When Personal Grooming Goes DIY

01 Nov When Personal Grooming Goes DIY

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 8.11.21


For someone raised in a country that prides itself on its DIY attitude, I am shocked to realise how much of my personal grooming I’ve been outsourcing to other people.

It started innocently enough – I can trace it back to going to the hairdresser as a kid. I grabbed every possible chance to accompany my mother to Mrs Gilroy’s salon, to watch the cutting and curling and drying under space-age-looking helmets, and to breathe in complicated cocktails of perming lotion, hair dye and sticky sprays.

And to have my own turn, sitting high on a pile of cushions while Mrs Gilroy directed an apprentice to give me a trim. My hair then was always much shorter than I really wanted because I could never say no to being combed and pampered, so it barely got a chance to grow.

Before we all had blow-dryers at home, you relied on a wet comb in the morning or a curler overnight, and how your hair turned out was partly skill, mostly luck. So the hair salon was the only place you got the look you wanted.

Though even then… I recall once waiting for my mother’s set to take and watching one of the big girls from school getting a fancy do for a beauty contest. She had a photo in a glossy magazine for the stylist to copy and it sat in her lap for reference the whole afternoon. But after the curlers and the comb-out and the clouds of hairspray were done, it became clear the stylist had replicated the picture on the left page, not the one she wanted on the right. “Oh, well,” he’d said, “what the judges are mostly looking for is clean hair.” The whole salon tried to sound convinced, but you could see her trying hard not to cry. I’ve never been a fan of beauty contests but I’ve always hoped she won, and that the wrong style fitted perfectly under a crown.

Outsourcing your hair to a professional is tremendously sensible – the cut, a colour – these are things people train to do properly for years. Also, in recent times I’ve found a fabulous young woman who does my eyebrows – it’s become nye on impossible for me to see what I’m doing once I take my glasses off, so you might as well hand it over to a professional, right?

Over time, the outsourcing has spread from personal grooming to domestic care. We’ve got Graeme trimming the (actual) hedges and cutting lawns, and we’ve had nearly a decade of Howard and Eli giving the indoors a jolly good seeing to once a fortnight (she cleans, he sings, perfect pair).

None of which – and this is why I’m thinking about it – we can do right now, thank you Covid. So it has all gone madly DIY here, with boxes of dye and pots of wax filling the bathroom shelves for all things hair-related, much of which is done while squinting into a magnifying mirror with fingers very crossed. There has even been a fringe cut out of desperation this week – surprisingly successful and it might become a thing.

Though I worry. One of the reasons house sales boomed post-lockdown last year was that vast swathes of people had a crack at home improvements and when it turned out badly, they just decided to sell up. I’m not sure that’s going to be an option if things don’t go well with my personal DIY. Keep an eye on TradeME