Wendyl Nissen
Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: What a hairstyle says about a wife

Does a good wife need one of those bouncy hair cuts which trim your blonde hair.Photo / Thinkstock
Does a good wife need one of those bouncy hair cuts which trim your blonde hair.Photo / Thinkstock

I've been feeling the pressure to get a Remuera bob. One of those bouncy hair cuts which trim your blonde hair evenly around the shoulders and goes down well at country house weekends, polo meetings and schlepping it around the eastern suburbs in capri pants.

The bob is a sure-fire symbol of the supportive wife, although in the case of the Remuera bob, the supported wife (financially) who then supports (cooking, cleaning, entertaining, smiling a lot at client functions).

One nifty flick of the bob in the right direction and you need not explain who or what you do. You are, by choice of haircut, tagged for life as a perky ageing woman, standing right behind her husband in everything he does.

The bob is also seen as a defence against ageing. Ask any hairdresser, your mother, your friends and there is one rule for haircuts after 50 and that's "short, short, short - above the chin at all times!"

"Long hair on an older woman just drags the face down," they say.

Older women with long hair look like "witches" and "ageing hippies".

"And besides it's so easy care!"

Because when a woman turns 50, looking after her hair is beyond her. Suddenly she is unable to use a blow dryer or heat up some rollers because of some imaginary arthritic condition. Overnight she becomes incapable of basic grooming. "Wash and go" is the way to age because she is so damned busy being old and decrepit.

When supportive wives were present in most homes in the 50s, women became menopausal and immediately got their hair cut, permed and set. And if they went grey they simply went with it and put a rinse through for added glamour.

I worked in a chemist shop when I was at school and sold hundreds of the little bottles which would cleverly turn a head of grey hair into a shade of violet, blue or pink. Suburban women rocked around the shopping centre looking like the punk rockers who would emerge a decade later.

In the street where I grew up there was a hairdressing salon on the corner, as there used to be in most suburbs. Every woman in the neighbourhood went there for a wash and set once a week.

Every woman except one, who lived at the bottom of our street. She was from England and had her hair cut like Twiggy, short all over and bleached blonde, wore short shift dresses and rode a bike everywhere flashing her undies. And she was at least 60!

I loved that woman, whose name no one ever found out because she never stopped her bike long enough to talk to anyone. She was fit and tanned and didn't give a toss about the local women driving their Minis with their purple hair sat on top of their heads caked in hairspray and frozen to their scalps.

To a young girl growing up in suburbia she represented the ability to stand out from the crowd and not give a damn.

But when you go to the trouble of being a supportive wife, you want people to know that you are doing it, and a bob says that loud and clear.

There is another thing I need to do to signal my status, such as shutting up when my husband talks and letting him hold court. I should smile benevolently as he talks, nodding my head vigorously and laughing at all his jokes.

Only when he has exhausted every conversational avenue open to him should I speak. But not about me, about him. An anecdote he has forgotten to recount, a great joke he must tell, a gentle prompt to start talking again because we're all having so much fun listening to him.

My goal, as a supportive wife, should be to have people who are fortunate enough to talk to my husband and watch me nodding leave and say to each other "nice couple, interesting guy, very pleasant wife".

I've yet to get the bob but I'm doing quite well on the nodding and shutting up.

But instead of making my husband feel supported, he's worried about me.

Strangely silent after years of loud and opinionated takes some getting used to. So much so that a husband might begin to think his wife is ill, a little depressed or in need of a holiday.

"You just don't seem like your old self," he says cautiously.

Maybe I'll just go for the bob.

- NZ Herald

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