I had always had long hair. My father complained repeatedly that I looked more like a girl than a boy, and said that I should get it cut off. By my late teens, I looked (at least in my eyes) a bit like Kurt Cobain - especially if I hadn't shaved for a week - and I thought that I was both the height of cool and a rebel. Apart from the haircut though, I didn't really look much like him at all (I have since checked against some old photographs). But I dressed like him, bought all the music, and mimed to the songs in my bedroom.

Cobain looked like he never styled his hair at all - it was what it was. I spent ages styling mine to obtain that unkempt, dishevelled shoulder length look. I wore oversized jumpers, baggy ripped jeans, and I bought an expensive black leather jacket. If the king of grunge wore it, then I wanted the same.

When Cobain killed himself, I decided that I had carried my rock rebel impression as far as was necessary and moved on - although much of the wardrobe and the hairstyle remained.



Two years ago I began to realise that my hearing was not all that it should be. My vocabulary seemed mainly to be composed of 'what?' and 'Sorry?', and I had resorted to watching the television with the subtitles on.

One day around my parent's house, I asked my father if we could put the subtitles on, and he replied telling me that if I got my hair cut, then I might be able to hear the television a bit better. I told him that long hair on women didn't seem to affect their hearing, and he informed me that most of them never seemed to have anything much to say worth listening to anyway; they never listened to him, and he didn't bother to listen to them either. They could have as much hair as they liked. At the time, I was unsure it he was kidding me or not with his display of twisted misogynistic logic. Maybe I had misheard him.

Perhaps if he had told me to turn that noise down - like any other responsible parent - when I had been living there playing Nirvana in my bedroom, then I wouldn't have developed the hearing problem in the first place.



I am one of those people who only ever visits the doctor reluctantly. My hearing had not improved though, and so I phoned the surgery to arrange an appointment with my GP. I struggled to hear the receptionist, but after a 'come again' and a 'sorry, when is that?', I managed to arrange a visit.

I thought that the doctor would have a look in my ears with that funny magnifying glass with the torch light in it, and then tell me that my ears needed syringing. Although she did search through my hair to find my ears, and use the magnifying thing, the syringing was unnecessary, and instead I was referred to hospital. At no point did she suggest that my hearing loss may be due to my hair covering my ears. I cannot be sure, but I doubt that this was only due to her having shoulder length hair herself, and empathising with me.



So, for the next few weeks I have bumbled along with my restricted vocabulary until my hospital appointment. At the hospital there is a barrage of tests before I get to see the specialist. He looks at the results, looks in my ears with his own funny magnifying torch thing, and tells me twice that he thinks that I require a stapedectomy. This diagnosis is later confirmed with a scan.

It will be some time before I will be given a date for surgery due to a waiting list of over six months, which gives me a good chance to google 'stapedectomy'. The specialist did explain it at the time, but I want to be sure that I heard him correctly.

People who require a stapedectomy have a calcified build up on their staple - not the thing that holds pieces of paper together - the part of the ear that is more commonly known in secondary school biology as the stirrup. During the operation, the eardrum will be cut and peeled out of the way, and then the staple removed and replaced with an artificial one, and then the eardrum will be glued back in place. And I need both sides done. If they get it wrong, it will be Kurt Cobain without drums. It's a good job that Dave Grohl has a gig with the Foo Fighters.

When I do get a date, it will be a one day operation, and I will be back home in the evening. Back home is going to mean around my parents, as I live alone, and alone is not an option after anaesthetic.

When I tell my mother, she suggests that I ask about the temporary loan of a guide dog for the deaf. I explain that although my hearing is deteriorating, the deafness is not that acute, and I would not qualify. Whilst explaining this, I am thinking that at the moment I wish I was that deaf, but I don't tell her this. Six months of doing the deaf equivalent of bumping into things lies ahead.



In the end, about nine months after the first hospital visit, I get a date with the surgeon. Nervous and apprehensive, I arrive at the hospital on the day of the operation. I am checked in and given a bed, a pair of paper pants, and one of those gowns that your arse hangs out of.

The surgeon, (the specialist with his other hat on: everyone has to multi-task these days) and the anaesthetist pay me a visit, and the specialist (or surgeon) tells me that the hair will have to be cut. I haven't even considered this; naively I had thought that a hairnet would do the trick. Not so. Something to do with infection.

