I saw a photo of Alexa Chung in a magazine while mooching about in leggings and one of those breastfeeding tops that are a great idea but not very fashion forward. She has a fringe, that Alexa Chung, and green eyes and brown hair. She’s very thin. I have no fringe, brown eyes, blonde hair (dyed) and a wobbly just-had-a-baby paunch.
At the time, I hadn’t showered in about three days and was existing largely on fried goods. I took a photo of myself on my phone, examined it closely and thought, ‘You know what? I would probably look as good as Alexa if not for this side part.’ Ergo:
I should totally get me a fringe.
Yes. A fringe.
So I booked a time at a hairdressing salon I found reviews of online. Five stars, four and a half stars, so many stars. Only criticism was it was a bit expensive but how much could a cut cost?, I thought. ‘And you’ll look just like me,’ encouraged Alexa, folded carefully and tucked into the side pocket of my handbag.
On the day, I was pumped. I fed the baby and handed her to my husband, washed, dressed, ran a comb through my hair and arrived at the allotted time, maybe even early.
My stylist – the Head Stylist – came over. Her name was Natalia. She had a sleeve of tattoos, bluebirds in cages and snippets of poems. Her hair was a deep shade of burgundy and her outfit was the combined effort of an emerging Icelandic designer (pants), her musician boyfriend (singlet) and a market in an obscure French town (cardigan).
She was so incredibly cool that later I found myself willingly inhaling the smell from her underarm. Even that exuded the faint scent of awesome. Luckily, I was there to be transformed. My new self was about to emerge like a shiny haired, luminous-skinned, fringed butterfly.
The first thing Natalia did, before I’d even pulled Alexa out and patted down the curling corners of my future self, was offer me a cup of ‘soothing’ aniseed tea and suggest a ‘calming’ aromatherapy treatment. Immediately I felt we’d connected and she could see into my soul. ‘Yes!’ I said, at pains not to sound too eager.
The apprentice came over. He was about 16, wearing very tight jeans, a sweatband and rather a lot of fake tan. He stood behind me and said into the mirror that said he’d be doing the aromatherapy treatment. Ok, I said. With that he bent closer, squirted some cream onto one grubby orange hand, rubbed it against the other and held both, fingers spread wide, in front of my face. It was like a slow motion hug from behind, paused before the arms catch you.
It was awkward.
‘Close your eyes and breathe deeply,’ he instructed. ‘In and out. Five deep breaths.’
He leaned closer and the smell – the aroma – of apples and sage, tinged with St Mortiz Self Tan Extra Dark, drifted up my nostrils. I was caught between the urge to breathe quickly so that the hands would disappear and the knowledge that he was right there, watching, monitoring, making sure I did it correctly.