Friday, April 10, 2015

The Things We Do for Love

Finally, it’s over. 

My year of trying to look like Sandra Bullock has ended. My miserable, tortuous year of trying to be someone I was not, could never be, could never even remotely aspire to be, is no more. The relief is enormous.
Men, eh? Inevitably, it boils down to a flamin’ guy. And not even a guy I could have. Totally unavailable, and, even if he were, one who would not give me a second or even third glance (one: you just know these things; two: you especially know when he all but spells it out in a kind of “Even if I were available I wouldn’t touch you with a bargepole across two oceans” kind of way).
But then he had to say five words that have ruined my life for 12 sodding months: “Sandra Bullock. That’s my type.”
I could almost hear my brain clicking into place. That’s where I’ve been going wrong, I realised. Not only with this guy, but every single man on the planet since my disastrous love life began. If only I looked like Sandra Bullock, I’d find love. Happiness. My life would be just like her movie While You Were Sleeping (oh, yes: a guy lying unconscious while everyone in his life fell in love with me without him waking up to tell them I was a fraud – I’m telling, you, Sandra, we were separated at birth).
But I digress. I met Sandra shortly before the five-word epitaph that became my life. She is, undoubtedly, beautiful, if you like that large mouthed kind of look in a woman (I’ll come onto the lip implant Googling stuff shortly). She is a terrific actor (Ditto: I’ll come onto how much those acting classes were going to cost me, too), and she is much taller than I could ever hope to be (don’t even get me started on the Googling of leg extensions).

It was Sandra’s hair, though, that was my starting point.
I’ve never had great hair. It is very straight, grows at a rate of about a centimetre a decade, and sits on my head like a Chihuahua in the first throes of rigor mortis. A short haired Chihuahua, at that. It’s been permed, styled, endured extensions and been coloured. But I still end up looking like the Worst in Show category at Cruft’s dog show. I once thought that if I went blonde, I might be more attractive. Five hours later at the hairdresser’s, and crying with the pain of the bleach, I emerged looking like Myra Hindley’s less attractive sister. Just check out the serial killer’s infamous mugshot; you’ll know where I’m coming from.
It just suits me short. It suits the texture of my locks, the shape of my face, my personality. I wear my hair like I do an outfit that has sat in my wardrobe for decades and that I know still looks good and fits me better than any other. Or did. Until Sandra bloody Bullock.
So, my life-changing efforts were set in motion, and, given that I could no longer afford toilet tissue, let alone a trip to the hairdresser, it seemed like the perfect moment to transform. “I love your hair,” people started to tell me. “It’s so much softer.” “I’m going to look like Sandra Bullock in a year,” I told them.
It wasn’t the first time I had done something to try to endear myself more to the opposite sex. I’m a girl. We do these things. I once dated a bird watcher which, for someone with a phobia of feathers, was always going to be an uphill struggle. He was also a manic depressive, so during his coma phases I read up on endangered feathered species in the hope of having something to talk about that might cheer him up. Doomed.
Sex, or the hope of it, spurs women into doing insane things to try to ensnare men. I had one friend who took up fly-fishing; I have taken up squash, chess, criminal law, DNA profiling, Russian, Japanese, Argentine tango – I could go on and on – just to make myself more attractive to a penis.
But back to the hair. The months went on. The Chihuahua got flatter. The sides sat around my face like a pair of elephant’s ears taking a long nap. Then I started to obsess about everything else that was wrong around it. Maybe if my lips were plumped up a bit a la Sandra, the hair would look better; maybe if I went back to acting, I would be more appealing altogether (one drink with an actor friend put paid to that); and there were always leg implants if I wanted to be taller (I just bought higher heels, in the end. Much cheaper, even at Jimmy Choo prices).
I stuck it out and, as it did when I had hair extensions and the Myra look, my behaviour started to change. I really didn’t feel like me. I so desperately wanted to be the person I thought someone else would like that I started to disappear. And disappear under a really horrid hairdo, more to the point.
The months went on. The products I had to use to keep my head looking even remotely human got more expensive. Still, people kept saying that they liked my new “soft” look. I started to hate the word. At my newspaper’s Christmas party last year, somebody said I looked like Elizabeth Taylor (Hmmm. Dead?). In New York, I was twice mistaken for Liza Minnelli, as I had also been in LA (“The fat, bloated years?” I queried).
I talked on the phone to a friend I hadn’t seen in years. “Love is not about hair,” she said – another five words that struck as big a chord as the other five had done.
I found a hairdresser in New York and just said “Take it all off”. Not even Delilah shaving off Samson’s locks could have felt the relief I did as the Chihuahua fell to the floor around my feet.
Unexpectedly, I’ve had guys of all ages flocking around me ever since, but it’s not to do with hair; it’s because I’ve gone back to being me. Flawed and imperfect as I am, I’m actually really okay with being exactly that. It’s true that you can’t buy love; it’s also true that you can’t style it. You are who you are. It’s a cliché, but no less true for being so.
I recently bumped into Sandra’s fan, incidentally, who said how much he liked my new hairdo and that it made me look younger.
NOW he tells me.

Sandra Bullock is 50, by the way. Just sayin'. 


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