“Really?” Asks the hairdresser. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
“You wouldn’t like me just to take it to shoulder length? Or – here’s a thought, luv. How’s about a bob?”
“No – I’m happy for you to go for it.”
“It’s a sudden change you know. People will notice it.”
“I’ll have to charge double the cost with it being a restyle. I’ll have to charge a tenner. Is that alright?”
“That’s fine too.”
This is the ‘no appointment’ place in Hillborough where people go for a quick trim. I wonder whether actually, she will enjoy getting stuck into restyle. At any rate, she runs out of excuses and reaches for the scissors. The customer is clearly out of her mind.
I am out of my mind: it’s been a hell of a week. Rewind two days: the house is a tip from the bathroom to the hall; you can’t open the front door any more (we use the side door normally) because no-one’s opened any post. A pile of paperwork on the mantlepeice has spilt over onto the hearth and mingled with a sea of Toddler’s toys, all lying more or less exactly how she disguarded them. The washing-up has found its way to the sink, where it sits waiting for someone to empty the dishwasher; the table is piled high with ‘stuff’. The baby-bath is still in the middle of the lounge, the water long-since cold. I am sitting on the chair, Tiddler in my arms. The Tiddler is screaming. The Tiddler is good at screaming: the walls seem to vibrate.
I jiggle. He screams. I jiggle some more.
“He won’t shut up,” I scream, unnecessarily, over the din.
“He was quiet for an hour, wasn’t he?” says hubby. “Did you manage to sleep?”
“No! No I didn’t sleep because I’d got so much to do, only I wanted to sleep so I sat down anyway, and tried to decide where to start if I did start doing something, only I couldn’t decide so I tried to sleep again and now he’s awake and I haven’t slept and I haven’t bloody done anything!”
“I’m so blood cross with myself!”
“You know,” says hubby carefully, “Being cross with yourself is a big part of depression.”
There is a pause.
“I’m not depressed! It’s just, you know, when you walk the wrong way on an escalator – no, not an escalator, that’s too easy. Like the thing they used to have in the Gladiators, that wrong-way conveyor-belt going downhill, really fast, they had to run up it at the end of the Eliminator – The Travellator, that’s what they call it.
‘I’m running as hard as I can and I’m not really getting anywhere. The house is a mess, every single job in the gaden needs doing again, i’m trying to make myself look better and I still look a mess, i’m trying to keep an eye on my blood sugars and I haven’t, I’m supposed to be going for a run and -’
The truth is, I am not even trying any more. I have reached a state of presumed failure. I’m the person who has failed on the Travelator and lies crumpled at the bottom of the conveyor belt, the belt enountering some friction beneath her crumpled body.
‘OK’ I say, knowing it’s not the right word, ‘maybe I’m a little bit depressed.’
My Auntie mentioned this in her letter. ‘A little bit of depression is normal after having a baby. But if you feel really depressed, go to your GP.’
As I said, it’s the wrong words. Depression – ‘really depressed’ – is an illenss and having seen it in action a few times, I know that being a ‘little bit depressed’ is like being ‘a little bit pregnant.’ Clinical depression is something that you feel you can’t stop. What I’m actually feeling is Down. Apathetic.
‘I think what I need to do,’ I say, ‘is to start making an effort again. Start trying to catch up.’
‘He was awful last night,’ says hubby.
‘I’ve got to hurl myself at the Travellator, and give it a go. Nobody’s going to sort my life out for me.’
Hubby is saying something about being careful not to burn out but I am not listening.
‘Contestent Ready?’ I shout. ‘Gladiator Ready?’
The little Gladiator in my arms coughs up some white stuff and continues to scream.
‘On your Marks, Get Set, Go!’
Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle.
Next time the Tiddler stops to get his breath back, I get up and empty the two overflowing kitchen bins. Then I change the washing over. It isn’t much, but I feel smug.
The next day, at nap time, I whisk into action. I bag up all the clothes that I’m never going to wear again and donate a few big, comfortable jumpers to my hubby. Then I start on the kids clothes. Then I call my Dad.
‘Can you come to the Park tomorrow? We’re going via the hairdressers’ – is that OK?’
“How are you feeling?” asks the hairdresser
“You’re not cross with me?”
She picks up a mirror and shows me the back. It’s gone.
“No, you’ve done a lovely job. Thanks.”
“You’ve been very brave. Don’t you feel brave?”
Brave? The only reason I had hair this thick and long in the first place was because I hadn’t got round to going to the hairdresser’s for a while. It wasn’t that I liked it.
‘She had hair right down her back! All the same length!’ the Hairdresser tells another customer. ‘And she’s cool as a cucumber!’
Maybe I am from a different planet after all. But when we’ve got outside, I can’t help checking it out in stand in a shop window. I just look like me; with short hair. Maybe it helps that I’ve seen it before (last time I hadn’t been to the hairdresser’s for a while. Or possibly the time before, come to think of it. Last time I got fobbed off with a bob).
‘You look younger,’ says Dad, carefully. ‘No that that’s a bad thing’ he clarifies after a moment.
Come to think of it, the hairdresser was right. Actually, I am feeling brave. I am fighting for a tidy house house, a reasonable appearance. For my continued mental and physical health.
And I need to be brave. Soon I’m gonig to have to clean the bathroom and sort my tax out. And after that, I’m supposed to go for that bloody run.