Noelle McCarthy: A curly girl needs friends like Rachel

By Noelle McCarthy

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A decade later, Friends is still sweet and comforting, and really funny. Picture / Supplied
A decade later, Friends is still sweet and comforting, and really funny. Picture / Supplied

Style-wise, I wonder if I missed out on some of what the 90s had to offer. I never got the "Rachel", for example. Granted, I didn't have the hair for it. When you try to put layers in curls, you end up with a mass of graduated triangle shapes, like a Christmas tree in a child's drawing.

I found this out when my mother took me for my first proper haircut at the age of 12. By proper, I mean catastrophic. My mother took me to her own hairdresser, a woman named Breda. I should have known things weren't going to end well; Breda worked in a salon called Cutz and smoked incessantly while she was cutting. The fags weren't just therapeutic, though; they served a purpose. Whenever she dyed my mother's hair, she'd put the ash from her John Players all over Mammy's hairline to stop the colour running. My mother regularly came home from Cutz with bright red hair and a grey face, like a coalminer. But the dye never moved an inch beyond her widow's peak; Breda may have lacked finesse, but she delivered as a colourist.

All the same, my own hair presented a challenge to which she proved unequal, ultimately. I went into Cutz with long, wavy hair like a mermaid's. I walked out of there an hour later with a head like a Toblerone - 100 per cent triangular. It was a good five years before my hair recovered. I did not need a Rachel. Nor, indeed did I need a Breda. But I did find myself wondering if there wasn't a world in which I could have pulled the style off somehow. This was in the mid-90s when Friends was at the height of its popularity, and we'd all lost our minds in terms of fashion.

I was wearing bindis on my forehead to school as a matter of course around this time, layering was the least of it. Gwen Stefani has a lot to answer for, as of course does Jennifer Aniston. I was thinking this last week, in the midst of a Friends binge, to celebrate the show's 10th anniversary.

And you might want to check yourself before you judge me. A decade later, it's still sweet and comforting, and really funny. I'll still be laughing at the ghost in Joey's fridge in my dotage. Ditto Ross in the woman's top, or the leather pants, or trying to move the sofa. Or Ross doing anything really.

Friends is a gem, and reminds me of a more innocent era. A time when we longed for a bouncy, shaggy Rachel, streaked with caramel-coloured layers, before we all grew up and realised it was quite hideous. I include Aniston in this. She's since famously said she hated the Rachel. Now she favours the long, ironed blondeness that makes her look ever so-slightly like Barbra Streisand, not to mention high maintenance.

The Rachel is an artefact from an altogether simpler time in life, when Aniston was playing a spoilt waitress with great comic timing, and I was a teenager desperate to have any kind of hair but curly. I still remember the shock I felt years later, when I found out that Aniston herself has wavy hair but straightens it.

- VIVA

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