“Bowl head! Bowl head!”
“Stupid wog! Look at her hair!”
I’d thought my 1920s Parisian style bop was quite sophisticated.
“Did your mother put a bowl over your head to cut your hair?” one of them snarled, as the rest of the group of Year 8 girls crowded around me.
“No,” I wanted to say. “My hairdresser recommended this as the perfect style cut for me.”
But I didn’t. Not just because I was petrified and knew that opening my mouth at this point could result in a black eye, which although it would match my hair, wouldn’t suit my face, but because it wasn’t true. My mother had cut my hair. But she hadn’t used a bowl.
So I just cowered quietly on the bench praying that they would get bored soon and notice one of their other victims; perhaps someone who’d stupidly thought they should actually wear the regulation school uniform. When they did finally leave I finished my salami sandwich before going to sit in the library for the rest of the lunch break. The library was a safe space that the bullies didn’t venture into, probably because they couldn’t read.
The next time my mother suggested a haircut I pleaded with her to take me to the hair dresser. Strangely she agreed and booked me into the salon that she went to. Maybe her scissors were blunt that day. Whatever the case, I was grateful. I needed a new look. I scoured the pages of Vogue, Vanity Fair and Dolly and it quickly became obvious what the most sophisticated hairstyle of the moment was.
The royal wedding had only been a few months earlier. It was attended by three hundred and fifty guests and watched by about 750 million people on TV worldwide; evidence that the hairstyle worked. If I adopted it, not only might the bully girls show a little more respect but maybe one of the boys I had a crush on might even look my way.
When I arrived at school on Monday morning I proudly waited for everyone’s reaction. No one said anything until music class when one of the girls asked the teacher if we could listen to some Duran Duran.
“Of course not,” the teacher replied.
“Maybe Simon Le Bon can sing for us then?” she said as she pointed straight at me, while everyone else writhed around on their desks shrieking with laughter.
“Boy cut! Boy cut!”
“Stupid wog! Look at her hair!”
I’d thought my smooth short layers looked just like Lady Di’s.
“She looks like a boy! Her mother took her to the barber!”
It’s taken many years to get over this childhood trauma. I count myself lucky, so many other victims of bullying have not come out of it so well. But I still feel insecure at the hairdressers. I don’t trust myself to make a choice that won’t rip the scars off old wounds. And it’s as if the stylist with the shears in their hands senses my fear because no matter how firmly I request just a 2cm trim, they always try to convince me to try something new.
“Maybe a chin length, Parisian style bop?” they suggest. “Very chic. Would really suit your features.”
And they’re fascinated by the giant white stripe on the side of my head that makes me look like a skunk and is no doubt the result of traumatised brain cells. I can never tell if they are trying not to laugh at the fact that I refuse to colour it or are wondering if its the next big thing.