My son has inherited my ginger hair – and an antipathy to having it cut | Séamas O’Reilly

Young boy having his hair cut. Boy looks directly at the camera with uncertainty. Can only see his face from the eyes up - and the hands of the cutter holding scissors Show caption ‘The first dainty snips around his fringe caused him to sob uncontrollably.’ Photograph: Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images
The Séamas O’Reilly column

A trip to a child-friendly hairdressers ends in tears – for us both

Sun 14 Nov 2021 09.30 GMT

For some time, we’ve known we’d have to do something about my son’s hair. It’s never been cut and is so long that it constantly gets in his eyes, and is almost constantly striped with foodstuffs, bodily disjecta and miscellaneous muck.

I have friends who cut their kids’ hair but I could never do that to him. I’m fairly sure some of my earliest cuts were done by whichever among my overzealous siblings had access to a pudding bowl. As a result, there exist no presentable photographs of my hair as a child. My teen years of spikes and curtains were worse, although these have luckily been obscured by the fact that my later school photos coincided with my father’s interest in digital photography, during which he eschewed expensive, professional shots in favour of taking his own with an early DLR camera. This was cheaper, but as our eyes have become attuned to the ever-increasing fidelity of high-resolution imagery, everyone else’s portraits have remained the same as before, whereas I look like a blurry, 4-pixel image blown up from a CCTV screen in a Bourne movie, waiting for a CIA commander to say, ‘Enhance.’ For the sake of my own self-image, it is a small mercy.

I want better for my son, so I opted for one of those adorably kid-friendly places where he could be sheared while sitting in an aeroplane or a fire engine. Judging by the price, I presumed fish would also nibble at his cuticles and a valet would iron his newspaper while giving him tips for the derby.

Things started well. He selected a police car, a screen spun toward him showing Paw Patrol, and chocolate coins were produced to distract him further. It’s tempting to say I had no such luxuries, as I didn’t get my hair cut in a salon that would shame Jeff Bezos (because of its fanciness, not the whole bald thing). But, we did have a hairdresser who came specially to our home. True, this was mostly due to the logistics of marching into a cramped space filled with hair and fag-smoke for the four-hour ordeal that cutting my own and my 10 siblings’ hair entailed for my dad. But there’s also the fact that I was so terrified of hairdressers, I more than once ran down the street, mid-snip, proving that the only thing worse than a pale, freckled child with a ginger, pudding bowl haircut is a pale, freckled child with 50% of a ginger, pudding bowl haircut, slowly running through oncoming traffic.

Tragically, it seems my son may be cut from the same cloth, as the first dainty snips around his fringe caused him to sob uncontrollably, and he was soon standing in his police car, clutching my waist and begging to be taken home. In the end they managed to shear roughly one metric gram of hair from his head, just enough to get it out of his eyes, and for me to have to pay the £25 in full some four minutes after I’d entered the shop. Next time, pass me the pudding bowl.

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly is out now (Little, Brown, £16.99). Buy a copy from guardianbookshop at £14.78

Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats












{{/paragraphs}}{{highlightedText}} {{#choiceCards}}


We will be in touch to remind you to contribute. Look out for a message in your inbox in . If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
  • Share on LinkedIn
  • Share on WhatsApp
  • Share on Messenger