Zoë Heller

  • Off with Her Head! The Denial of Women’s Identity in Myth, Religion and Culture edited by Wendy Doniger and Howard Eilberg-Schwartz
    California, 236 pp, £32.00, October 1995, ISBN 0 520 08839 5
  • Hair Style by Amy Fine Collins
    Prion, 160 pp, £40.00, November 1995, ISBN 1 85375 200 2

If anyone knows about the allure of hair it’s little girls. Between the ages of seven and twelve, girls groom their Barbies and each other with an intensity bordering on the freakish. At least they did in my day. Among the females in my class at primary school, hair-styling, or, more accurately, hair-fondling, was far and away the playground pursuit of choice. (The only thing that came near it, in fact, was that other proto-erotic pastime – tickling the insides of each other’s forearms.) As with the more fully realised sexual acts of later years, hair-fondling sessions were fraught with tensions about technique and performance. Some girls were known to be ham-fisted with hair, while others were known to have the touch. Some girls earned reputations for being ‘selfish’ – always wanting to be the fondlee and never the fondler – while a few much sought-after eccentrics were famous for preferring to do rather than be done.

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