When Mandy was younger, I insisted that she grow her hair long, and keep it that way. I, like many other 70’s children rebelled against the hippy era and went for the short cut, progressing through the eighties with some rather fantastic and colourful short, mid and even lopsided styles. In fact, the eighties were the most adventurous of times. Sod the late seventies when punk was all the rage. You either went full punk or hovered over the Rara skirted fringes. However, I went one step further and discovered Bikes. So, jeans, t-shirt and leathers and lace were my fashion items.
My biggest regret was, and still is, hair. Being a curly type of person, the Purdey was out of the question, and the Rula Lenska big and fluffy came with ease. Not for me, the four hour trips to the hairdresser for perms, I had a built in afro, but being blonde it sort of ended up looking like candy floss. I don’t know where it came from, as a child my hair was sort of straight, and long, very long, apart from the curls in the middle of my forehead. That is no joke. The bloody rhyme could have been written for me, I was, to say the least a testy child. Now when I am bad, I am a bloody nightmare, and I’ve since dyed my hair red to go with the temper. I call it my artificial intelligence, you see I’m still blonde underneath, I was the last time I looked. The last time I saw my nature hair colour was in 1979. I do catch a glimpse of the odd grey hair trying desperately to escape the plastic gloved hands as I pour copious amounts of coloured liquid onto my scalp, but I’m wise to the buggers and catch them before they hide surreptitiously away. Why is it a man is deemed distinguished and women just get old when the grey hairs appear? Not fair. And on that note, there is the argument about being a slapper or a stud. I’ll let you argue on that point. (I can now imagine all six of my regular readers, hi there, by the way, turning to the other half and asking them if they consider a woman experienced or a tart?)
Where was I, Mandy’s hair. The mothers revenge.
Having a girl was the greatest of pleasures. I could shop for tough shoes, and dungarees and little bike jackets. And yes Ok, the odd dress. The most satisfying thing though was being able to brush her long, glorious, golden hair. It was as straight as a die, just like her father’s hair, with echoes of red and ginger, blonde and gold. It would have cost a fortune to have all those highlights put in at the hairdressers. But the most important thing about keeping your little girl’s hair long, was punishment. Oh my God, I must sound like the bitch from hell, though I really don’t care what you think about that statement, I am going to explain myself.
When you are on a schedule in the morning, you’ve all been there, don’t tell me you haven’t, either as a child or as a parent, there is always the mad panic as someone does something wrong and the routine is disrupted.
Johnnie next door decides to play football and smash a window in your kitchen.
Mandy decides that she’s too ill to go to school because Mrs King is taking the PE lesson today, which means lots of jumping jacks and running.
Mark is late because the bed forcibly held him down and he was still in the bathroom when Mandy got up and she began her grumps early.
You drop a pint of milk which free flows under the fridge and Mandy isn’t helping because she can’t find her favourite bracelet that she just has to wear on non-uniform day.
The morning catastrophes are innumerable. But being a mother of a young girl with long hair is the best stress buster ever. You can gently caress the beautiful locks that flow gracefully down her back and find the pretty ribbon to put in her hair once you’ve plaited in to an intricate pattern that resembles the hanging gardens of Babylon.
As she struggles to get away, because pink ribbons are the one thing that any respectable EMO refuses to wear, plaits are so yesterday and “OMG mother, really, it’s too long, I’m going to cut it off as soon as I reach sixteen.” You pull her closer to you, by the end of the ponytail you hold zealously in your hand, as the brush gets pushed with just a tad more pressure than may be necessary. The odd tap on the scull to tell her to stand still isn’t because she moved, it’s for the dirty look she gave you yesterday, the crayon marks on the wall that never came off that she made when she was three. It’s for the unmade bed, the dirty clothes tucked under her chair, the mud walked into the carpet. It’s for the remark she made about your expanding waist. It’s the mothers revenge.
Mandy is all grown up now and has thanked me for the decision I made on her behalf to ban her from cutting her hair. I’ve grown up to and have grown mine back, although it still has a hint of blue in it from time to time and some red, and orange and purple. Mandy don’s the green fringe when she is feeling adventurous.
Yesterday was hair colour day, there I was plastic gloves on with two bottles shaken not stirred, the aroma of the non-ammonia rich hair colourant tickling my nose with its pseudo perfumic passions, (In other words, it stank!) when the phone rang.
There are those people that you can ignore and ring back and say sorry I was pebble dashing the lav, and they would just say “Aww, thanks for that, I hope you’ve finished.” Then there are those people that you have to answer no matter what time of night or day it is, because everything is an absolute emergency. No prizes for guessing which category Mandy comes under. Phones, especially mobiles are my nightmare. They are an intrusion into my privacy. After all, you wouldn’t let the post man in whilst you are half naked and trying to brush your teeth, but you answer the phone to the unknown 0333 number that turns out to be an incomprehensible sales girl calling from another far-flung Universe.