Half an hour later, a male nurse turns up equipped with a pair of clippers and draws the curtain around the bed. He is completely and totally bald. Not a hair on his head. It's his job to cut my hair. As I sit in a chair next to the bed, he proceeds, very carefully, to remove my tresses in single strokes, until I have more in common with him, a shorn sheep, and Matt Lucas, than I do with Kurt Cobain.

It all seems a bit extreme to me. I wonder if they do the same to women who need the operation? I suppose they must. For years, I have had a tame hairdresser who looks after my hair exactly as I like it. He will be horrified, but not as much as me.

The nurse/hairdresser clears the hair of the floor and takes it with him as he leaves, hoping that I 'have a nice day' as he goes. Does he think that I am here for a burger or something? At least he doesn't ask me if I want something for the weekend.

Google had informed me that upon waking after the operation, hearing is already improved. Even so, I am unprepared for the difference. I would have let Grohl have a job in my own personal Nirvana tribute band now that I can hear, if only I hadn't mislaid Cobain's hair along the way. When the specialist calls in to see me later, he is very pleased with himself, and says that I can be released, as long as there is someone there to be responsible for me.

My father turns up and laughs all the way home, and tells me in the car that he knew the problem was the long hair blocking my ears. I pretend that I can't hear him, so he tells me again, louder. The world is much noisier than I remembered it.


The following day I have to phone the doctors surgery and arrange a check-up for a weeks time, without which I will not be allowed to return to work. I have to tell the receptionist not to shout.

When I  do see the doctor a week later, she says, ''I see you cut all your hair off for the operation.'' I explain that they did it at the hospital. ''Oh. Seems a bit drastic to me,'' she says indifferently.

''I thought that too,'' I tell her.


It takes a while to grow my hair back, although I don't do the Kurt Cobain thing again. Instead I keep it short, neat, and tidy. Grohl will just have to fend for himself. I also find that despite being able to hear the television perfectly well now, I still prefer to watch it with the subtitles on.


Last week I was parking my car in the multi-story, when I spotted a woman walking through the car park sporting a Kurt Cobain haircut. I left my car and followed her, keeping hidden in the shadows. There was something about her, but it took a moment for it to fall into place: it was the nurse from the hospital - the male nurse from the hospital.

I crept towards the rear of the car that she was heading to. She (?) pressed the key fob and unlocked the doors, and as she slipped into the car I opened the passenger door and slid in beside her. Her mouth opened ready to scream, and then relaxed.

''Oh, it's you,'' she said. ''Do I need to try and run for it?''

I thought I was annoyed, and I was ready to scream and shout myself, but when it came down to it, I just started laughing. Something to do with a vision of me chasing Kurt Cobain in drag and high heels through a multi-story car park.


Thirty minutes later and we are sitting at a table in a tax dodging coffee shop. In front of me is a mocha, and in front of the nurse a cappuccino. She looks much more like a nurse now than she did in the hospital. We drink in silence and she leaves lipstick marks on her cup. Eventually I ask, ''Why?''

''Well, you were there waiting for your haircut, and as soon as I saw you, I wanted that hair. I didn't even hesitate - I just cut the lot off and took it. Didn't hesitate.''

I don't really get it. ''But why? And are you... you know? Have you... You know.'' It seems that my vocabulary is deteriorating once again.

''No. No, I'm still a bloke. I just like dressing up like this. Before I had your hair, I didn't have the confidence to go out of the house dressed like this. I have so little of my own hair, I shave it off. Then I had yours, and I made it into a wig.''

I ask him if he has ever stolen anybody else's hair, or is it just mine? Is he a serial hair thief?

''No, just yours. It was a spur of the moment thing. You know, you being there, the right time right place, that sort of thing. For me anyway, maybe not for you.''

He must think that I still look a bit confused, so he tries again. ''Did anybody ever tell you that you looked like Kurt Cobain? Come on, you were about to loose half off it anyway. And the short hair suits you better, and the long hair definitely looks better on me.'' He sounds apologetic and unrepentant at the same time.

He is right too. It does look better on him. Actually, I quite like him with Cobain's hair. I wonder if he likes dressing up in a nurse's uniform?