It began as many a conversation does where a millennial condescends a boomer: with a meme.
Polly Gillespie - the raven-haired radio veteran who recently appeared on the cover of Woman, her dark mane so soft it seemed to blend out into oblivion - pointed to the Karen as early as 2016. She was complaining about the blonde bobs that descend on Wellington for the week of World Of WearableArt.
That was my mum. She loved her Karen cut: the clean, defined, Pythagorean flaps framing her face. The newsreader-blonde, to which some add a hint of frosting that says, "I'm not like a regular mum. I'm a cool mum."
But Mum took my advice to change things up - albeit unsuccessfully at first: "I've talked to my friend and she suggested I go for something more like hers."
I had to explain that her friend's blonder, shorter, sharper crop was Karen 2.0.
So, she asked her hairdresser to ease up on the angles and show her how to use her ghd to create soft curls instead.
Complimented on her new look while at a work function, she told the group: "I had to do something after my daughter told me I looked like a Karen."
"I am Karen," grumbled the woman next to her.
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Recently Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. A couple of days after she came home from hospital, she told me: "I'm just going with the Karen for a while, okay? It's too hard to do the curls with my arm at the moment."
"That's fine, Mum. Your hair still looks really nice," I told her, offering to help before accidentally burning her neck with the hair dryer.
As I watched her bravely grapple with disfigurement and face the prospect of losing her hair altogether, I berated myself for being such a superficial twit, calling her out over something as trivial as a haircut. I should note my criticism did not extend to the characteristics of Karenism. In fact, one of the many pieces of advice I've taken from Mum is: "Just let it go."
In hindsight, her hair always looked great anyway: far tidier than mine and a sign she takes pride in her appearance. It's the hair my 1-year-old smooshes his face into with delight when she picks him up - and probably the reason he always has a big smile for Karens in the wild.
When you see so many out and about, you begin to wonder what it is about the look that has generated such mass appeal. Perhaps we should consider the journey of a Karen: many have combed through the Farrah Fawcett flicks of the 70s, the bouffant Diana of the 80s, the 90s era of harsh, dark crops, sometimes topped with an inexplicable cap of poodle curls.
After years of perms and rollers, using mousse to spruce and hairspray to set, the Karen could be considered relatively easy-care. It is tidy. Dare I say it, it is chic. Whether we like it or not, when it comes to the middle-aged white women in our lives, this is the mane of many: our friends, colleagues, sisters, mothers, grandmothers.
And after learning Mum has been given the all-clear following her surgery and won't need chemotherapy, I couldn't be happier to let her Karen cut be. That tapered golden helmet is a sign that she's alive, well, and ready to speak to the manager.