Australia

Alan Attwood: Out of lockdown, a shaggy dog story

A park encounter: woman with dog. Observing park etiquette, I said "Hi" to the dog first. I admired how sleek it looked. Recently trimmed. "Yes,'' she replied from behind her mask, ''just been groomed.'' Then her eyes flicked north. To my head. And I knew what she was thinking: I could use some grooming too. But this had been impossible.

Alan Attwood.

Alan Attwood.Credit:Eddie Jim

Toilet paper was an early symbol of the lockdown; C another. I have found myself shouting questions at people on TV (never a good sign). Newsreaders; athletes; leaders ... Hey, where did you get a haircut? Not what I usually do. But for the first time in many years, I’ve actually been thinking about hair.

It mattered in the 1970s: a decade of big hair. I let the locks go. My "styling" technique was to dry wet hair by bending over a bar heater and shaking vigorously, like a dog just out of the sea. The result resembled the electrocution I might have suffered. I was happy with this look; my headmaster of the time, less so. He bailed me up to describe it as “interesting”. My reply: “Thank you, sir”, wasn’t what he wanted to hear. In retrospect, his psychology was all wrong. Had he admired my mane, I would have cut it. Which is what I did after leaving school and its silly hair rules.

My kids have stumbled on photos of me from that era. Their response: “You were kidding, right.” I wasn’t. I was emulating Robert Plant and Justin Hayward (eclectic tastes, even then). Gradually, though, pragmatism kicked in. Keeping it short meant not thinking much about hair. It meant removing a hat or a helmet and not worrying about looking like a toilet-brush or Bert and Ernie from The Muppets, which is what has been happening lately.

I’ve gone undercover. Hiding hair under a beanie or cap. Slightly alarmed by what’s been happening, especially the colour, but also increasingly intrigued ... "Hmmm, what if I just let things go?'' Could I find an independent witness to confirm or deny my belief that the man in the mirror the other morning (after a swim) was actually Robert Smith of The Cure? How cool would that be?

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Having dreamed recently about pushing dogs aside on their way to the groomers, my ambivalence has grown along with a fringe. Last weekend’s announcement about hairdressers reopening caused neither my heart to leap nor my feet to race down the street to take my place in a long queue. I’ve become oddly attached to what’s been happening up top. Is it too soon, too simplistic, to return to pragmatism; the way things were? I’ll give it time. Think a bit. No short cuts. Yet.

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