In which I straighten up and fly right

To be printed 10/03/11.

As you read this, I will be two days into a Lent without hair straighteners.

"Ye gads!" you're thinking, "the abstinence! The suffering!"  As frequent followers of this column* will know, I take Lent pretty seriously as an opportunity for self improvement, reflection, and lording it over the weaker individuals who crack and break out the secret fag/cake/Gilbert and Sullivan soundtrack stash on day three.

After years of culinary challenges like chocolate, bread, booze and crisps (the infamous Great Mini Cheddar Debate rattles on to this day), this year I'm turning my attention upwards to my barnet. So 40 days in a metaphorical style desert may not sound like that huge a sacrifice - and in many ways it isn't, being that it will actually give me more time for faffing around of a morning and lessen my chances of third degree ear burns. But it will be a trial, believe me.

My straighteners have been a loyal part of my life since the bleak mire of adolescence. They make my hair bend the right way, rather than flicking the wrong. They calm the daily hints of Flock of Seagulls just dying to burst through. They double up as an iron for the creased lady in a hurry. And there's always the reassuring thought that, if necessity dictated, you could probably use them to cook a steak and chips too.

I can pinpoint the exact moment that straighteners took over our hair - it was autumn 2003. I know this because I can make a flickbook of photos documenting my transition from a schoolgirl wearing a hay bale on her head to a girl wearing a shower curtain on her head. We went on a French residential holiday around the time GHD ceramics were launched (for the uninitiated, they're the Bentley of the straightening world), and one girl in our group was in possession. She was more popular than the girl who snuck in a bottle of peach Archers.

In every photo from that holiday, and every subsequent one until the ceramic started to lose its effect and my split ends started to occupy multiple postcodes, I have the swishiest, shiniest curtain of hair imaginable. I look like a chubbier Penelope Tree. After the initial few months of ceramic magic, straightening becomes like any other addiction - something you just do, without thinking, because not doing it feels wrong.

The crucial thing to understand about hair straightening, you see, is that it is not about making hair straight. Pff, no. Plenty of girls who sport curly or wavy or boofy hair will still rely on them daily. It is about changing your hair from something flicky, fuzzy or generally misguided, in short something that looks like it has spewed forth from the human body, into something that looks like it has been spun on a loom by nymphs.

If we look back to the 80s and 90s, hair wasn't required to perform as hard. True, it had to be enormous, permed, possibly sporting a pink visor or distracting from Tom Selleck's moustache - but it was allowed to be hair, not some sort of follicle fantasy by the Haus of Aniston. For the last decade we've been under a straightening spell, and it's only now that we're finally breaking free. So I put down my straighteners with a heavy mane but a light heart, and hope that by Easter I will be stronger.

Or my ends will be, anyway.

*And I'd like to take this chance to say a grateful "how-doody?" to all three of you.