, circle belts and Baby G watches – were not going to cut it this term. I needed real change.

Then…suddenly…BAM. Flicking through a copy of Sugar magazine, I noticed a model with a black bob and pink highlights. This would be it. MY MOMENT. This would be my America’s (or let’s face it, Camden’s) Next Top Model makeover. After all, I had gone on holiday with my best mate’s family and had recently turned the big ONE-THREE so surely my new bob would prove I was officially a grown up.

But now, post-chop, school’s first day was inching closer while I was itching for my hair to miraculously grow back. I promised the Hair Gods that I would nevereverever touch my mane again and stop using that TGI hairspray every morning if only a few inches could grow back. I spent each morning checking with my pound shop ruler, dreading entering the school gates, imaging everyone’s pointed stares. I was known for the long, shiny black hair down to my back. As an identical twin with long black hair too, it was not just my marker, but ours.

During those last few weeks of summer, it felt like I had to learn who I was again. Mirrors became THE ENEMY as I no longer recognised the girl in front of me. I had massive tantrums as I realised that none of my clothes seemed to match my awkward bob, each time swearing at the evil page of Sugar magazine. But the girl with the bob kept winking back.

Looking back though, my bob forced me to confront my fears now that I was no longer hiding underneath a mop of black hair. I inherited a newfound confidence – after all, surely I could face nothing worse as a just-turned teen. As I realised I was visible in public, I threw myself into after-school activities from gym classes to being part of the Greek chorus in the school play. I no longer cared if my bum jiggled too much in front of the dance class mirrors or if I had to sing in public. I even became a regular member of the Pink Police for the school’s charity fundraising team, ‘arresting’ anyone who wasn’t wearing pink on Pink Day and asking the girls in higher forms to cough up some pounds and pennies – all the things that the former me would have been too scared to try.

This new-found confidence led me to talk to people I normally wouldn’t have bothered with. At dance class, I met Imogen, who would later become my best friend. I met a few other pals from theatre club too who, twelve years later, are still part of my solid friendship group.

Having my hair chopped off helped me mature into the bolshy teenager and adult who was able to cope with any type of change. I learnt to be brave about fashion choices and meeting new people but it also allowed me to think openly about new experiences – even if they initially scared me. I even ended up living in Miami for five months!

When I finally hit the growing-out stage of my awkward bob, I didn’t use it as an excuse to retreat back into the background. While I never did take a trip back to the same hairdresser for another chop, I was still dancing at gym class and fundraising for charity.

And whenever adult me is scared of something, I try to think about how it felt that day in the hairdresser’s chair – and how it ended up being the making of me. I guess I have my awkward bob to thank.

@layla_haidrani

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