The last Wezz of summer
An Irishman’s Diary about one of the lesser-known rituals of autumn
‘Inevitably, there were mishaps (“. . . and then the brown colouring turned the blue green! So then she had to use more brown, and now – oh my God! – it’s kind-of black with neon-green streaks”). There were also the usual para-legal questions (“blonde streaks are okay, aren’t they? I mean, blonde’s a natural colour?”).’ Photograph: Getty Images
Around where I live, it’s not just the turning of the leaves that announces the onset of autumn. No, thanks to my teenage daughter and her friends, we now have another annual spectacular: the turning of the hair-colours.
The phenomenon arises from a school rule that says only naturally-coloured tresses may be worn during term. So come the summer holidays, this is one of the first shackles to be thrown off: blasted away by an explosion of hair-dyes with hues that, in many cases, do not occur in nature.
My daughter spent most of the season now ending under a canopy of deep pink and red, although she also had a crazy dream that, before September, she might redo the ends in the colours of the Jamaican flag.
If this had happened, I would have blamed my Bob Marley records, to which she was exposed at too young an age. Sadly, or otherwise, her plan proved over-ambitious. There just wasn’t enough time.
Then, this week, it was all over. As the shadow of the hair police loomed, another frenzy of dyeing took place, this time to superimpose unnatural versions of the natural shades, while waiting for the roots to catch up with the programme.
Inevitably, there were mishaps (“. . . and then the brown colouring turned the blue green! So then she had to use more brown, and now – oh my God! – it’s kind-of black with neon-green streaks”). There were also the usual para-legal questions (“blonde streaks are okay, aren’t they? I mean, blonde’s a natural colour?”).
But all the crises seem to have resolved themselves eventually. They went back to school on Tuesday. I haven’t heard of any arrests yet.
For my daughter and her circle, the summer colours had their final outing at last weekend’s Wesley disco: the famous (and occasionally infamous) teenage dance event, based in the Dublin rugby club of the same name.
It’s not that long ago – 15 years to be exact – when I could still read or hear some new shock story about “the Wezz” and console myself that this, at least, was one thing I would never have to worry about.
But parenting is a life-long education. And these days, I am that soldier. Every few months now, I find myself sitting in a car outside the same Wezz, at midnight, waiting to give my daughter and her friends a lift home, or to wherever the planned sleep-over is happening.
I don’t mind this, however inconvenient it can be. I’ll be more worried the day I’m told my lifts are no longer required. But Wezz-watch is a stressful experience sometimes, if only because, witnessing the get-ups many of the kids wear, you find yourself turning into your parents.
In fact, my parents might have been better able to cope, because they saw the whole mini-skirts and hot-pants thing 45 years ago. I, on the other hand, grew up during an oil crisis and global recession, when share prices and hemlines were both plunging. So I may have a puritanical streak all my own.
Sensing this, my daughter tells me everything I need to hear about the Wezz. That she doesn’t understand how it ever had a risqué reputation. That it’s all just harmless fun. That the atmosphere inside is not much different from a Free Presbyterian tea party. And so on.
I’m always happy to believe her. Then I witness scenes like last Saturday at midnight, when Donnybrook looked more like St Tropez, minus the sea and sand, and I hear myself asking such time-honoured questions as: “Do their mothers let them out like that?”
None of the girls was in beachwear, exactly. But some of the skirts, as I think my late Auntie Mary used to say, would not have had enough material to polish a fiddle.
I hasten to add that my daughter and her friends were all respectably dressed, at least by comparison. A father can take great comfort on these occasions from even a centimetre of extra coverage.
But, generally speaking, I’m mystified as to what has happened to the old falling-hemline formula in this recession. Maybe teenagers were always immune from it. If not, the market indicators from Donnybrook were all wildly positive, which may be some consolation to worried parents.
Anyway, another summer is over. A summer when, for once, Irish air temperatures almost justified the outfits worn to the Wezz and other discos like it. Now already, the evenings are closing in. But at least, if only thanks to the return of school uniforms, the skirts are getting longer.