“Hello.” I cheerfully answer, “Bad timing sweetheart I’m about to dye my hair.”
“That’s Ok it’s just a quick question.”
Now then how many times have you heard that before? It doesn’t matter how quick the question is, it’s the answer that matters, and have you ever noticed that there are those that never accept an answer and just have to follow up with another question and another.
Take the five-year-old that asks where he comes from. I’ll defy any parent to have finished answering that question before the kid reaches twelve years old.
Well that’s a long question to start with. Is it “Mum, I’m in trouble I need you to bail me out.” “Mum, I need to come and see you, because this is so serious. I’ve broken a nail and do you have any of that kit left I bought you six years ago to fix it?” or “Mum, can I ask you a question?”
“Mum,” I waited for the pause. The length of the pause between Mum and the rest of the sentence tells you so much. This was a lengthy pause, which meant the question, albeit short was going to need a long answer. Either that or she wanted something she knew I was going to quibble over.
“Mum, can we come over for Easter?” she asked.
What I heard was, “We.” Now was that the we, as in the old boyfriend was back, remember him, that git that we all agreed she was well rid of. Did the “We” mean a new boyfriend and there was going to be a whole new set of rules involved. Will he eat vegetables? Is he a vegetarian? Is he going to be intellectually articulate or a bloody moron? That one is important. The memory of Jamie came to mind.
“Mum, do you like Jamie?” Mandy asked me one evening. It just came out, what can I say, I was being honest. Woman to fifteen-year-old impressionable girl.
“I don’t know, he never speaks to anyone, so how can I get to know him?”
Seeing the look on her face I quickly added, “But I don’t dislike him, he’s just not interesting.”
No, that didn’t help either.
So, here I was again with all the questions in my head.
“We dear, who are you bringing?”
Now she’s gay, oh no, no grandchildren, I’m going to be grandchildrenless.
“Linda?” I asked, teetering on nervous exhaustion.
“Linda, from Uni, she’s here for a week and asked if she could come and see you.”
The penny dropped. Linda, the speckle girl. I say that because that’s what Mark called her. Short dumpy and bespectacled, but good for Mandy. She was a straight A student and after being paired for an assignment with her in the first year, she had kept Mandy going.
“Yes of course she can, that will be great. Are you staying, do you want dinner, we need to organise the spare room.” At least Linda would appreciate Chintzy I thought, satisfied that my décor would at last be appreciated.
It was a quick question and answer as Mandy was in a hurry and if she says the conversation is over, it’s over. Kids rule huh!
Now call me a snoop, or is that a troll, there are so many new expressions every day I never know what I will be next, but I just had to check out Facebook.
There she was on Mandy’s friends list. Linda Carmichael. I opened up her profile and then closed it again and scanned down Mandy’s friends list to find another Linda, maybe she had married and changed her name. No, tried Lyn, Lynn, Lynda, Lin, nothing narda, nitch, so I went back to Linda Carmichael. Looking really close at her profile picture I vaguely recognised the face. Gone were the specs, the hair was long and auburn, man would I like to run a brush through that. Not in a purvey way you understand but in a motherly way. She was beautiful, I flicked back to Mandy’s home page. There I was faced with the picture of a young woman, covered in face paint and hair in tufts, sticking out her tongue. Yes, that was my Mandy.
She had changed our Linda, she had gone abroad and worked for a company down in Abu Darby, or some such place. I tried to pronounce it, but unsuccessfully gave up.
I was still sporting the multicoloured towel that I use for dyeing my hair around my shoulders sitting on the bed in my bra and old yoga pants when Mark walked in.
“Yes, is she coming for Easter?” Mark asked.
“Yes, she’s bringing a friend.”
“I know Linda’s back in the country, it will be good to see her.”
“Yer, she put it up on Facebook the other day.”
“How do you know?”
“She’s on my friends list.”
I was just dumbfounded. I’m not a Face booker, well I am but only with a few friends, where mine number in the fifties, most people’s number in the hundreds, and I know each one of them. Why was Mark friends with this beautiful lady, and why hadn’t he told me, and what was that green haze that passed through my vision?
Mark left and I carried on with hair dyeing.
I was still curious this morning as I prepared for the Easter Sunday roast and our visitors.
I’m not anymore. Linda is lovely. She is brilliant and pretty and I have found the hair brush I used to use on Mandy in the hope that I can punish, I mean brush Linda’s hair for her, how dare she be friends with my husband and not me.
She’s not all that bad, she loves the way I dye the red into the ends of my hair and graduate it from the auburn. She has good taste.
“Mum?” That’s Mandy calling from her room, I’ll have to go. By the temper of the voice I think this evenings question and answer session is going to be a long one.